Thursday, April 3, 2014

California Artist Spotlight: Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams' work heavily featured the American West, and he was almost as well known for his environmental protection efforts as for his incredible black and white photography.  
Born to a wealthy family in San Francisco in 1902, Adams was raised to respect nature and to live a modest, socially responsible life.  He initially hoped to become a professional musician, but his interest in photography developed after a trip to Yosemite National Park when he was 14.  He pursued both careers for several years, before conceding that he could never be a truly great pianist and deciding to focus on photography.  In 1932 he, along with Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, created a collective called Group f/64 whose view was that 'pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.'  
In 1933, Adams opened his own gallery in San Francisco, and he and his wife Virginia raised a family there, while he continued to focus on nature photography, contributed to photography magazines, began to publish books of his work, and became active in the Sierra Club and its conservation efforts.
During WWII, Adams was an officer of the Naval Aviation Photography Unit, and received permission to photograph a wartime Japanese interment camp, which he made into a photo essay.  Around this time, he also started the first fine art photography department at the San Francisco Art Institute, and received a Guggenheim Grant to photograph every US National Park.

Adams was one of the first photographers to be taken seriously by galleries and museums, with his work being treated on par with that of painters.  During his lifetime, his work was displayed in many of the most prestigious art institutes in the US and Europe.  He died in Monterey, California in 1984 of heart disease, but he left an incredible legacy that's always awe inspiring.
All images via Google.  Portrait of Ansel Adams by unknown, all other photographs by Ansel Adams.

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