Ansel Adams

Artist, Photographer, Teacher, Writer
1902 – 1984
Functions, Occupations, and Activities
>Photographer, writer, teacher
He told his students, "It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium."
Taos pueblo. Mary Austin; Ansel Adams; Albert M Bender; Grabhorn Press.; Press Collection (Library of Congress). San Francisco, 1930.; Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, 1927. (Grabhorn Press) Sierra Nevada the John Muir Trail, 1938. (reprinted 2006 as ISBN 0-8212-5717-X). Born Free and Equal, 1944. ISBN 1-893343-05-7. Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, 1948. (text from writings of John Muir) My Camera In The National Parks, 1950. The Land of Little Rain, 1950. (text by Mary Hunter Austin) The Islands of Hawaii, 1958. This is the American Earth, 1960, (with Nancy Newhall) Sierra Club Books. (reprinted by Bulfinch, ISBN 0-8212-2182-5) These We Inherit: The Parklands of America, 1962. (with Nancy Newhall) The Eloquent Light, 1963. (unfinished biography of Adams by Nancy Newhall) Yosemite Valley", 1967. (45 plates in B&W edited by Nancy Newhall, published by 5 Associates, Redwood City, California.) The Tetons and the Yellowstone, 1970. Ansel Adams, 1972. ISBN 0-8212-0721-0. Images, 1923–1974, 1974. ISBN 0-8212-0600-1. Polaroid Land Photography, 1978. ISBN 0-8212-0729-6. Yosemite and the Range of Light, 1979. ISBN 0-8212-0750-4. The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, 1981. ISBN 0-8212-0723-7. Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, 1984. ISBN 0-8212-1551-5. Ansel Adams: Classic Images, 1986. ISBN 0-8212-1629-5. Letters and Images 1916–1984, 1988. ISBN 0-8212-1691-0. Our Current National Parks, 1992. Ansel Adams: In Color, 1993. ISBN 0-8212-1980-4. Photographs of the Southwest, 1994. ISBN 0-8212-0699-0. Yosemite and the High Sierra, 1994. ISBN 0-8212-2134-5. The National Park Photographs, 1995. ISBN 0-89660-056-4. Yosemite, 1995. ISBN 0-8212-2196-5. California, 1997. ISBN 0-8212-2369-0. America's Wilderness, 1997. ISBN 1-56138-744-4. Ansel Adams at 100, 2001. ISBN 0-8212-2515-4. Born Free and Equal, 2002. ISBN 1-893343-05-7. Ansel Adams: The National Park Service Photographs, 2005. ISBN 978-0-89660-056-0. Ansel Adams: The Spirit of Wild Places, 2005. ISBN 1-59764-069-7. Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, 2007. ISBN 978-0-316-11772-2. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America's Wild Places, 2010. ISBN 978-0-316-07846-7. Ansel Adams in the Canadian Rockies, 2013. ISBN 978-0-316-24341-4. Technical books Making a Photograph, 1935. Camera and Lens: The Creative Approach, 1948. ISBN 0-8212-0716-4. The Negative: Exposure and Development, 1949. ISBN 0-8212-0717-2. The Print: Contact Printing and Enlarging, 1950. ISBN 0-8212-0718-0. Natural Light Photography, 1952. ISBN 0-8212-0719-9. Artificial Light Photography, 1956. ISBN 0-8212-0720-2. Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, 1983. ISBN 0-8212-1750-X. The Camera, 1995. ISBN 0-8212-2184-1. The Negative, 1995. ISBN 0-8212-2186-8. The Print, 1995. ISBN 0-8212-2187-6.
Adams was born in the Western Addition of San Francisco, California, the only child of Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams. He was named after his uncle, Ansel Easton...His father raised him to follow the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson: to live a modest, moral life guided by a social responsibility to man and to nature. Adams had a warm, loving, and supportive relationship with his father, but he had a distant relationship with his mother, who did not approve of his interest in photography...Adams became interested in piano at age 12, and music became the main focus of his later youth. His father sent him to piano teacher Marie Butler, who focused on perfectionism and accuracy. After four years of studying under her guidance, he moved on to other teachers, one being composer Henry Cowell. For the next twelve years, the piano was Adams' primary occupation and by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth...Adams first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916 with his family. He wrote of his first view of the valley: "the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious.... One wonder after another descended upon us.... There was light everywhere.... A new era began for me." His father gave him his first camera during that stay, a Kodak Brownie box camera, and he took his first photographs with his "usual hyperactive enthusiasm"...His first photographs were published in 1921, and Best's Studio began selling his Yosemite prints the following year...Between 1929 and 1942, Adams's work matured and he became more established. In the course of his 60-year career, the 1930s were a particularly productive and experimental time. He expanded his works, focusing on detailed close-ups as well as large forms from mountains to factories. His first book Taos Pueblo was published in 1930 with text by writer Mary Hunter Austin. In New Mexico, he was introduced to notables from Stieglitz's circle, including painter Georgia O'Keeffe, artist John Marin, and photographer Paul Strand. Adams's talkative, high-spirited nature combined with his excellent piano playing made him a hit within his circle of artist friends. Strand especially proved influential, sharing secrets of his technique with Adams and finally convincing Adams to pursue photography with all his talent and energy. One of Strand's suggestions which Adams adopted was to use glossy paper to intensify tonal values...On a trip in New Mexico in 1941, Adams shot a scene of the Moon rising above a modest village with snow-covered mountains in the background, under a dominating black sky. The photograph is one of his most famous and is named Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Adams's description in his later books of how it was made probably enhanced the photograph's fame: the light on the crosses in the foreground was rapidly fading, and he could not find his exposure meter; however, he remembered the luminance of the Moon and used it to calculate the proper exposure... However the exposure was actually determined, the foreground was underexposed, the highlights in the clouds were quite dense, and the negative proved difficult to print. The initial publication of Moonrise was in U.S. Camera 1943 annual...This gave Moonrise an audience before its first formal exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1944. Over nearly 40 years, Adams re-interpreted the image, his most popular by far, using the latest darkroom equipment at his disposal, making over 1,300 unique prints, most in 16″ by 20″ format. Many of the prints were made in the 1970s, finally giving Adams financial independence from commercial projects. The total value of these original prints exceeds $25,000,000; the highest price paid for a single print of Moonrise reached $609,600 at Sotheby's New York auction in 2006...In 1966 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor...Adams's photograph The Tetons and the Snake River was one of the 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were selected to convey information about humans, plants and animals, and geological features of the Earth to a possible alien civilization...His legacy includes helping to elevate photography to an art comparable with painting and music, and equally capable of expressing emotion and beauty. He told his students, "It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium." [Retrieved on 11/8/2017 from:]
Geographic names
San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Santa Fe
Related collection
AR.00053 Matt Pearce Papers (contributed to)
Related people/organizations
Mary Austin (worked with)
Fremont Ellis (is friend of)
Will Shuster (is friend of)
Walter Mruk (is friend of)
Paul Strand (influenced by)
John Candelario (influenced)