Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams: Clearing Winter Storm (1944)

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a well known landscape photographer from California during the mid twentieth century notorious for his photographs of Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks (Peeler, 1998, p. 1030). Adams's photographs have inspired many in such a way that there has been effort to turn his work into landscape ideology (Berman, 1998, p. 115). His photography represents nature in its most natural form and leaves its viewers with a sense of grace.

Though Adams took a plethora of photos from different landscapes around the United States, the ones he took in Yosemite are arguably the most compelling. As a founding member of the Sierra Club, Ansel Adams spent a chunk of his life in Yosemite Valley. Adams described Yosemite as a place where “the clear realities of nature seen with the inner eye of the spirit reveal the ultimate echo of God.” (Stoll, 2008, p. 238). This is where he took photos for Eastman Kodak advertising campaigns, as well as vacation promotions for the park (Hales, 1997, p. 1460). 

One facet of Adams’s photographs at Yosemite that is particularly intriguing is the time period which he took them . Adams’s photo Clearing Winter Storm (1944) was taken towards the end of World War II, a time when propaganda was at an all time high. In contrast, his photography showed the beauty of nature rather than a persuasive display of nationalism. Adams did not partake in World War I or World War II and was not affected by the Great Depression. Because of this, he had a different outlook on life than most people at the time. It allowed him display the United States in a way that was unrepresented, though his photos during this time did not become popular until the 1960’s (Peeler, 1998, p. 1030). 

Despite the recent evolution of digital photography, Adams did not let a film camera hinder his work. Clearing Winter Storm (1944) is a true display of serenity. It shows Yosemite Valley in natural state, as if humans didn’t exist at all. This photo, as well as the majority of Adams’s photos purposely evoke a spiritual feeling as a result of Adams intentionally cropping any man made objects (Peeler, 1998, p. 1031). The contrast of the landscape reveals wildlife extending through miles of an awe-inspiring valley that lies beneath towering granite domes piercing through an almost surreal cloudy sky. It is this detail that inspires the preservation of his photography both physically and emotionally. 

Ansel Adams’s photographs are a gift to the American people that captures pure beauty and encourages its viewers to emancipate themselves from everyday life to seek the same spiritual triumph that Adams sought after. For this reason, his images are still popular today (Peeler, 1998, p. 1032).


Peter, Bacon Hales. "Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography." The Journal of American   History 83.4 (1997): 1460-1. ProQuest Research Library; ProQuest Social Sciences Premium Collection. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

David, P. Peeler. ""Ansel Adams, a Legacy: Masterworks from the Friends of Photography Collection"." The Journal of American History 85.3 (1998): 1029-33. ProQuest Research Library; ProQuest Social Sciences Premium Collection. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

Berman, Ronald. "Ansel Adams: California / Photography: An Independent Art." Journal of Aesthetic Education 32.2 (1998): 115-. ProQuest Art, Design and Architecture Collection; ProQuest Social Sciences Premium Collection. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

Stoll, Mark. "Milton in Yosemite: PARADISE LOST AND THE NATIONAL PARKS IDEA." Environmental History     13.2 (2008): 237-74. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

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