The Life of Ansel Adams

The Life of Ansel Adams

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The Life of Ansel Adams

President Jimmy Carter, in presenting Ansel Adams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, best describes the life and work of Ansel Adams. "At one with the power of the American landscape, and renowned for the patient skill and timeless beauty of his work, photographer Ansel Adams has been visionary in his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature's monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself, and by photographers as a national institution. It is through his foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans."

Ansel Adams has long been hailed as a master of photography. Environmentalist and photographer, he was born February 20th, 1902 in San Francisco California to Charles Hitchcock Adams. He was the grandson of a wealthy timer baron and he grew up in the sand dunes of the Golden Gate Bridge. His family's fortune diminished during the financial panic of 1907 and his father Charles spent the rest of his life trying to rebuild it.

In 1906 at the age of 4, Ansel was thrown to the ground during an aftershock of the great San Francisco earthquake and broke his nose, scarring him for life in the process. This physical characteristic along with a natural shyness also led to the young Ansel having problems in fitting in at school. After trying several schools with little success, his parents took him out of main stream schooling in 1915 and Ansel received home tutoring from an aunt and his father. As a result of not attending school, the young Adams had a lot more time to himself and he used much of this time on long walks around the Golden Gate area. It was here that his life-long love of nature grew and it was perhaps this that put him on his path to becoming a landscape photographer. In 1916 there was another event that was to be pivotal in shaping Adams future. On a family vacation to Yosemite National Park, California his parents gave him a Kodak Box Brownie camera. He was to return to Yosemite again every year for the rest of his life.

This summer I had the opportunity to live where many of these Yosemite and other pictures were taken. One of his most famous photographs was of the many curves of the Snake River, with the picturesque Grand Teton Mountains in the background.

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The camp where I worked at this summer allowed me the opportunity to live in the photograph every day, as I gave tours of the river. Ansel Adams photograph is the only one that I have every seen, that truly capture the stunning beauty that this scene and many other Yosemite shots truly hold.

By 1930 Adams was becoming established. He was supporting his family, working as a commercial photographer accepting commissions from whomever he could. Like many artists critical acclaim was not hand-in-hand with financial reward and Adams felt throughout much of the 1930's that the requirements of paying bills was holding back his creativity. Finances being tight meant that he did not have as much to spend on his art as he would have liked. A meeting with photographer Paul Strand in 1930 helped fix Adams on the course of photography and help to finally break with ideas of being a pianist. In 1933 he traveled to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz. Adams had his first New York exhibition in 1933 and with the aid of Stieglitz.

Ansel Adams was at times a workaholic, he worked for 18 hours or more a day for weeks upon weeks. He also consumed large amounts of alcohol, had a hectic social life including affairs and was for a lot of the time an absent father. He felt that he had to promote photography as a fine art. By the late 1970s his pictures and skills had gained much public attention and Ansel Adams prints were selling to collectors for prices never before achieved by a living American photographer. He had given up active photography by now and was dedicating himself to revising his technical photographic books, publishing books of his work, and preparing prints for a variety of exhibitions.

Ansel Adams published more than two dozen books of pure genius in his life, shortly after which he died in 1984. After touching so many with his photographs, Congress established the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, and the Southeast boundary of the Yosemite National Park was named after him. In the same way that all races all over the world understand the writings of Shakespeare, Homer, folk legends and stories that cross all cultural boundaries and speak to every one of us; so the photographs of Ansel Adams speak of nature, of beauty and of why they are important to all of mankind.

Bibliography:

http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/adams.html

http://www.photographywest.com/pages/adams_bio.html

http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/c/h/chv107/biblio.html
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