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Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film
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Timeline: Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film

1839 - 1919 | 1920 - 1938 | 1940 - 1985  


Adams's first published photograph appears in the Sierra Club Bulletin.

Adams learns flash photography (before the era of flash bulbs) to make himself more versatile -- and tells a few stories of nearly setting his subjects on fire.


Still determined to become a concert pianist, Adams seeks a practice piano at Yosemite. He finds it in the studio of painter Harry Best, and there meets Virginia Best, whom he will later marry.


Summer: Adams photographs in the area of the Kings River, in the Sierra Nevada. When he returns to San Francisco at the end of the summer, he breaks up with Virginia, certain that marriage is incompatible with the musical career he still seeks.


Winter: Adams supports himself as a piano teacher in San Francisco.

Adams makes albums for the Sierra Club outings held at the San Francisco office of the club. He demonstrates varying angles and techniques of photographing the same subject.


Winter: Disillusioned with the politics and posturings of San Francisco's musical world, Adams decides to abandon his musical career.

For the first time, Adams makes a photograph in a style uniquely his own. Monolith, the Face of Half Dome depicts Half Dome with a sharp, clear focus, and the sky is darkened for dramatic effect.

San Francisco insurance man and arts patron Albert Bender underwrites Adams's first portfolio, which contains 18 prints. One hundred portfolios are printed and they sell out at $50.00 apiece.


January 2: Adams and Virginia Best get married at Yosemite.

Ansel Adams meets photographer Edward Weston at Albert Bender's.

William Colby, executive director of the Sierra Club, invites Adams to be the official photographer of a Sierra Club outing to the Canadian Rockies.


Adams and his wife build a home next to his parents' house in San Francisco. Adams works as a commercial photographer.

Adams meets photographer Paul Strand in Taos, New Mexico. Strand's modernist style affects Adams's own style, and inspires him to make intimate, detailed photographs of leaves and flowers.


Adams photographs Kings River and Kern River in the Sierra Nevada.

Adams prints Farm Security Administration photographer Dorothea Lange's photographs while she is out in the field, so she can get feedback before they are sent to Washington, D.C. During the Depression, the F.S.A. had hired photographers to document American rural life.


The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., mounts a solo exhibit of Adams's work entitled "Pictorial Photographs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Ansel Adams."

Charles Adams is made Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.


f64The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco holds a solo exhibit of Adams's photographs.

The Group f/64 is created. The name of the group is derived from the very small lens aperture used to increase sharpness and depth of field. The members, including Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham, are committed to defining photography as a pure art form rather than a derivative of other art forms.


Ansel and Virginia's son, Michael Adams, is born.

The San Francisco Museum of Art gives Adams a one-person exhibit.

September: When the Gallerie Beaux Arts in San Francisco closes, Adams reopens it as a gallery for photography.

Adams meets master photographer and art world authority Alfred Stieglitz for the first time in New York. Stieglitz is very impressed with Adams's portfolio.

November: Adams meets gallery director Alma Reed at her Delphic Studios in New York, one of the few galleries to exhibit photographs at the time. Adams is never paid for the eight prints of his that Reed sells.


Adams holds an impromptu Yosemite Wildflower Festival.

Adams shares responsibility for gallery with Joseph Danysh so he can go back to photographing. It becomes the Adams/Danysh Gallery.

January-May: Camera Craft Magazine runs a series of articles by Adams called "An Exposition of Technique."

Adams begins a 37-year tenure as a member of the Sierra Club's Board of Directors.


Adams organizes a Conservation Convention and Wildflower Festival.

His Making a Photograph is published.

Ansel and Virginia's daughter, Anne Adams, is born.


Ansel AdamsJanuary: A conference on the national parks is held in Washington, D.C. The Sierra Club sends Adams to lobby for the establishment of Kings Canyon as a national park. Adams shows his photographs of the Sierra to lawmakers and the Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.

Adams begins to work with a "little camera," a Contax, in addition to his view camera.

May 9: The Washington Times reviews an Arts Club exhibit of Adams's work in Washington, D.C.

Carlsbad CavernsOctober 27: Alfred Stieglitz hosts a one-person exhibit of Adams's work at "An American Place," his gallery in New York.

November: Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes commissions Adams to make photographs of the national parks, which he plans to enlarge into murals for the Department of the Interior's main building. Adams begins working on the assignment.

Adams photographs Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, New Mexico, for the U.S. Park Service.

December: Adams is hospitalized for a chest infection and mononucleosis.


Seema, Virginia and Ansel in Front of Best's StudioJanuary 7: Curator Beaumont Newhall invites Adams to display some of his photographs at a Museum of Modern Art exhibit entitled "Photography: 1839-1937."

Virginia Adams inherits her father's gift shop in Yosemite, Best's Studio.

June: A fire in Adams's darkroom at Yosemite destroys one-third of his early negatives. Weston and his wife help sort through the wreckage.

The University of California at San Francisco hosts a one-man show by Adams.


After working on the book for nearly a year, Adams's Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail is published. Adams sends a copy to Ickes, who shows it to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt keeps the book for the White House, so Adams sends Ickes another copy.

1839 - 1919 | 1920 - 1938 | 1940 - 1985

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