|Birth Day:||February 20, 1902|
|Death Date:||Apr 22, 1984 (age 82)|
|Birth Place:||San Francisco, United States|
As per our current Database, Ansel Adams died on Apr 22, 1984 (age 82).
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He was a witness to the destruction that wrought San Francisco after its huge 1906 earthquake.
In 1907, his family moved 2 miles (3 km) west to a new home near the Seacliff neighborhood of San Francisco, just south of the Presidio Army Base. The home had a "splendid view" of the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands.
Adams was dismissed from several private schools for being restless and inattentive, so when he was 12, his father decided to remove him from school. For the next two years he was educated by private tutors, his aunt Mary, and his father. Mary was a devotee of Robert G. Ingersoll, a 19th-century agnostic and women's suffrage advocate, so Ingersoll's teachings were important to his upbringing. During the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in 1915, his father insisted that he spend part of each day studying the exhibits as part of his education. He eventually resumed, and completed, his formal education by attending the Mrs. Kate M. Wilkins Private School, graduating from the eighth grade on June 8, 1917. During his later years, he displayed his diploma in the guest bathroom of his home.
Adams first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916 with his family. He wrote of his first view of the valley: "the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious…. One wonder after another descended upon us…. There was light everywhere…. A new era began for me." His father gave him his first camera during that stay, an Eastman Kodak Brownie box camera, and he took his first photographs with his "usual hyperactive enthusiasm". He returned to Yosemite on his own the next year with better cameras and a tripod. During the winters of 1917 and 1918, he learned basic darkroom technique while working part-time for a San Francisco photograph finisher.
Adams's first photographs were published in 1921, and Best's Studio began selling his Yosemite prints the next year. His early photos already showed careful composition and sensitivity to tonal balance. In letters and cards to family, he wrote of having dared to climb to the best viewpoints and to brave the worst elements.
During the mid-1920s, the fashion in photography was pictorialism, which strove to imitate paintings with soft focus, diffused light, and other techniques. Adams experimented with such techniques, as well as the bromoil process, which involved brushing an oily ink onto the paper. An example is Lodgepole Pines, Lyell Fork of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park (originally named Tamarack Pine), taken in 1921. Adams used a soft-focus lens, "capturing a glowing luminosity that captured the mood of a magical summer afternoon".
For a short time Adams used hand-coloring, but declared in 1923 that he would do this no longer. By 1925 he had rejected pictorialism altogether for a more realistic approach that relied on sharp focus, heightened contrast, precise exposure, and darkroom craftsmanship.
In 1927, Adams began working with Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and arts patron. Bender helped Adams produce his first portfolio in his new style, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, which included his famous image Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, which was taken with his Korona view camera, using glass plates and a dark red filter (to heighten the tonal contrasts). On that excursion, he had only one plate left, and he "visualized" the effect of the blackened sky before risking the last image. He later said, "I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print." One biographer calls Monolith Adams's most significant photograph because the "extreme manipulation of tonal values" was a departure from all previous photography. Adams's concept of visualization, which he first defined in print in 1934, became a core principle in his photography.
Adams married Virginia Best in 1928, after a pause from 1925 to 1926 during which he had brief relationships with various women. The newlyweds moved in with his parents to save expenses. The following year, they had a home built next door and connected it to the older house by a hallway.
Between 1929 and 1942, Adams's work matured, and he became more established. The 1930s were a particularly experimental and productive time for him. He expanded the technical range of his works, emphasizing detailed close-ups as well as large forms, from mountains to factories.
Bender took Adams on visits to Taos, New Mexico, where Adams met and made friends with the poet Robinson Jeffers, artists John Marin and Georgia O'Keeffe, and photographer Paul Strand. His talkative, high-spirited nature combined with his excellent piano playing made him popular among his artist friends. His first book, Taos Pueblo, was published in 1930 with text by writer Mary Hunter Austin.
Adams put on his first solo museum exhibition, Pictorial Photographs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Ansel Adams, at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931; it featured 60 prints taken in the High Sierra and the Canadian Rockies. He received a favorable review from the Washington Post: "His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods."
In 1932, Adams had a group show at the M. H. de Young Museum with Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, and they soon formed Group f/64 which espoused "pure or straight photography" over pictorialism (f/64 being a very small aperture setting that gives great depth of field). The group's manifesto stated: "Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form."
In 1932, Adams helped form the anti‐pictorialist Group f/64, a loose and relatively short-lived association of like-minded "straight" or "pure" photographers on the West Coast whose members included Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. The modernist group favored sharp focus—f/64 being a very small aperture setting that gives great depth of field on large-format view cameras—contact printing, precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects, and the use of the entire tonal range of a photograph.
Imitating the example of photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Adams opened his own art and photography gallery in San Francisco in 1933. He also began to publish essays in photography magazines and wrote his first instructional book, Making a Photograph, in 1935.
During the summers, Adams often participated in Sierra Club High Trips outings, as a paid photographer for the group; and the rest of the year a core group of Club members socialized regularly in San Francisco and Berkeley. In 1933, his first child Michael was born, followed by Anne two years later.
At age 17, Adams joined the Sierra Club, a group dedicated to protecting the wild places of the earth, and he was hired as the summer caretaker of the Sierra Club visitor facility in Yosemite Valley, the LeConte Memorial Lodge, from 1920 to 1923. He remained a member throughout his lifetime and served as a director, as did his wife. He was first elected to the Sierra Club's board of directors in 1934 and served on the board for 37 years. Adams participated in the club's annual High Trips, later becoming assistant manager and official photographer for the trips. He is credited with several first ascents in the Sierra Nevada.
In 1935, Adams created many new photographs of the Sierra Nevada; and one of his most famous, Clearing Winter Storm, depicted the entire Yosemite Valley, just as a winter storm abated, leaving a fresh coat of snow. He gathered his recent work and had a solo show at Stieglitz's "An American Place" gallery in New York in 1936. The exhibition proved successful with both the critics and the buying public, and earned Adams strong praise from the revered Stieglitz. The following year, the negative for Clearing Winter Storm was almost destroyed when the darkroom in Yosemite caught fire. With the help of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson (Weston's future wife), Adams put out the fire, but thousands of negatives, including hundreds that had never been printed, were lost.
While in Yosemite, Adams had need of a piano to practice on. A ranger introduced him to landscape painter Harry Best, who kept a studio home in Yosemite and lived there during the summers. Best allowed Adams to practice on his old square piano. Adams grew interested in Best's daughter Virginia and later married her. On her father's death in 1936, Virginia inherited the studio and continued to operate it until 1971. The studio is now known as the Ansel Adams Gallery and remains owned by the Adams family.
In 1937, Adams, O'Keeffe, and friends organized a month-long camping trip in Arizona, with Orville Cox, the head wrangler at Ghost Ranch, as their guide. Both artists created new work during this trip. Adams made a candid portrait of O'Keeffe with Cox on the rim of Canyon de Chelly. Adams once remarked, "Some of my best photographs have been made in and on the rim of [that] canyon." Their works set in the desert Southwest are often published and exhibited together.
During the 1930s, Adams began to deploy his photographs in the cause of wilderness preservation. He was inspired partly by the increasing incursion into Yosemite Valley of commercial development, including a pool hall, bowling alley, golf course, shops, and automobile traffic. He created the limited-edition book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail in 1938, as part of the Sierra Club's efforts to secure the designation of Kings Canyon as a national park. This book and his testimony before Congress played a vital role in the success of that effort, and Congress designated Kings Canyon as a national park in 1940.
During the rest of the 1930s, Adams took on many commercial assignments to supplement the income from the struggling Best's Studio. He depended on such assignments financially until the 1970s. Some of his clients included Kodak, Fortune magazine, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, AT&T, and the American Trust Company. He photographed Timothy L. Pflueger's new Patent Leather Bar for the St. Francis Hotel in 1939. The same year, he was named an editor of U.S. Camera & Travel, the most popular photography magazine at that time.
In 1940, Adams created A Pageant of Photography, the largest and most important photography show in the West to date, attended by millions of visitors. With his wife, Adams completed a children's book and the very successful Illustrated Guide to Yosemite Valley during 1940 and 1941. He also taught photography by giving workshops in Detroit. Adams also began his first serious stint of teaching, which included the training of military photographers, in 1941 at the Art Center School of Los Angeles, now known as the Art Center College of Design.
In 1940, with trustee David H. McAlpin and curator Beaumont Newhall, Adams helped establish the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. MoMA was the first major American art museum to establish a photography department. Adams acted as McAlpin and Newhall's primary advisor; and Peter Galassi, the chief curator of the department in later years, said "Adams's dedication and boundless energy were vital to the creation of the department and to its programs in its early years." For those who had sought institutional recognition for photography, the founding of the department was an important moment, marking the medium's recognition as a subject equal to painting and sculpture.
On December 31, 1940, the department opened its first exhibition, Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Esthetics, which resembled large survey exhibitions that Adams and Newhall had previously mounted independently. The exhibition took aesthetic quality as a guiding principle, a philosophy that ran counter to that of many writers and critics, who argued that the medium's more vernacular use as a means of communication should be more fully represented. Photographer Ralph Steiner, writing for PM, remarked "on the whole it [MoMA] seems to regard photography as soft music at high tea rather than as a jazz at a beefsteak supper." Tom Maloney, publisher of U.S. Camera, wrote that the exhibition was "very choice, very pristine, very small, very ultra." According to Newhall, the exhibition was meant to showcase artistic excellence and "not to define but to suggest the possibilities of photographic vision."
In 1941, Adams contracted with the National Park Service to make photographs of National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations managed by the department, for use as mural-sized prints to decorate the department's new building. The contract was for 180 days. Adams set off on a road trip with his friend Cedric and his son Michael, intending to combine work on the "Mural Project" with commissions for the U.S. Potash Company and Standard Oil, with some days reserved for personal work.
The Mural Project ended on June 30, 1942; and because of the World War, the murals were never created. Adams sent a total of 225 small prints to the DOI, but held on to the 229 negatives. These include many famous images such as The Tetons and the Snake River. Although they were legally the property of the U.S. Government, he knew that the National Archives did not take proper care of photographic material, and used various subterfuges to evade queries.
When Edward Steichen formed his Naval Aviation Photographic Unit in early 1942, he wanted Adams to be a member, to build and direct a state-of-the-art darkroom and laboratory in Washington, D.C. Around February 1942, Steichen asked Adams to join him in the navy. Adams agreed, but with two conditions: He wanted to be commissioned as an officer, and he would not be available until July 1. Steichen, who wanted the team assembled as quickly as possible, passed on Adams and had his other photographers ready by early April.
In 1943, Adams had a camera platform mounted on his station wagon, to afford him a better vantage point over the immediate foreground and a better angle for expansive backgrounds. Most of his landscapes from that time forward were made from the roof of his car rather than from summits reached by rugged hiking, as in his earlier days.
However the exposure was actually determined, the foreground was underexposed, the highlights in the clouds were quite dense, and the negative proved difficult to print. The initial publication of Moonrise was in U.S. Camera 1943 annual, after being selected by the "photo judge" for U.S. Camera, Edward Steichen. This gave Moonrise an audience before its first formal exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1944.
In 1945, Adams was asked to form the first fine art photography department at the San Francisco Art Institute. Adams invited Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston to be guest lecturers, and Minor White to be the principal instructor. The photography department produced numerous notable photographers, including Philip Hyde, Benjamen Chinn, and Bill Heick.
Adams was the recipient of three Guggenheim fellowships during his career, the first being awarded in 1946 to photograph every national park. At that time, there were 28 national parks, and Adams photographed 27 of them, missing only Everglades National Park in Florida. This series of photographs produced memorable images of Old Faithful Geyser, Grand Teton, and Mount McKinley.
His father raised him to follow the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson: to live a modest, moral life guided by a social responsibility to man and nature. Adams had a loving relationship with his father, but he had a distant relationship with his mother, who did not approve of his interest in photography. The day after her death in 1950, Ansel had a dispute with the undertaker when choosing the casket in which to bury her. He chose the cheapest in the room, a $260 coffin that seemed the least he could purchase without doing the job himself. The undertaker remarked, "Have you no respect for the dead?" Adams replied, "One more crack like that and I will take Mama elsewhere."
In 1952 Adams was one of the founders of the magazine Aperture, which was intended as a serious journal of photography, displaying its best practitioners and newest innovations. He was also a contributor to Arizona Highways, a photo-rich travel magazine. His article on Mission San Xavier del Bac, with text by longtime friend Nancy Newhall, was enlarged into a book published in 1954. This was the first of many collaborations with her.
In June 1955, Adams began his annual workshops at Yosemite. They continued to 1981, attracting thousands of students. He continued with commercial assignments for another twenty years, and became a consultant, with a monthly retainer, for Polaroid Corporation, which was founded by good friend Edwin Land. He made thousands of photographs with Polaroid products, El Capitan, Winter, Sunrise (1968) being the one he considered most memorable. During the final twenty years of his life, the 6x6 cm medium format Hasselblad was his camera of choice, with Moon and Half Dome (1960) being his favorite photograph made with that brand of camera.
In 1955, Edward Steichen selected Adams's Mount Williamson for the world-touring Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Family of Man, which was seen by nine million visitors. At 10 by 12 feet (3.0 by 3.7 m), his was the largest print in the exhibition, presented floor-to-ceiling in a prominent position as the backdrop to the section "Relationships", as a reminder of the essential reliance of humanity on the soil. However, despite its striking and prominent display, Adams expressed displeasure at the "gross" enlargement and "poor" quality of the print.
By the 1960s, Adams was suffering from gout and arthritis, and hoped that moving to a new home would make him feel better. He and his wife considered Sante Fe, but they both had commitments in California (Virginia was managing the Yosemite studio of her father). A friend offered to sell them a home in Carmel Highlands, on the Big Sur coastline. With architect Eldridge Spencer, they began planning the new home in 1961 and moved there in 1965. Adams began to devote much of his time to printing the backlog of negatives that had accumulated over forty years.
Adams published his fourth portfolio, What Majestic Word, in 1963, and dedicated it to the memory of his Sierra Club friend Russell Varian, who was a co-inventor of the klystron and who had died in 1959. The title was taken from the poem "Sand Dunes", by John Varian, Russell's father, and the fifteen photographs were accompanied by the writings of both John and Russell Varian. Russell's widow, Dorothy, wrote the preface, and explained that the photographs were selected to serve as interpretations of the character of Russell Varian.
In the 1960s, a few mainstream art galleries that had considered photos unworthy of exhibit alongside fine paintings, decided to show Adams's images, particularly the former Kenmore Gallery in Philadelphia. In March 1963, Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall accepted a commission from Clark Kerr, the president of the University of California, to produce a series of photographs of the university's campuses to commemorate its centennial celebration. The collection, titled Fiat Lux after the university's motto, was published in 1967 and now resides in the Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside.
For his conservation efforts, Adams received the Sierra Club John Muir Award in 1963. In 1968, he was awarded the Conservation Service Award, the highest award of the Department of the Interior. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for "his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature's monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a national institution."
Adams received an honorary artium doctor degree from Harvard University and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966. In 2007, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver.
The Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography was established in 1971, and the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation was established in 1980 by The Wilderness Society, which also has a large permanent gallery of his work on display at its Washington, D.C. headquarters. The Minarets Wilderness in the Inyo National Forest and a 11,760-foot (3,580 m) peak therein were renamed the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Mount Ansel Adams, respectively, in 1985.
In 1972, Adams contributed images to help publicize Proposition 20, which authorized the state to regulate development along portions of the California coast.
In 1974, he exhibited at the Rencontres d'Arles (formerly known as the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles), an annual summer photography festival in France. He also had a major retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1975, he cofounded the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, which handles some of his estate matters.
For his photography, Adams received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 1976, the Hasselblad Award in 1981. Two of his photographs, The Tetons and the Snake River and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, were among the 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were selected to convey information about humans, plants and animals, and geological features of the Earth to a possibly alien civilization.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter commissioned Adams to make the first official photographic portrait of a U.S. president.
Adams died from cardiovascular disease on April 22, 1984, in the intensive-care unit at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, California, at age 82. He was surrounded by his wife, children Michael and Anne, and five grandchildren.
The ownership of one image in particular has attracted interest: Moonrise. Although Adams kept meticulous records of his travel and expenses, he was less disciplined about recording the dates of his images, and he neglected to note the date of Moonrise. But the position of the Moon allowed the image to be eventually dated from astronomical calculations, and in 1991 Dennis di Cicco of Sky & Telescope determined that Moonrise was made on November 1, 1941. Since this was a day for which he had not billed the department, the image belonged to Adams.
Publishing rights for most of Adams's photographs are handled by the trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. An archive of Adams's work is located at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Numerous works by the artist have been sold at auction, including a mural-sized print of Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, which sold at Sotheby's New York in 2010 for $722,500, the highest price ever paid for an original Ansel Adams photograph.
In 2017 Adams was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.
Currently, Ansel Adams is 120 years, 7 months and 9 days old. Ansel Adams will celebrate 121st birthday on a Monday 20th of February 2023.
Find out about Ansel Adams birthday activities in timeline view here.