Ansel Easton Adams
(Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup.
Adams described himself as a photographer — lecturer — writer. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that he was simply — indeed, compulsively — a communicator. He endlessly traveled the country in pursuit of both the natural beauty he revered and photographed and the audiences he required. Adams felt an intense commitment to promoting photography as a fine art and played a key role in the establishment of the first museum department of photography, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The work at the museum fostered the closest relationships of Adams’s life, with Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, a historian and museum administrator and a writer-designer, respectively. Their partnership was arguably the most potent collaboration in twentieth-century photography. In the 1950s and 1960s Nancy Newhall and Adams created a number of books and exhibitions of historic significance, particularly the Sierra Club’s This is the American Earth (1960), which, with Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring, played a seminal role in launching the first broad-based citizen environmental movement.
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