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Photography in Yosemite

The Photography of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams (1902- 1984) is arguably one of the most beloved figures in the history of Yosemite photography. His work bears all of the stylistic qualities needed to guarantee its success: it appears plainspoken and straightforward, and presents the natural world in a crisp, realistic way. But Adams's straightforward photographic style masks his remarkably complicated motivations. Equal parts aesthete and social activist, Adams hoped that his sharp-focused black-and-white photographs would help persuade Americans to value creativity as well as to conserve and expand American freedoms and wilderness preserves.

Adams used a similar strategy of combining life-affirming photographs and critical prose in his efforts to preserve America's wilderness reserves, especially in and around Yosemite Valley. In 1934, he joined the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club and began lobbying Congress to stop logging and mining in the King's River Canyon, near Yosemite. By 1938, when he published his first book of landscape photographs, "Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail", he sent copies to President Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. The photographs in the book, he recalled, "helped swing the opinion in our favor." In 1940, with the President's help, the canyon became a national park.

The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite still carries on this tradition, and some 30 of his finest images are still available as 'Ansel Adams Special Edition Photographs', only sold at the Gallery

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