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  • Artists: Ansel Adams

    TOP: This portrait of nature photographer Ansel Adams first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook. Photo from: Wikimedia. SECOND: An Adams photo taken in 1942 of Taos Pueblo (or Pueblo de Taos) an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people in New Mexico. Front view of entrance to a church built by the Spanish there against the wishes of the native populations. BOTTOM: The Tetons And Snake River, taken by Adams (1942) at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Photo from the National Park Service.

    When photographer Ansel Adams looked through his camera lens, he saw more than the rocks, trees and rivers of Yosemite National Park. He saw art. For most of his life, Adams was inspired by Yosemite. Born in San Francisco in 1902, Adams came from a wealthy family. Unfortunately, most of the family fortune was lost in the 1906 earthquake and the national banking panic the following year. An only child, Adams was raised by his parents and live-in aunt. When he was in the eighth grade, his father saw that Adams was having difficulty fitting in at school. He was a shy boy with big ears and a deformed nose. Young Ansel may have also suffered from a hyperactive condition or dyslexia. His father decided that it would be more productive if his son was tutored at home. He set up an education plan for Ansel that included lessons in piano and Greek.

    By National Park Service, adapted by Newsela staff on 03.07.17 Word Count 765 Level 930L

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 1

  • Ansel Adams' Early Photography

    While sick in bed with a cold at age 14, Adams read a book that would eventually change his life. James Mason Hutchings' book "In the Heart of the Sierras" caught Adams' imagination. He soon convinced his parents to vacation in Yosemite National Park. By this time, he already had a love of nature. He enjoyed walking among sand dunes outside his home near the Golden Gate. Equipped with a simple Kodak Brownie camera his parents gave him in 1916, the young visitor tramped through Yosemite's mountains. That is when he snapped the first images of what would become a lifetime of artistic productivity. Yosemite served as a place of healing for Adams, who survived the Spanish flu in 1919. That year, he joined the Sierra Club. He then spent six summers with High Sierra tour groups as trip photographer. He put up the Half Dome rock formation cable system each season, beginning with its first appearance in 1919. Hikers used it to ascend the straight-up slope. For several years, Adams was caretaker of the Sierra Club's LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. The lodge is now known as the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center. He was deeply influenced by the group's environmental outlook, and his first published photographs appeared in the club's 1922 bulletin. In 1927, Adams received praise for his startling image of a Yosemite favorite. Shot in fading light, "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome" yielded an image that was almost surreal. For the rest of his career, Adams would be associated with this photo and the ways he produced it.

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 2

  • This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 3

  • Adams Begins Working As A More Serious Photographer

    Adams worked in a time before digital photography. He developed photos on paper in a darkroom. His photos were stunning black-and-white images. Despite his success as a photographer, Adams lived in two worlds. He worked for years as both a photographer and a classical pianist. Adams married Virginia Best in 1928. At the time, Virginia was an aspiring singer. Adams shared her love of music. She also was the daughter of painter Harry Cassie Best. Best's Studio in Yosemite Valley was a convenient place for Adams to display his photography, and Virginia later inherited the business. The couple had two children, Michael and Anne. The children eventually became involved in the family business. They renamed it the Ansel Adams Gallery and passed it on to their children. Adams worked throughout his life as a photographer. He took assignments from the National Park Service and companies such as Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, and Life and Fortune magazines. Adams joined other nationally known photographers like Edward Weston in the Group f/64 club. Together they defined photography as an art form rather than an imitation of other art.

    Adams' Photography Takes On Political Meaning

    Later, Adams' images became associated with political issues. With the Sierra Club, in 1936, he sought to make Kings Canyon a national park. His images of the Kings and Kern rivers were used in Washington D.C. during congressional discussions. In 1940, Kings Canyon officially became a National Park. In 1943, Adams boldly photographed Manzanar, a Japanese-American internment camp, at his own expense, refusing government funding. Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. His friend, President Jimmy Carter, presented it. "Drawn to the beauty of nature's monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself," Carter said. Adams died in 1984, in Monterey, California. Shortly after his death, the Minarets Wilderness, south of Yosemite National Park, was renamed the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor. The following year a peak on the edge of Yosemite was named Mount Ansel Adams.

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 4

  • This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 5

  • Quiz

    1 Read the section "Adams' Photography Takes On Political Meaning."

    Which piece of evidence BEST explains why Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

    (A) His images of the Kings and Kern rivers were used in Washington D.C. during congressional discussions.

    (B) Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. His friend, President Jimmy Carter, presented it.

    (C) "Drawn to the beauty of nature's monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself," Carter said.

    (D) The following year a peak on the edge of Yosemite was named Mount Ansel Adams.

    2 Which paragraph in the section "Ansel Adams' Early Photography" BEST supports the idea that Adams gained fame with one particular photograph?

    3 According to the article, how did Adams' photography subjects change over time?

    (A) Adams shifted from taking pictures for his own enjoyment to giving pictures to businesses.

    (B) Adams began by photographing the environment and eventually captured political issues.

    (C) Adams began as a portrait photographer and ultimately became a nature photographer.

    (D) Adams shifted his focus from Yosemite National Park to other parks outside of the U.S.

    4 Based on the article, what effect did Adams' marriage have on his career?

    (A) Adams was able to display his photography at a real studio.

    (B) Adams got encouragement from his wife to keep photographing.

    (C) Ansel received money from his wife to support his photography.

    (D) Adams took a break from photography when he got married.

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 6

    Artists: Ansel Adams Ansel Adams' Early Photography Adams Begins Working As A More Serious Photographer Adams' Photography Takes On Political Meaning Quiz