Photography is an act of freezing a moment in time and cherish it in future; more like seizing the moment that holds a person spellbound. There have been significant photographers in the past century, and some of them are still working, who enchant people with their art and photographs. One of the greatest of all time in this field is Ansel Adams. He was an American photographer and an ardent observer of nature and environment. Over the course of his life as a photographer, he produced some breath-taking work, shot unrealistic photographs the likes of Moon over half dome; Oaktree, Snow Storm, Yosemite; Grass and pool; Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, etc. It is safe to say that his photographs never showed the actual picture of the place but instead what we see in his photography is his experience and how that moment felt to him. His pictures are his feelings, and the astonishing fact is how well he was able to convey them onto his photographs.
Ansel Adams was, like many artists over the years, in love with nature. He was in awe of the beauty of mountains, rocks, waterfalls, etc. His black and white photographs of natural forests and waterfalls made the public appreciate the environment just as he did. To Ansel, the paramount thing to do is to strive, in every way possible, to preserve and protect the environment. During the latter stages of his career, he used to advocate his views on nature and environment. He got deeply disturbed and saddened by the deterioration of the natural land and soil because of erosion. He was also hurt by the fact that people are cutting down trees and natural parks and forest to accommodate people and building highways and factories at the expense of nature (Blower, 39-55).
The photography of Adams is filled with nuances and subtleties, yet at the same time simplistic. No one has made use of gray scales more than he did in his photography. His love for the wilderness made him capture some of the breath-taking pictures of the West and landscapes. He was the only photographer who elevated this field, and because of him, photography is taken very seriously by the art students. He is the sole reason photography is now held at the same level of importance as music, writing, and painting. Ansel advocated his views on the preservation of natural forest and park system, and it is because of his persistence that the natural park system was expanded.
The most famous contribution in photography by Ansel is arguably the ‘Zone System’ he introduced, collaborating with Fred Archer, a well-known photographer himself. Ansel and Fred invented the system by using the principles of the photographic films. It is a technique of identifying the amount of light exposure needed to create the desired amount of shades in photography (Morris, 9-24). Although it was invented at a time when black and white photography was prevalent, it finds its application in negatives and color photography as well as in digital.
Although Ansel received significant recognition during his lifetime, he became more famous after his death. He won numerous awards including the award from then-President Jimmy Carter. The Presidential Medal for Freedom was given to him by the President, which is considered as a highest civilian honor at that time. He was also posthumously awarded for his contributions to photography. He wrote several books on photography and environment. It would not strain credulity to consider him as the most celebrated photographer the American people have ever seen and the most beloved one.
Blower, Nicholas. “‘There Are No People in These Photographs’: Human Scarcity, the Sierra Club Aesthetic, and the Politics of Presence.” European Journal of American Culture, vol. 36, no. 1, 2017, pp. 39–55.
Morris, John C. “The Artist as Environmentalist: Ansel Adams, Policy Entrepreneurship, and the Growth of Environmentalism.” Public Voices, vol. 9, no. 2, 2017, pp. 9–24.