Ansel Adams was born on this day in 1902 in San Francisco. When San Francisco was devastated by the horrible earthquake of 1906, his family moved to the Seacliff neighborhood, which had a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
He was a hyper-active child given to spells of hypochondria. He was also prone to various illnesses. The fact that he had a hard time concentrating led to his dismissal from several private schools. At the age of 12, his father decided it would be better for him to be taught at home by private tutors.
Ansel became infatuated with nature’s beauty at a young age. Living where he did as a boy, allowed him to explore some gorgeous landscapes, collect bugs and simply enjoy the outdoors. He didn’t have many friends, so his outdoor activities took up most of his time and energy.
At the age of 12 he also became interested in the piano and took lessons. The structure associated with music allowed him to focus his attention, at least for a while. He had planned to follow a career in music, but gave it up in favor of photography.
He is best known for his beautiful black and white photographs of natural places, especially in Yosemite National Park. He and his family traveled through the park in 1916 and he felt like the park was opening itself up to him. His dad gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie Box Camera, with which he enthusiastically photographed everything in sight. He would return the following year with better equipment.
Ansel had a loving relationship with his father. They studied the stars together when Ansel was just a young boy. His father encouraged him to emulate Ralph Waldo Emerson by leading a life of modesty and a love of nature. He followed through with that lifestyle throughout his life.
The drama captured in his photographs of natural places, shows a dimension to something that might ordinarily be pictured as a flat surface. However, his love affair with light and shadows, dancing across a sculptured, rocky landscape showed the depth of those places. It was his ability to draw them out that set him apart.
His black and white photos define the enthusiastic spirit of the man himself. In spite of his hyper activity, he was able to focus his talent into an amazing art form.
“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space. I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters. At first the colossal aspect may dominate; then we perceive and respond to the delicate and persuasive complex of nature.