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ANSEL ADAMS: Classic Images
Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, California, c. 1948
To learn more about this photograph see the information below. To see a larger view of this image as an Acrobat Reader PDF file, click on the image...

Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, California, c. 1948 by Ansel Adams

This image is copyrighted by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust and cannot be printed or reproduced in any way. The use of the photograph is limited to viewing in the context of this web site.

 

Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, California, c. 1948
Plate 23 in Ansel Adams - Classic Images

Sources: Portfolio Three, Yosemite Valley; Ansel Adams- An Autobiography; and Ansel Adams - Classic Images. Please see Bibliography


A. What drew Ansel Adams to the Yosemite Valley?
B. How did Ansel Adams Persuade Presidents to Preserve the Environment?
C. How else was Adams active in protecting the environment?
D. Were the posters he made for environment causes propaganda or art?
E. Is the popularization of the National Parks a cause for environmental concern?
F. Related links in this site


A. What drew Ansel Adams to the Yosemite Valley?
At age fourteen, Ansel visited Yosemite with his family and on the same trip received his first camera. His early snapshots were to be the beginning of fifty years of a creative career in photographing Yosemite and other natural scenes in the United States. One of his first jobs was as a custodian at Yosemite, and as a young man he took strenuous hikes through the mountains, leading many groups and friends to the vistas he loved.

Adams wrote:

"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 the 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.

"After the initial excitement we begin to sense the need to share the living realities of this miraculous place. We may resent the intrusion of urban superficialities. We may be filled with regret that so much has happened to despoil, but we can also respond to the challenge to re-create, to protect, to re-interpet the enduring essence of Yosemite, to re-establish it as a sanctuary from the turmoil of the time.

"Here are worlds of experience beyond the world of the aggressive man, beyond history, and beyond science. The moods and qualities of nature and the revelations of great art are equally difficult to define; we can grasp them only in the depths of our perceptive spirit.

"Each represents, for me, a moment of wonder."


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B. How did Ansel Adams Persuade Presidents to Preserve the Environment?
Throughout the second half of his life, Adams "fought an unending series of battles - losing some, winning others - to preserve America for future generations," James Alinder states in Ansel Adams - Classic Images. As soon as Adams was elected to the board of the Sierra Club, he reports in his autobiography, they began the battle to establish the Kings River area as a national park. "An important conference was called in 1936 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of both our national and state parks." He traveled to Washington to lobby, using his photographs as a lobbying tool. After the publication of his book in 1938, The Sierra Nevada and the John Muir Trail," which Stieglitz called " truly perfect workmanship," he sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, a friend of the environment. Ickes showed the book to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1940 they joined together to pressure Congress to pass the Kings River National Park bill.

Adams was a man full of passionate conviction for the environment and tried to effect change in any way possible from photographs to publications to personal persuasion. He met with many government officials in power, including Presidents Gerald Ford, and President Jimmy Carter, who presented Adams with a the National Medal of Freedom in 1980. He reluctantly met in 1983 with President Ronald Reagan who Adams believed "had little or no personal interest in the environment or its protection." He considered his Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, "one of the most dangerous government officials in history." The near hour he spent with Reagan was filled with tension and his criticism of the Reagan administration as reported in the Washington Post the next morning, "was reproduced world-wide, not without effect."
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C. How else was Adams active in protecting the environment?
Adams served for thirty-seven years as board member of The Sierra Club, which by 1980 claimed 400,000 members in fifty chapters. In addition, it is a major publishing house, promotes travel to enjoy nature, and has great political impact.
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D. Were the posters he made for environment causes propaganda or art?
Many of the photographs Adams took of the parks and the beauty of nature, although not taken for the purpose of making posters with a message, were used, with Adams' permission, to raise awareness regarding the environment.
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E. Is the popularization of the National Parks a cause for environmental concern?
Adams popularized the parks. In the early 1980s he wrote in his autobiography that now "Yosemite Valley is a national shrine, with millions of people each year coming under its spell." Is the stress of millions of campers going to damage, ironically, the very natural beauty he sought to preserve and make available to Americans.?
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F. Related links in this site

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Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
For information call Robbin Zella, Director, 203-332-5052