Ansel Adams: An American Photograher
You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
Ansel Adams is definitely in the shortlist of the best American photographers of the XX century. An icon for the following generations and a pioneer, whose techniques and findings are hard to underestimate, Adams’ works made photography become more of an art than of a craft, though he certainly paid great tribute to the darkroom craftsmanship which enabled him to improve the final picture and “make it”.
After studying his works and life activities, most will agree Ansel Adams may be called the creative advocate of the American West, as in the course of his life and work he has been able to fulfill his two ambitions: making photography belong to the fine arts and communicating significant environmental messages through this media.
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It is relatively easy to study his life and masterpieces, as Adams has been acknowledged during his life (for example, in 1931 The Washington Post compared his works with the “portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods.” [Alinder, p.77], which is quite a flattering review). He also managed to write several books, including an autobiography and enjoyed numerous books on his works. An obviously gifted person, Ansel Adams first dedicated his time and talent to piano. But his childhood cold during which his aunt gave him the book “In the Heart of the Sierras” and his later trip to Yosemite Valley have greatly influenced his further career choice. After becoming interested in the technical side of the photography, a fifteen-year-old Adams took a job at Frank Dittman’s photofinishing business. According to Julie Dunlap, Adams during his serve in the studio’s basement “told so many stories about his Yosemite adventures that the others nicknamed him Ansel “Yosemite” Adams” (Dunlap, p.18).
From the very early age Adams had an eye for the beauty; the dull school classes bore him. “I believe in beauty. I believe in stones and water, air and soil, people and their future and their fate.” he later stated in his autobiography (Adams, p. 9). Through his skillful works, Ansel Adams was able to do a great favor for the national parks of the United States – emphasizing the need for the conservation programs and the protection of the environment. The photographer’s autobiography on his official site provides a Chicago Tribune’s citation of the critic Abigail Foerstner who wrote that Adams’ photography "did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus."
In the course of his life that spanned for 82 years, Adams has been able to create pictures that are of great influence for both the photography as fine art and the medium to communicate the environmental issues. In the preface to Ansel Adams’ biography, Jonathan Spaulding stated Adams hoped that “the citizens of the world could yet build the new society, proportionate to Nature”, and judging from his popularity he was not alone in this hope. Adams’ works will forever stay in the American chronicles of the XX century photographic art as great masterpieces but it seems that what he really wanted was that these pictures retained as much similarity as possible to the original in the centuries to come.—————————————————————————–
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