It's his birthday. Ansel Adams was born on February 20, 1902 – best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West. He was the master. There are his basic books about photography – The Camera, The Negative, The Print, Natural-Light Photography, and Artificial Light Photography – and he co-founded Group f/64 with Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, and Imogen Cunningham. And he created the famous Zone System.
Adams was born in San Francisco and when he was four years old he was tossed face-first into a garden wall in an aftershock from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, breaking his nose. That was never corrected so he himself appeared a bit asymmetrical. That makes sense. His father pulled him out of school when Adams was twelve – it was time for private tutors and piano lessons and learning Greek. Adams really, really wanted to be a concert pianist but got sidetracked by photography. He did both, but photography is where he made his mark. Adams first visited Yosemite 1916 and that was that. You remember Half Dome – a shot he called "an austere and blazing poetry of the real."
When he was seventeen he joined the Sierra Club and remained a member for life, and served as a director, as did his wife, Virginia. During World War II he worked on creating epic photographic murals for the Department of the Interior, but he had his issues. He wasn't too pleased with the Japanese-American internments and requested permission to visit the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley, at the foot of Mount Williamson. His photo-essay on that first appeared in a Museum of Modern Art exhibit, and later was published as Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans.
But of course the American West keeps changing. Here is where it ends, as far west as you can go – Venice Beach, California – in black and white.