Ansel Adams : biography
Through a friend with Washington connections, most likely Francis P. Farquhar, Adams was able to put on his first solo museum exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931, featuring 60 prints taken in the High Sierra. He received an excellent review from the Washington Post, "His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods." Despite his success, Adams felt he was not yet up to the standards of Strand. He decided to broaden his subject matter to include still life and close-up photos, and to achieve higher quality by "visualizing" each image before taking it. He emphasized the use of small apertures and long exposures in natural light, which created sharp details with a wide range of focus, as demonstrated in Rose and Driftwood (1933), one of his finest still-life photographs.
In 1932, Adams had a group show at the M. H. de Young Museum with Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston and they soon formed Group f/64, which espoused "pure or straight photography" over pictorialism ( being a very small aperture setting that gives great depth of field). The group’s manifesto stated that "Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form." In reality, "pure photography" did borrow from some of the established principles of painting, especially compositional balance and perspective, and some manipulation of subject and effect. By these standards, not only were "soft focus" lenses prohibited but Adams’s earlier photo Monolith, which used a strong red filter to create a black sky, would have been considered unacceptable.
Following Stieglitz’s example, in 1933 Adams opened his own art and photography gallery in San Francisco which eventually became the Danysh Gallery after Adams’s commitments grew too burdensome. Adams also began to publish essays in photography magazines and wrote his first instructional book Making a Photograph in 1935. During the summers, he often participated in Sierra Club outings, as a paid photographer for the group, and the rest of the year a core group of the Club members socialized regularly in San Francisco. During 1933, his first child Michael was born, followed by Anne two years later.
During the 1930s, many photographers including Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans believed they had a social obligation to reveal the harsh times of the Depression through their art. Mostly resistant to the "art for life’s sake" movement, Adams did begin in the 1930s to deploy his photographs in the cause of wilderness preservation. In part, he was inspired by the increasing desecration of Yosemite Valley by commercial development, including a pool hall, bowling alley, golf course, shops, and automobile traffic. He created a limited-edition book in 1938, Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, as part of the Sierra Club’s efforts to secure the designation of Sequoia and Kings Canyon as national parks. This book and his testimony before Congress played a vital role in the success of the effort, and Congress designated the area as a National Park in 1940.
In 1935, Adams created many new photos of the Sierra and one of his most famous photographs, Clearing Winter Storm, captured the entire valley just as a winter storm relented, leaving a fresh coat of snow. After courting Stieglitz for three years, Adams gathered his recent work and had a solo show at the Stieglitz gallery "An American Place" in New York in 1936. The exhibition proved successful with both the critics and the buying public, and earned Adams strong praise from the revered Stieglitz. During the balance of the 1930s, Adams took on many commercial assignments to supplement the income from the struggling Best’s Studio. Until the 1970s, Adams was financially dependent on commercial projects. Some of his clients included Kodak, Fortune magazine, Pacific Gas and Electric, AT&T, and the American Trust Company. He photographed Timothy L. Pflueger’s new Patent Leather Bar for the St. Francis hotel in 1939. The same year, he was named an editor of U.S. Camera & Travel, the most popular photography magazine at that time.