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Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams (February 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984) was a man of many talents and passions. In the end, he was able to combine two of his great loves – photography and nature – to become the foremost American landscape photographer of the 20th century. He was also an important activist, author, innovator, and leader.

In his early years, Adams trained for a career as a concert pianist. However, summers spent vacationing and working in Yosemite National Park fostered a deep appreciation and concern for preserving the beauty of America's national parks. His photographs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains led to a solo exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1931.

By 1934, when Adams began a 37-year tenure on the Sierra Club's Board of Directors, his photography career was in full swing. He was able to unite his lifelong commitment to wilderness preservation and his passion for the art of photography for mutual benefit. For example, Group f/64, which he formed with Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham in 1932, was committed to defining the art of photography through the use of sharp focus and the entire photographic gray scale. This art form was well exemplified by Adams' landscape photos.

Throughout his photography career, Adams was called on by U.S. presidents, government commissions, and environmental groups to add his voice and vision to conservation campaigns. He was also recruited to write a series of articles and books – such as The Negative (1948) – providing insight on his photographic techniques. In addition, Adams helped found the first museum curatorial department dedicated to photography as an independent art form – in 1940 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City – and the first academic department devoted to teaching photography as a profession – in 1946 at the California School of Fine Arts. He was also a cofounder of the creative photography journal Aperture.

Adams's efforts as an artist-activist were recognized by Jimmy Carter in 1980, when he awarded Adams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1984, 200,000 acres of land near Yosemite were designated the Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas, and in 1985, a mountain on the boundary of Yosemite was named Mt. Ansel Adams.

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