Ansel Adams

Famed American photographer Ansel Adams co-founded the Center for Creative Photography in 1975. His was one of five inaugural archives, and it remains a cornerstone of the Center’s fine art and archival collections. Adams’s career spans seven decades and a wide range of subject matter, including portraits, still lifes, architecture, and the landscapes for which he is most famous. Viewers often associate his lifelong environmentalism and advocacy for America’s wilderness places with his dramatic, panoramic photographs that celebrate the redemptive potential of the natural world. Many of his best-known images were made in the American West, including a large group of works made in Yosemite Valley.

Adams first learned about photography and the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a child, on family vacation. His love for the medium and the place grew in tandem, and after his initial 1916 visit, Adams visited Yosemite annually. Originally working in the Pictorialist style, widely popular in the 1910s and 1920s, Adams encountered Paul Strand’s photography in 1930, and rejected his earlier painterly, soft focus style for a new “pure” and sharp focus approach.

In 1932, Adams, Edward and Brett Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, and a handful of other Bay Area photographers came together as Group f/64. They displayed their sharp-focus, modernist style of photography at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum in an exhibition that stands as a landmark in the history of the medium.

In 1941 Adams was invited by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to photograph the National Parks and to create large-scale mural prints for the new Washington D.C. Interior building. Adams was delighted at the opportunity, but funding for the project was withdrawn following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of that year, and the large prints were not made. Adams was so invested in the idea of photographing America’s parklands that he applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship to allow further work. He received the grant funding, and expanded the project, creating a book, a portfolio, and many photographs, a body of work that has remained central to his career.

The Ansel Adams Archive at the Center for Creative Photography includes more than 2,500 fine prints, along with correspondence, interviews, unpublished writings, memorabilia, publications, negatives, transparencies, work prints, photographic equipment, and files documenting his commercial projects, exhibitions, affiliation with the Sierra Club and Friends of Photography.

The Center may provide digital scans of Ansel Adams works in our collections in collaboration with The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, which holds copyright to all works by Ansel Adams; permissions from the Trust must be on file with the Center prior to release of scans.

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