Thursday, August 26, 2010

DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES OF THE AMERICAN WEST



Ansel Adams, 1974
Photographer, Mimi Jacobs (1971-1981)
Archives of American Art


Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984) was a hyperactive child and prone to frequent sickness and hypochondria. He had few friends but his family home and surroundings on the heights facing the Golden Gate provided ample childhood activities. Although he had no patience for games or sports, the curious child took to nature at an early age, collecting bugs and exploring Lobos Creek all the way to Baker Beach and the sea cliffs leading to Lands End, "San Francisco's wildest and rockiest coast, a place strewn with shipwrecks and rife with landslides."
His father bought a three-inch telescope and they enthusiastically shared the hobby of amateur astronomy, visiting the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton together. His father went on to serve as the paid secretary-treasurer of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1925 to 1950.
After the death of his grandfather and the aftermath of the Panic of 1907, his father's business suffered great financial losses. By 1912, the family's standard of living had dropped sharply. After young Ansel was dismissed from several private schools for his restlessness and inattentiveness, his father decided to pull him out of school in 1915, at the age of 12. Adams was then educated by private tutors, his Aunt Mary, and by his father. His Aunt Mary was a follower of Robert G. Ingersoll, a 19th century agnostic, abolitionist and women's suffrage advocate. As a result of his Aunt's influence, Ingersoll's teachings were important to Ansel's upbringing. During the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, his father insisted that, as part of his education, Adams spend part of each day studying the exhibits. After a while, Adams resumed and then completed his formal education by attending the Mrs. Kate M. Wilkins Private School, until he graduated from eighth grade on June 8, 1917. In his later years, he displayed his diploma in the guest bathroom of his home.
His father raised him to follow the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson: to live a modest, moral life guided by a social responsibility to man and to nature. Adams had a warm, loving and supportive relationship with his father, but had a distant relationship with his mother, who did not approve of his interest in photography
((en.wikipedia.org)
In 1930 Adams met the famous photographer Paul Strand (1890–1976) while they were working in Taos, New Mexico, and the man and his work had a lasting effect on Adams's approach to photography. Strand encouraged Adams to change his approach from a soft expression of subjects to a much clearer, harder treatment, so-called "straight photography." This idea was further reinforced by his association with the short-lived, but important, group of photographers known as f/64 (referring to the lens opening which guarantees a distinct image), which included Edward Weston (1886–1958) and Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976). This group helped the development of photography as a fine art.
In one sense Ansel Adams's work is an extensive record of what is still left of the wilderness, the shrinking untouched part of the natural environment. Yet to see his work only as photographic images is to miss the main point that he tried to make: without a guiding vision, photography is not necessarily an important activity. The finished product, as Adams saw it, must be thought up before it can be executed. With nineteenth-century artists and philosophers (seekers of wisdom) he shared the belief that this vision must be inspired by life on earth. Photographs, he believed, were not taken from the environment but were made into something greater than themselves.
(encyclopedia.com)
In 1941 the National Park Service commissioned noted photographer Ansel Adams to create a photo mural for the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, DC. The theme was to be nature as exemplified and protected in the U.S. National Parks. The project was halted because of World War II and never resumed.
(archives.gov)


Grand Canyon National Park
From archives.gov


Grand Teton
From archives.gov


Middle Fork at Kings River
View from S. Fork of Cartridge Creek
From archives.gov


In Rocky Mountain National Park
From archives.gov


Central Geyser Basin
Yellowstone National Park
From archives.gov


Yellowstone Falls
From archives.gov


Jupiter Terrace, Fountain Geyser Pool
Yellowstone National Park
From archives.gov


Large Formation
Hall of Giants in Carlsbad Cavern
From archives.gov


The Giant Dome
Largest stalagmite thus far discovered
From archives.gov


Two Medicine Lake
Glacier National Park
From archives.gov


St. Mary's Lake, Glacier National Park
From archives.gov


Saguaro National Monument
From archives.gov


Canyon de Chelly
From archives.gov


Boulder Dam, 1941
From archives.gov


Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
From archives.gov


Dance, San Ildefonso Pueblo New Mexico, 1942
From archives.gov


Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, 1941
From archives.gov


Corn Field, 1941
Indian Farm near Tuba City, Arizona
From archives.gov


Walpi, Arizona, 1941
From archives.gov


Flock in Owens Valley, 1941
From archives.gov


The holdings of the National Archives Still Picture Branch include 226 photographs taken for this project, most of them signed and captioned by Adams. They were taken at the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Kings Canyon, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Carlsbad Caverns, Glacier, and Zion National Parks; Death Valley, Saguaro, and Canyon de Chelly National Monuments. Other pictures were taken at the Boulder Dam; Acoma Pueblo, NM; San Idelfonso, NM; Taos Pueblo, NM; Tuba City, AZ; Walpi, AZ; and Owens Valley, CA. Many of the latter locations show Navajo and Pueblo Indians, their homes and activities.
(archives.gov)
The Kings Canyon photographs were taken in 1936 when the establishment of the park was being proposed. These prints were added by Adams to the mural project. The one photograph of Yosemite was a gift from Adams to the head of the Park Service, Horace Albright, in 1933.
(archives.gov)
In addition, there are eight photographs taken by Adams of Yosemite in the General Photographic Files of the National Park Service. These photos may still be under copyright protection.
(archives.gov)


Middle Fork at Kings River
View from S. Fork of Cartridge Creek
From archives.gov


Center Peak, Center Basin
From archives.gov


Half Dome, Apple Orchard, Yosemite
From archives.gov


In Adams's photographs the West is an abstract notion more appropriately understood in its transformation as photograph than in its actuality. Expression is more important than reality, idea more important than fact, the print more important than its subject. For it is only in the print that such magnificence can be unfailingly orchestrated. "Twelve photographs that matter in a year is a good crop for any photographer," Adams once said. An infinite number of visual confrontations with the landscape produces only twelve epiphanies.
The sense of the presence of the eternal world in Adams's photographs is achieved not only by his constant choice of sublime moments and viewpoints, but also by his legendary technical brilliance, which transforms an ordinary scene into a luminescent, fully realized, precious object.
To effect the formal purity and the transformations he desired, Adams developed the most careful, rigorously thought-out system of photographic control known to the field photographer: the Zone System. Adams wanted to go beyond conventional photographic recording, which, in his own words, is at best "acceptable though perhaps uninspired" and create a statement "acute and creatively expressive." In the Zone System, he engineered a technique by which the photographer could manipulate the photograph's internal tones without distorting essential photographic description. By means of filtration, development, and print controls, contrast could be heightened or softened and the placement of object values along the tonal scale could be predetermined by the photographer before the shutter was released. Thus a sand dune seen at sunrise could be transformed into an almost abstract composition of hard-edged black-and-white forms, a lone tree branch on the shore of Mono Lake could be made to stand out as if spotlit against a luminescent, floating background, and the north sky beyond Yosemite's Half Dome could be rendered a rich, velvet black. By using the Zone System, the photographer can darken those areas that in actuality provide an overabundance of distracting detail, lighten areas deep within natural shade, and intensify, simplify, or almost utterly obliterate the relationships between land, clouds, sea, rocks, foliage, and sky. Adams found in this system the answer that pictorialists in photography had long been seeking: a means of controlling the optical, mechanical medium with the same finesse the painter managed with the brush and palette.
Adams's concern with craft, technique, and reproduction quality helped initiate wide participation in expressive photography. He has shared his insights in numerous books and articles. His first technical manual, Making a Photograph (1935), contained the most accurate photographic reproductions since Stieglitz's Camera Work. And the Basic Photo Series (1948-1956) dispelled the atmosphere of alchemy surrounding photographic technique, allowing any photographer to produce a fine print.
(masters-of-photography.com)
Adams was also the author of his trilogy of technical instruction manuals (The Camera, The Negative and The Print). Photographs in Adams' limited edition book, Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, along with his testimony, is credited with helping secure the designation of Sequoia and Kings Canyon as national parks in 1940.
((en.wikipedia.org)

Timeline:
1902 - Ansel Easton Adams born on February 20, at 114 Maple Street, San Francisco, the only child of Olive and Charles
1915 - Despises the regimentation of a regular education, and is taken out of school. For that year, his father buys him a season pass to the Panama-Pacific Exposition, which he visits nearly every day. Private tutors provide further instruction.
1916: Family Trip to Yosemite, Californina.
1925: Decides to become a pianist. Buys a grand piano.
1927: First acknowledged photograph.
1940 - Teaches first Yosemite workshop, the U. S. Camera Photographic Forum, in Yosemite with Edward Weston.
1953 he collaborated with Dorothea Lange on a Life commission for a photo essay on the Mormons in Utah
In 1962 Adams moved to Carmel, California, where in 1967 he was instrumental in the foundation of the Friends of Photography
1984 - Dies April 22 of heart failure aggravated by cancer
(zpub.com)


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