Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902, and visited California’s spectacular Yosemite Valley for the first time in 1916. Awed by the beauty of the landscape, Adams took his earliest photographs of the park with a Brownie Box camera, returning every summer to photograph. While in his late teens, Adams spent his summers working as a custodian at the Le Conte Memorial, Sierra Club headquarters in Yosemite. In 1927, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras was published, launching Adams’ career as a professional photographer.
In 1932, Adams had his first major solo exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Throughout the 1930s, Adams established himself as a leading American photographer, publishing a series of articles and books on photographic techniques, and frequently lecturing about his work. In 1946, he founded the Department of Photography at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, which he followed up with the creation of the seminal photographic magazine, Aperture, a journal that continues to be published today.
Following the major retrospective of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974, Adams spent much of his time re-printing his negatives to satisfy the ever-growing demand for his work from art museums that had, by this point, begun to seriously collect photography as part of their collections.
In 1971, the Sierra Club established the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, and the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation was created by The Wilderness Society in 1980.
Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He helped found Group f/64, an association of photographers advocating "pure" photography which favored sharp focus and the use of the full tonal range of a photograph. He and Fred Archer developed an exacting system of image-making called the Zone System, a method of achieving a desired final print through a deeply technical understanding of how tonal range is recorded and developed during exposure, negative development, and printing. The resulting clarity and depth of such images characterized his photography.
Adams was a life-long advocate for environmental conservation, and his photographic practice was deeply entwined with this advocacy. At age 12, he was given his first camera during his first visit to Yosemite National Park. He developed his early photographic work as a member of the Sierra Club. He was later contracted with the United States Department of the Interior to make photographs of national parks. For his work and his persistent advocacy, which helped expand the National Park system, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Adams was a key advisor in establishing the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, an important landmark in securing photography's institutional legitimacy. He helped to stage that department's first photography exhibition, helped found the photography magazine Aperture, and co-founded the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.