Biographical / Historical
Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was an American landscape photographer known for his black and white images of the American West. He took some of his earliest photographs at national parks and as a member of the Sierra Club, which he joined at the age of 17. He was later contracted with the United States Department of the Interior to make photographs of national parks. In 1980, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work and environmental advocacy.
With Fred Archer, Adams developed the Zone System, a technique to determine the ideal film exposure and development to achieve full tonal range. The clarity and depth resulting from this technique characterized Adams's photography.
Adams was a key advisor in establishing the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and helped to stage their first exhibition. He helped found Group f/64, an association of photographers who advocated for "pure" photography favoring sharp focus and the use of the full tonal range of a photograph. He also helped found the photography magazine Aperture, and co-founded the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.
Virginia Best Adams (1904-2000) and Ansel Adams married in 1928. After her father, Harry Best, passed away in 1936, Virginia Best Adams managed Best's Studio (now the Ansel Adams Gallery), selling high quality merchandise including a series of Ansel Adams photographs called special edition prints. She was an active environmentalist and served on the board of directors of the Sierra Club from 1931 to 1933, was a Trustee of the Yosemite Natural History Association, and was also an avid mountaineer, credited with making the first ascent by a woman of a route on Mt. Whitney in what is now Sequoia National Park.
Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) was a photographer in California known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes. Cunningham began her career producing soft-focus prints in the tradition of pictorialism. In the early 1920s she shifted focus to close-up, sharply detailed studies of plant life and other natural forms. In 1932, Cunningham joined Ansel Adams in Group f/64, a group formed in opposition to pictorialism and dedicated to precisely exposed images.