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Ansel Adams - Conservationist & World Famous Photographer

By: C.M.Shorter

Ansel Adams
1902-1984

Ansel Adams
Photo Credit:
American Library of Congress

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The photographic works of naturalist and conservationist Ansel Adams can be seen here at Yosemite.  The Ansel Adams Gallery, (formerly Best Gallery) operates in Yosemite Park displaying some of the finest natural scenic photographs ever created.  Ansel Adams, a conservationist and good friend of John Muir lived here among the scenic beauty he captured through the lens of his camera.  It was Ansel Adams who gave us some of the most stunning scenic Parmelian prints (gelatin silver emulsion on parchment) the world has ever known.   His diverse, stark compositions in black and white gave us the span of a mountain side, a cliff or valley or very well captured the beauty of a single flower.

His love of the land Ansel Adams gave to us for all time in his works such as “Monolith, The Face of Half Dome” 1927, “Canyon de Chelly”1942, and Ansel Adams would go on in his works to produce 8 portfolios displayed in more than 500 exhibitions.  The spectacular natural scenic photographic prints taken by Ansel Adams were often used by lobbyist for various nature causes to attest to the beauty of the lands than needed sound environmental protection. 

Expert and novice photographers try to this day to replicate the spectacular photographs captured by Ansel Adams down to the day, hour and minute the shots were originally taken.   A fine tribute paying the highest compliment to him that “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” as they try to recreate the timeless beauty of his works. 

Ansel Adams was a member of the Sierra Club serving on their Board of Directors for 37 years, a member of the Wilderness Society and campaigned tirelessly to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of these lands. Ansel Adams was largely responsible for bringing photography the recognition it deserved as “Fine Art” with the Museum of Modern Art in New York establishing a Department of Photography in 1940.  It was primarily the result of his work that turned landscape photography into a world renowned fine art form.

Although Ansel Adams photographic travels took him to the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, to the Pacific Coastal States of Oregon and Washington, to Alaska, Hawaii and Maine and the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, it was Yosemite that he returned to throughout the seasons of his life.  He had visited Yosemite as a young man at the age of 14 with his family and he returned to Yosemite every year for the remainder of his life.  His photographs became a prime pictorial history of America’s wilderness.

Key Works of Ansel Adams
  • Ansel Adams: Images, 1923-1974 (1974)
  • Taos Pueblo (1930)
  • Yosemite and the High Sierra (1948)
  • My Camera in the National Parks (1960)
  • This Is the American Earth (1960)
  • Photographs of the Southwest (1976)
  • The Portfolios of Ansel Adams (1977)
  • Yosemite and the Range of Light (1979)
In 1936 Ansel Adams moved to Yosemite Valley.  Ansel Adams was subsequently commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior to make photomurals.  In 1943 he was deeply touched as he documented the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California where he deviated from his wilderness photography to capture the daily lives of Japanese-Americans interned there during World War II.  His work from this controversial political time was displayed in 1944, the exhibition entitled “Born Free” with his subsequent heartfelt book later published - “Born Free and Equal”.   In 1965 Ansel Adams donated the Manzanar collection “Suffering under a Great Injustice” to the Library of Congress for its historical value.  The legacy of Ansel Adams stands alone at the very top of our nation’s best photographic history.  That gift he gave to us through his diverse talents showing us the world through the eye of his camera lens is Ansel Adams own living legacy.

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Photographic Tribute - Ansel Adams >>
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