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All About Ansel Adams

Ansel AdamsAnsel Adams was an American photographer who is widely known for his unique black and white photographs taken in Yosemite National Park, as well as other landscapes and natural elements. Born on February 20, 1902 in San Francisco, California, he was the only child of Olive Bray Adams and Charles Hitchcock Adams. He grew up as a shy and introvert child, because he suffered a nose injury during the 1906 earthquake. He studied only until the eighth grade and dropped out to pursue his interest in music. Though his father was the owner of a successful insurance agency, Ansel Adams had something else in mind.

At an early age, he showed an inclination towards music, and he was interested in playing the piano. Also, he loved nature, and he spent a lot of time taking long walks and exploring natural sites during his early years. One of his most memorable encounters with nature occurred during a visit to the Yosemite National Park in 1916, and it was here that he first took photographs. A little later, he got a job in a commercial firm as a photo technician. There, he learned more about the art of photography.

In 1919, Adams joined the Sierra Club, an organization that was dedicated to protecting the natural environment of the city and its surroundings. In the 1920s, he got more involved in the conservation activities of the organization. He met his wife Virginia Best during this time. They got married in 1928, and they were blessed with two children. During his work at the organization, Adams got several of his photographs published in the organization’s official publication. Soon, he realized that his true passion was photography, and he gave up his endeavor to become a pianist. He became a professional photographer, and he dedicated much time to improve his skills. Soon, collections of his works such as the Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927) and Taos Pueblo (1930) were published as limited editions. In 1932, he exhibited with Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham at M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.

Adams opened the Ansel Adams Gallery for Arts in 1933, and he also delivered lectures on the subject of photography and art to various institutions. In the 1930s, he began publishing books about photography. Adams stressed the use of natural light, small apertures, and long exposures to create sharper details, so that specific features of the subject would be enhanced. He used large-format cameras, despite their high costs, and other hindering factors, such as weight, size, and setup time. This was mainly due to his reluctance to compromise on resolution and sharpness of images. He formed a group called f/64 with Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, which advocated the use of straight or pure photography to depict reality, and opposed the idea of pictorialism.

Adams mainly concentrated on the Yosemite Valley in his attempt to capture the natural environment. He took one of his most highly acclaimed works, Clearing Winter Storm, in 1935. This photograph captured a receding storm that left fresh snow and peace behind. He held his first solo show in 1936, and it was called An American Place. In 1940, he put together a grand photography show called A Pageant of Photography for his critics and fans. In 1941, he began teaching at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. In 1945, Adams established the Department of Fine Arts Photography at the California School of Fine Arts. Later on, he became one of the founding members of a photography journal called Aperture, which showcased new inventions in photography. Adams continued teaching until 1981, and his workshop helped many budding artists hone their photography skills. Most of his later life, from 1970 to 1984, was spent re-printing his works, because his vintage collection became highly sought after by art galleries.

The iconic life of Ansel Adams came to an end on April 22, 1984, following a heart failure due to cancer. He received several awards during his lifetime and posthumously. His dedication to photography and environment conservation is an inspiration for artists and nature lovers. More information on the life and work of Ansel Adams can be found in the following sites:

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