Skip to main content

Photography: Ansel Adams Black and White Photographer and Conservationist

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

"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." - William Turnage

Ansel Adams is one of America's premier master photographers and was an avid conservationist. He was born in San francisco in 1902 and grew up in house with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. His signature broken nose, was a result of a fall caused by an aftershock for the 1906 earthquake that nearly devastated the city.


Ansel Adam's Lifelong Love of Photography

Adams' love for nature started in childhood and turned into a passion that lasted the rest of his life. Adams studied the piano as a child and by young adulthood, he planned on being a concert pianist.  Then he discovered photography.  His first camera was a Brownie Box camera and he took it on his initial visit to Yosemite.  He joined the Sierra Club in 1919 and spent four summers as the caretaker at the Club's Yosemite lodge, LeConte Memorial Lodge.  He also met his wife in Yosemite and they were married in 1928.


Ansel Adams Becomes a Professional Photographer

By the late 1920s Adams decided he could make a better living from photography than from playing the piano. This decision was backed by the publication of his first portfolio. Under the patronage of Albert M. Bender, Adams published the Parmelian Prints of the High Sierra. He had his first one man show in San Fransisco's DeYoung Museum in 1932. In 1933, he had his first show in New York at the Delphic Gallery. His first technical articles were published in "Camera Craft" in 1934 and his first book, Making a Photograph was published in 1935.


Ansel Adams Photographic Legacy

Over a career that lasted a lifetime, he left a legacy of black and white prints documenting the great wilderness areas of the western United States. He was an official photographer for the Sierra Club and was on the board of directors for almost 40 years.

Adams was the recipient of three Guggenheim grants which were awarded to him to photographs America's national parks. In 1945 he formed the first Fine Art Photography Studio at the California School of Fine Arts. Over his long career he published many photographic and technical books. He was one of the founders of "Aperture Magazine" and was a frequent contributor to "Arizona Highways Magazine".


Ansel Adams - Environmentalist

Ansel Adams is considered a national institution by environmentalists. In 1980 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth."

Scroll to Continue

The John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, houses Adams' vast collection of corespondance, memorabilia, negatives and many prints. Over his lifetime Adams wrote over 100,000 letters, contributed photgraphs to hundreds of articles and reviews, authored four dozen books, and published eight portfolios of original prints.



Sherman on December 03, 2010:

My favorite is Sunrise over Hernandez New Mexico. The background story on how he got the picture is a lesson in quick perception and professional response. I recommend his series of six manuals on photography.

Janetta on May 25, 2009:

beautiful pictures. such a talent :)

lafenty (author) from California on May 23, 2009:

Most definitely.

Haunty from Hungary on May 23, 2009:

Was he an influence on you?

Related Articles