Ansel Adams was born February 20, 1902 in San Francisco, California. His father was Charles Adams, and his mother was named Olive.
In the earthquake on April 18, 1906, the Adams' house was damaged, but they were still able to live in it. Most of the inhabitants of the city were left homeless. In an aftershock* the young boy Ansel, then four years old, was tossed around and his nose was broken. For the rest of his life he had a crooked nose.
His family was wealthy when he was young, but they suffered financial reverses and went from having a cook, a maid, and a governess to doing everything for themselves when they could no longer afford to hire help.
Ansel was homeschooled by his father and his Aunt Mary until he was nine years old. Then he was put in various schools, but he did not do well. He was a very nervous, hyperactive child. His father saw something special in his son and did his best to nurture* him. He removed him from the school and hired tutors to teach him algebra and Greek.
Ansel became interested in the piano, taught himself to play, and began to take lessons. Music provided the structure that had been missing in his life. He learned how to play in a couple of months and his father bought for him a $6,000 piano, paying it out by installments.
When he was thirteen his father bought him a one-year pass to San Francisco's Panama Pacific International Exposition*. This would be his schooling for a year. He went to the exposition every day. It was at the Exposition that he first saw displays of art and pictorial photography.
The following year he was captivated* by a book he saw about Yosemite, then his parents took him on a trip to Yosemite. First they traveled by train, then by bus to reach the area. His parents gave him a Kodak Brownie box camera with which he took pictures at Yosemite. This trip was actually the turning point in his life.
Back at home he would practice the piano for six hours a day. He had decided to become a concert pianist, then in the summer he would return to the mountains. While he was in the mountains the only place he had to practice the piano was at Best's Studio owned by Harry Best.
Harry also had a daughter named Virginia, who eventually became Ansel's wife. He was twenty-six years old when they were married. He and Virginia moved into a little house at the back of the studio and raised their two children there. Best's Studio would later become known as the Ansel Adam's Gallery.
Leaf in Glacier National Park by Ansel Adams
He continued with his work as a professional* photographer, and after having some success at selling some portfolios of his prints, he saw he would be able to make a better living as a photographer than as a concert pianist. He experimented with different filters on his camera and different ways of developing the prints. His photographs became works of art. By 1935 he was recognized as one of the best photographers in America. Wealthy people began to hire him to make portraits of their families and pictures of their homes.
Ansel Adams specialized in black and white photography. Sometimes it would take him a whole day to print a picture to make it look exactly as he wanted it. One of his most famous prints is Moonrise (use the right arrows to view other prints) .
Alfred Stieglitz offered him a one-man show in New York. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. He worked so hard that summer preparing for exhibits he worked himself to exhaustion. It took him months to recover.
Adams had been active in the Sierra Club* since he was a teenager, and now he was on the board of directors. In this way he helped to preserve the environment. His book of photographs, Sierra Nevada: the John Muir Trail, when given to President Theodore Roosevelt helped to influence him to support King's Canyon as a national park.
The Department of the Interior commissioned* him to make a set of murals. They are featured in a book Ansel Adams: The National Park Service Photographs . Adams published numerous books of his photographic work and books about photography. To share his knowledge he held workshops to teach people photography. He was a great teacher.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the nation's highest honor given to a civilian.
In 1983 he visited his beloved Yosemite for the last time and died the next year on April 22, 1984. He was 82 years old.
Ansel Adams Wilderness
Six months after his death Congress set aside some land in the Sierra Nevada area of California they named "Ansel Adams Wilderness", and a mountain was named in his honor, "Mount Ansel Adams".
This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2008.
A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.
Ansel Adams at 100
Ansel Adams, Photographer
at the Ansel Adams Gallery
American Expeience at PBS
transcript of the program at PBS
(students may want to enlarge text)
Brownie Cameras (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.
From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster
AF ter shok
a small earthquake or tremor that follows a major earthquake.
to educate or further the development of
ek spə ZISH ən
a public exhibition
KAP tə vAt
to influence or fascinate by some special charm
prə FESH ən əl
taking part for money in an activity that others do for pleasure
kə MISH ən
to order to be made
a U.S. environmental organization founded in 1892
dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the
world's parks, wildlife, and wilderness areas
Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs
By Ansel Adams / Little, Brown, and Co
presents the full spectrum Adams' greatest work in a single volume for the first time, offering an entirely new perspective on his monumental career.. The photographs are arranged chronologically into five major periods in order to convey Adams' development as an artist-from his first photographs made in Yosemite and the High Sierra in 1916 to his work in the National Parks in the 1940s up to his last important photographs from the 1960s. An introduction and brief essays on selected images provide information about Adams' life, document the evolution of his technique, and give voice to his artistic vision. Few artists of any era can claim to have produced four hundred images of lasting beauty and significance. It is a testament to Adams' vision and a lifetime of hard work that a book of this scale can be justified. ANSEL ADAMS: 400 PHOTOGRAPHS is a must-have reference and gift book for anyone who appreciates photography and the allure of the natural world.
A LIBRARY OF
ONLINE BOOKS and BOOK PREVIEWS
Yosemite: The Complete Guide: Yosemite National Park
by James Kaiser (selected pages) Order here
Florida FCAT Reading & Writing+ Grade 8
by Staff of Research Education Association (selected pages) Order here
Preview some of the Amazon books using the links below.
Eye on the wild: a story about Ansel Adams
by Julie Dunlap, Kerry Maguire (selected pages)
Ansel Adams: A Biography
by Mary Street Alinder (selected pages)
Ansel Adams: divine performance
by Anne Hammond, Ansel Adams (selected pages)
Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography
by Jonathan Spaulding (selected pages)
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