Ansel Adams was an unremitting activist for the cause of wilderness and the environment. Over the years he attended innumerable meetings and wrote thousands of letters in support of his conservation philosophy to newspaper editors, Sierra Club and Wilderness Society colleagues, government bureaucrats, and politicians. However, his great influence came from his photography. His images became the symbols, the veritable icons, of wild America. When people thought about the national parks or the Sierra Club or nature or the environment itself, they often envisioned them in terms of an Ansel Adams photograph. His black-and-white images were not "realistic" documents of nature. Instead, they sought an intensification and purification of the psychological experience of natural beauty. He created a sense of the sublime magnificence of nature that infused the viewer with the emotional equivalent of wilderness, often more powerful than the actual thing.

American National Biography

Ansel Adams

photographer/environmentalist

When people thought about the national parks or the Sierra Club or nature or the environment itself, they often envisioned them in terms of an Ansel Adams photograph.' [Adams] "did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer's epics did for Odysseus.

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