Happy Birthday, Ansel Adams!
February 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984
Born in San Francisco just four years before the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Ansel Adams was interested in nature and the wilderness from a young age. A vivacious explorer of the sand dunes and rocky cliffs near his home, Adams had an erratic but sufficient education. Most importantly, his father tutored him on the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, taught him amateur stargazing, and fostered his love of the environment.
Ansel Adams’ first camera, the Kodak Brownie, was a gift from his father on a family outing to Yosemite National Park, and while he picked up the hobby with “usual hyperactive enthusiasm”, his obsession with photography drew ire from his mother. Undeterred, Adams honed his skills as a photographer, and when he eventually joined up with the Sierra Club, his photographs and writings were included in the Sierra Club Bulletin.
A relentless advocate for national parks and refuges, and a politically-active Board Member of the Club, Adams’ photography was powerful enough to sway minds. His book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, was highly influential in President Franklin Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes approving the proposed Kings Canyon National Park, preserving the Kings River region. He rarely photographed humans, with the notable exception of Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans, taken at the Manzanar War Relocation Center.
As distressed as Adams felt about the state of “progress” encroaching upon the wilderness, he was not against civilization. As William Turnage remarks,
“More than any other influential American of his epoch, Adams believed in both the possibility and the probability of humankind living in harmony and balance with its environment.”
See more of Ansel Adams’ photographs at the US Government Archives.
I’m a day late.