ANSEL ADAMS LESSON PLAN
See: Gallery: Trailer
Adams said he was too young for the World War I and too old for the World War II. Yet he did live through historical events of the 20th century, such as the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. He has seen the environment transformed, which he has strong feelings about. (See Gallery: Vernal Falls). He witnessed a huge change in technology. John Szarkowski, who began the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, wrote in The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, "When he began to take photographs in the late 1920s, it was before the Model A had begun to replace the Model T. At that time there were no superhighways, no motels, and no passenger airlines. San Francisco and New York were, by crack train, four splendid days apart."
Adams was deeply impressed by the detention of Japanese Americans at Manzanar in California during World War II. (See Photography and History Lesson Plan, and Gallery: Mount Williamson) He was interrogated during the McCarthy Era of the 1940s. Adams explains in his autobiography that during the Great Depression in the 1930s, many American citizens turned toward leftist philosophy hoping for relief from the great hardships. Adams wrote that he and his friends "signed numerous petitions...In retrospect, many of these were undoubtedly Communist inspired." The dreadful McCarthy period was the "first time I doubted the integrity of the American system."
Adams wrote that he was at a party with Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, whose loyalty was questioned by McCarthy. The guest list had to be turned over to the F.B.I., who then interviewed party guests, including Adams, several times. In New York Adams had become a member of the Photo League who held lively discussions, lectures and exhibitions. The League had the philosophy that art should be used for social change. There were some members with ties to socialist and Communist groups. The League was placed on the Red List of the House Un-American Activities Committee. At a meeting of the League, Adams "rose to beg the League to renounce all ties to Communism." When they did not agree, he resigned.
Adams wrote in his autobiography, "During the McCarthy era there was a sour taste of evil in the air, an unsettling distortion of our American principles of justice...Friend turned against friend, reputations were destroyed; the Gestapo spirit was alive in all levels of society. Artists, writers, philosophers and scientists were the prime targets."
Think about the events you have lived through in your lifetime. How have you been affected by changes in technology and encroachments on the environment? Do you perceive any possible threats to your freedoms and right to expression?
Housatonic Museum of Art