Born: 20 February 1902
Died: 22 April 1984
Birthplace: San Francisco, California
Best known as: Nature photographer of the American west
Ansel Adams's stark, detailed photographs of Yosemite National Park are among the most recognizable images in the world. Adams was a piano player who turned his attention to photography in the 1920s, inspired by the wilderness of central California. By the end of the 1920s he was earning a living from his photography, thanks largely to his association with the Sierra Club. In the 1930s and '40s his reputation grew and he spent a good deal of time in New York, advancing his career as an artist while working as a commercial photographer to pay the bills. He wrote many technical works and encouraged museums and colleges to add photography departments, but didn't achieve financial success for his art until late in life, when his images of Yosemite and the American southwest became icons of both 20th-century photography and environmental awareness. Like guitarist Les Paul, Adams was known both as a technical innovator and a lifelong workhorse; he kept taking photos up until his death at age 82.
Extra credit: According to a biography by William Turnage, "When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great [San Francisco] earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life."
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