Ansel Adams: Biography and Selected Works

Essay by ogwenogwenoCollege, UndergraduateA, September 2014

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Ansel Adams: A Short Biography and Selected Works

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs". These are the words of one Ansel Adams, an accomplished photographer of the American West. Adams was born an only child to Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams, two distinctly upper-class parents, on the 20 February 1902. His paternal grandfather, a lumber baron, immigrated to California from the New England and founded a prosperous business. Later, Adams would condemn this business for its effects on the redwood forests. In his early adulthood, Adams had a passion for the piano but started in photography with experimentation in 1916. This happened during a trip to Yosemite National Park. He attended camera club meetings and read photography magazines. He also had forays into photography and art exhibitions, which developed his interest in photography. He quickly learned darkroom techniques and sold most of his early photographs at Best's Studio in Yosemite Valley.

In 1928, he married the daughter of the Best's Studio proprietor called Virginia Best. This perhaps solidified his gusto for photography, and because they inherited the father's studio in 1935; the Adamses made it one of the most celebrated in its time.

Adams' professional breakthrough came after he published his first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras. The portfolio included among other photographs, the famous image "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome". This led him to secure a number of other lucrative commercial assignments. Adams developed his work and reputation between 1929 and 1942, essentially becoming a specialist in detailed close-ups and large forms, from factories to mountains. He expanded his repertoire in New Mexicom, where he worked with other artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, and Paul Strand. During this time, he also published instructional books and wrote essays on photography.