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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)


Also known as:  Adams, Ansel; Ansel Easton Adams

Birth Place: San Francisco (San Francisco county, California, United States)

Ansel Easton Adams was born in San Francisco, California, in 1902. He taught himself to play the piano when he was a young child, which later proved to be deeply influential in the disciplined nature of his artistry. As a photographer known for his landscapes, he began experimenting with photography when he first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916, where he used the camera his parents had given him, the Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie. His trips to Yosemite continued every year until his death. His early photographs were developed and sold at Best’s Studio in Yosemite Valley, and it was the owner’s daughter Virginia Best with whom Adams fell in love and married in 1928. Later, Virginia inherited the studio and the business is known today as the Ansel Adams Gallery.

His work became well-recognized with his first portfolio Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, which included one of his most well-known images “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.” Adams expanded his repertoire during the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the pictorial style and perfecting his technique, and he began producing what is known as “straight photography.” Commercial projects continued to occupy most of his time during these years, but he developed a passion for promoting photography as a fine art, mastering the processes and exploring the possibilities of the medium, defining the theoretical and scientific practices. Relatedly, he published several essays and instructional books on photography. In addition to promoting photography as a fine art, Adams became an environmental activist for protecting the wilderness, and his images became symbols of wild America. He, along with other photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, sought to use art as a way to affect social and political change.

One of his most famous images that gained Adams financial stability was his image entitled “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico,” which was taken of the moon rising above a village only weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Thousands of unique prints were consequently produced. His photographs have been shown all over the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art which held a retrospective of his work in 1974. Adams passed away on April 22, 1984. His iconic images and mastery of technique greatly impacted the art form and helped shape the role of photography in the art world.

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