Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park. One of his most famous photographs was Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.
With Fred Archer, Adams developed the zone system as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs and the work of those he taught the system. Adams primarily used large-format cameras, despite their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, because their high resolution helped ensure sharpness in his images.
Adams founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, which in turn created the Museum of Modern Art's department of photography. Adams's timeless and visually stunning photographs are reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books, making his photographs widely recognizable.
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Adams's vast archive of papers, memorabilia, correspondence, negatives, and many "fine" photographic prints, as well as numerous "work" or proof prints, are in the John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson. A portion of his papers relating to the Sierra Club are in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
Adams's Ansel Adams: An Autobiography (1985) was unfinished at the time of his death and was subsequently completed by Mary Street Alinder, his editor. An Autobiography offers a somewhat rose-colored and selective view of Adams's life. A selection of correspondence, Letters and Images (1988), contains a small but interesting fraction of the estimated 100,000 letters and cards that Adams wrote during his lifetime.
He wrote and contributed photographs to hundreds of articles and reviews from 1922 until 1984. He published eight portfolios of original photographic prints (1927, 1948, 1950, 1960, 1963, 1970, 1974, 1976). Nearly four dozen books bear Adams's name as author and/or artist.
More than a decade after his death, there was still no biography covering his entire life. Nancy Newhall, Ansel Adams: The Eloquent Light (1963), is a relatively short and adoring biography of Adams's first thirty-six years, written with zest and insight, as well as Adams's full collaboration.
— William A. Turnage
This biography has been published by Oxford University Press for its American National Biography and is reprinted courtesy OUP and the author