Ansel Adams

The life of the great American landscape photographer Ansel Adams was, as he said himself, ‘coloured and modulated by the great earth gesture’ of the Sierra Nevada, that iconic range of mountains which divides California from the rest of continental America. It was a love affair with a landscape that began with Adams’ first trip to Yosemite National Park at the age of 14. Over the next six decades, it would see him hailed as the greatest landscape photographer of the 20th century.

Born in San Francisco in 1902, Adams would support himself as a pianist and piano teacher until 1930, but during the ‘20s he also served as a guide and custodian in Yosemite, leading expeditions into the wilderness and taking photographs of the scenery.

As his dedication to Yosemite grew, so did his dedication to photography and, in 1927, he produced what he called his ‘first true visualisation’: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome (1927), an image ‘not [of] the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me.’ With the support of Albert Bender, San Francisco’s great patron of the arts, he was able to produce his first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927), and his first book, Taos Pueblo (1930).

Initially Adams’ work was influenced by the Pictorialist tradition of late 19th-century photography. But by 1930, his friendship with the great American photographer Paul Strand provoked Adams to move away from Pictorialism’s emphasis on darkroom manipulation. He began experimenting with the purity of ‘straight’ photography and the creative possibilities of the camera itself. In 1932, he and photographer Edward Weston founded the important ‘straight’ photography Group f/64, and the next year he met Albert Stieglitz who, in 1936, would exhibit Adams’ work at his New York gallery.

A great technical innovator, Adams wrote his first manual, Making a Photograph, in 1935. Although commissions for the likes of Time, Kodak or Zeiss often interrupted his work, Adams produced seminal images of the American landscape such as The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) and Dawn, Autumn Forest (1948). Adams died in 1984.

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

Ansel Adams (1902–1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, 1941

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley, c. 1939

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley, 1944

Ansel Adams (1902–1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clouds, Yosemite Valley, 1945

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Bridal Veil Fall, Yosemite Valley, 1927

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clearing Storm, Sonoma County Hills, 1951

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain, Yosemite Valley, 1948

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Lake Precipice, 'Frozen Lake and Cliffs', Kaweah Gap, Sierra Nevada, 1932

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Surf Sequence, A-E, 1940

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Ansel Adams: Portfolio VII

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park, California, 1946

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley; Sixteen Original Prints by Ansel Adams

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, 1948

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite Valley, California, 1938

Ansel Adams (1902–1984)

Church, Sunset, Rear, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, c. 1948

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley; Sixteen Original Prints by Ansel Adams

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clouds and Hills, Northern California, 1940s

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Portfolio Four: What Majestic Word, In Memory of Russell Varian

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1960

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

El Capitan, Merced River, Yosemite Valley, 1948

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California, 1944

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado, 1951

Ansel Adams (1902–1984)

Stream, Sea, Clouds, Rodeo Lagoon, Marin County, 1962

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, c. 1944

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

The Teton Range and the Snake River, 1942

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Ansel Adams: Portfolio VII

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Clouds, Yosemite Valley, 1945

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Forest, Castle Rock State Park, California, 1962

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints by Ansel Adams

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley, California, 1938

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Thunderstorm, Yosemite Valley, 1945

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Portfolio IV, What Majestic Word: In Memory of Russell Varian, 1963

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938

ANSEL ADAMS (1902–1984)

Portfolio Four: What Majestic Word, In Memory of Russell Varian