Ten Things You Didn't Know: Ansel Adams

In  Ten Things You Didn't Know we explore the life of the late Ansel Adams, considered by many the pioneer of modern nature photography.
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Ansel Adams, circa 1950.

Ansel Adams, circa 1950.

Some consider Ansel Adams to be the pioneer of modern nature photography and unparalleled ambassador of the environment, so much so that a peak and a forest in the region of the Sierra Nevada were renamed to honor his memory. In this Ten Things You Didn't Know column we explore a few highlights associated with the late Ansel Adams. 

"Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," a 1944 photograph by Ansel Adams, sold for $722,000 at a Sotheby's auction in 2010. It is the highest amount on record paid for Adams' work.  

"Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," 1944.

"Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," by Ansel Adams

2 An only child, Adams grew up in San Francisco, Calif., with his parents, aunt and grandfather. Finding little success in formal educational settings, Adams father and his aunt teamed up to teach him at home. It’s said he received a diploma from a private school, obtaining what would have been equivalent to an eighth grade education.

3 Adams was a solitary kid, studying at home and wandering trails by himself. He began practicing the piano at the age of 12, and by 18 he decided he wanted to become a concert pianist. 

"Aspens, Northern New Mexico," a 1958 photograph by Ansel Adams. "I made this photograph on a crisp autumn day in the mountains north of Santa Fe...near the crest of the Sangre de Cristo mountains," Adams said. "I do not consider it a 'pretty' scene; for me it is cool and aloof and rather stately."

"Aspens, Northern New Mexico," a 1958 photograph by Ansel Adams. "I made this photograph on a crisp autumn day in the mountains north of Santa Fe...near the crest of the Sangre de Cristo mountains," Adams said. "I do not consider it a 'pretty' scene; for me it is cool and aloof and rather stately."

4 Adams often agreed to commercial work in order to subsidize his more creative pursuits, trying to strike a balance between paying bills and garnering satisfaction from his environmental awareness ambitions. In 1969, the Hill Brothers Coffee Company licensed Winter Morning, Yosemite Valley for their 3-pound coffee tins. The containers can bring up to $1,500 when they come up for auction.

5 It was The Sierra Club’s 1922 Bulletin where Adams’ photographs and writings first appeared in public.

 In 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented Adams the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians, acknowledging his efforts on behalf of environmental causes. Carter called Adams “national institution.”

7 A life-long conservationist and 37-year member of the Sierra Club’s board of directors, Adams’ life and work were deeply inspired by and reflective of the majestic Yosemite Sierra region. A peak in the Sierra Nevada of California was named Mount Ansel Adams, while an area in the Sierra National Forest was renamed Ansel Adams Wilderness in 1985, a year after his death.

"Oak Tree, Snowstorm," a 1948 photograph by Ansel Adams, 16 x 12 inches.

"Oak Tree, Snowstorm," a 1948 photograph by Ansel Adams in Yosemite.

During a family trip to Yosemite National Park, 14-year-old Adams was given a Kodak Brownie camera thus beginning a lifetime passion that would earn him world-wide acclaim.

9 At the age of 4, Adams suffered a bad break to his nose, during the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

10 More than 60 books have been published about life and work of Ansel Adams, who died April 22, 1984.

Sources: www.anseladams.com; Heritage Auctions (www.ha.com); A Biography of Ansel Adams, by Nan Deyo