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Profile: Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams portrait

Artist, teacher, mentor, writer, musician, outdoorsman, preservationist, photographer. These are some words of many that describe the life and work of Ansel Adams, spanning most of the 20th century.

A native of San Francisco, Ansel spent many years travelling throughout the American west, scouring desert landscapes and lush mountain ranges for majestic shots and thrilling adventures. Co-founder of Group f/64, he was one champion of “straight photography,” breaking with the then popular “Pictorialism.” Through large format cameras and a small aperture setting, he and other photographers like him aimed to present the world “as it is,” not only demonstrating the capacity for a camera to capture the beauty of a landscape but the capacity for the earth to provide it.

Ansel Adams - Arches

While Ansel Adams printed many well-known photos of western landscapes and sights along the trails of Yosemite, he taught many valuable lessons and techniques during his lifetime such as the Zone System technique and the importance of visualization when referring to the emotional-mental aspect of creating a photograph. A master of the dark room, Adams created hundreds of breath-taking prints which demonstrated his unique view of the world as well as his heightened understanding of lighting, composition, and the value of capturing everything from black to white in his shade ranges. He notably said, "The important point to remember is that the print should represent the full scale from black to white...all good prints possess one or both of the extremes of black and white, plus a wide range of middle tones..." This particular attention to the spectrum from light to dark allowed him to produce images of the highest quality and aesthetic pleasure. His experience allowed him to use photography as an art form as well as a means to promote the things he valued dearly, most notably natural preservation. After working with many people ranging from artistic to political figures, his life was one full of adventure and inspiration for many generations to come.

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