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Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  562 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In this bestselling autobiography, completed shortly before his death in 1984, Ansel Adams looks back at his legendary six-decade career as a conservationist, teacher, musician, and, above all, photographer. Written with characteristic warmth, vigor, and wit, this fascinating account brings to life the infectious enthusiasms, fervent battles, and bountiful friendships of a ...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published February 21st 2017 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 1985)
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George Martzen
This is a great read. Having grown up in photography in central California, I grew up hearing about Adams and admired his work. It wasn't until after his dead, when my father and I viewed an exhibit of his prints that I understand why he referred the print as a performance. I stood entranced watching the details in a large print of "Moonrise over Hernandez". In this book he shares his love of performance, both the visual and musical.
Suzie Raquel
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The plain language used to tell such an unusual life story helps you feel welcomed into his life. He had such a generous nature, yet incredibly disciplined and ethical. It also helped me fit together pieces of an important era of analog photography, and learn more about those who championed it as an art form.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's a bit disappointing. I was hoping to find something of Ansel Adams wisdom and experience in life but instead there was something that seemed more as history of records of some of his life marks. It's over detailed about the letters and messages between him and his friends. Moreover, it's divided into 23 sections mostly titled by the names of the people he have known. It doesn't follow a chronological order and I actually think it's a mess.
Peter Tillman

I expected to like this (love his photographs), but his account of his childhood..... interesting events, boring writing.

I should skip ahead, but the book is too heavy for reading in bed. I'll try putting it next to the kicthen table, in place of another book that isn't good.

OK, that works, and he does have some cool anecdotes. But he's not much of a writer. I'll skim some more and come back.....

Due back. Hell with it.
Mar 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone that loves Ansel Adams' photography
I really enjoyed reading about Ansel's life from his perspective. He's such a sensitive and creative individual-- and I adore him! I learned that he was piano virtuoso, and I felt an even greater bond with him once I knew he loved music as well as photography. Its a great read- exciting and chocked full of real life obstacles and explorations.
Christina knox
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ansel adams is such a babe. there is this one part in here where he's at this party and some god awful woman is all,

"i assume you've been awl auva europe"
"no infact, i've never been to europe"
"well, if you had been to europe, where would your favorite places be"

yeah. i dunno. climbing sierras, ragging on pictoralists and everything else you'd expect from this genius of no bullshit beauty.
Peri Ann
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Really good, and really good writing!

pg 25-26
" I believe we are born with an incredible program for our life to be, tucked away in a small cranium and pressing to grow and function. I have often had a retrospective vision where everything in my past life seems to fall with significance into logical sequence. "
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ansel Adams seemed like he was really down to earth and an overall good guy. I would have liked to have met him...I would have liked to study photography with him....that would have been amazing! If you are interested in his life, thoughts, and photographic processes, this is a good book to read.
Eric Seifert
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read, lots of insight into the photographic process. Ansel led a full, illustrious and humourus life.
Jim Parker
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book about ten years ago and the book gives wonderful insight to this great photographer and his work.
Laura Alice Watt
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began re-reading this after taking it out to look up a name, & am one again struck by what a fascinating person Adams must have been to know. This book, written just before his death in 1984, covers not only about his photography but also his passions for music (he was an accomplished piano player before taking up the camera professionally) and environmental issues, as well as the many artistic luminaries in his life: Steiglitz, O'Keefe, Weston, Strand, etc. As the places most central to ...more
Jon Stallings
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most people I knew Ansel Adams by his photographs of the National Parks (I have two reproductions in my home office). However through I his autobiography I learned he was much more. He did quite a bit of commercial photography and was a key player in the conversation movement and raising the recognition of photography as an art form. Early on in is career he had multiple mentors invest in his life and he would do the same for others. The book is well written. It is organized topical rather ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junior-year
Ansel Adams is without a doubt one of the greatest photographers in history. His work goes beyond the single frame in which he captures, and rather extends into emotion, thought, and immense creativity.
I previously did a photography assignment where I drew inspiration from my favorite artist, and oh how I wished I had read this sooner! Adams' life and journey into his career are so inspiring and I would greatly recommend this book to anyone the is semi-involved in the art world!
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An assisted autobiography written near the end of his life, he describes his art and his relationships with the people who took him on the journey. He's such a sensitive and creative individual. A western man who was also a pianist, got his inspiration from Steiglitz, Steichen and others of the time. Also, a "conservationist" who advocated preservation of western lands. Influenced presidents and others to the same.
Did you know Ansel Adams was trained and performed as a classical pianist before he was 18? This is the story of truly an amazing life. You'll be inspired by his concern for the environment credited with helping preserve much of the land that is now under national protection and the care he took with his images (back in the day when you had to haul hundreds of pounds of equipment across unpaved roads to get a spectacular wilderness shot). ...more
Mike Briley
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting man who led an interesting life. He had many qualities but writing was not one of them. The book is stodgy and at times downright boring. His social life in particular is very tiresome since many of the people he refers to are unknown to me and are insufficiently presented.
Having said this the book is worth the effort of reading because he was a truly great artist.
Josh Katz
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eyemeltinglygood
A phenomenal autobiography. Adams eloquently waxes on great 20th century artists (many his close friends), conservationism, lobbying presidents, the slow acceptance of photography as an art, his career, adventures, and what it means to be an artist. A must read for all photographers.
Dewayne Stark
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just read another biography that includes a more earthy version. One needs to purchase or go to the library and look at his pictures.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sped
Occasionally insightful.
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in photography, art, nature and conservation, or biographies at all I can't recommend this book enough.
Devon Barone
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area and taking relatively frequent trips to the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams was somewhat of a household name for my family and me. Ive always admired his uniquely enchanting photographs of some of the natural wonders that I hold so dear, so reading about his amazing life was wonderful.
Ansel Adams had a very interesting childhood, which he remembers remarkably well. He could remember even his earliest days perfectly, and
Joerg Frankenberger
Jan 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
dreadful and agonizing and never ending ... and so badly written that I was happy when it was finally over. I love some of Adam's work in inked-print (I have yet to see a real baryta print of his that lives up to his proselytizing, but maybe the shows I've been to were just showing proofs or rejects [the Westons had always more punch in craftsmanship]. also within his technical books 'the camera', 'the print' and worst of all 'the negative' I could never find real answers to my questions - ...more
Jan 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who care about semi-obscure though once self-important socialites
Shelves: other
Note: I'm not done yet. But I'll simulcast this from here:

I requested a biography on someone interesting for Christmas. My mother, in her infinite wisdom, selected Ansel Adams - a seemingly perfect choice for an occasional photographer.

How could she have known how boring he was! I mean, I guess traveling across the United States with since forgotten self-important artists and other assorted social gadflies was interesting at the time, but now, I don't
Wow. The photos, the artist, the man. Written so many years ago (copyright: 1985) and yet so many sections still applicable today. His comments on conservation and respecting nature are incredibly apt in the current fight against climate change (and those resistant to scientific truth). His experiences and his writing about the art of photography are simply beautiful, not to mention the actual images he created.
Krusher Basta
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: photography
Ansel Adams led a fascinating life. As a photography enthusiast I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how he went about creating photographs that were truly works of art. But it was also fascinating to read about life in the early part of the 20th Century and some of the other artists he spent time with; Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia OKeeffe, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange, to name a few. There was no beaten path for these artists to follow. They were not just creating incredible images, they were ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a thoroughly captivating book. Adams' narrative is engaging also memorable discussing his own path in photography as art, teing stories of the vast number of people who became friends. His giving of himself to the efforts of maintaining and expanding the lands held by the National Parks and protecting them from commercial interests that would damage them so that the likes of them would never be seen agajn. The photos that are in the book could be a book by itself. They support his text ...more
Aaron Morton
Two things made an impression on me in this book:

1) Ansel's nose was broken by the 1906 earthquake.
2) Ansel never imagined and purposed his photos to be the poster images for conservation. He simply captured beauty.

I was disappointed photos weren't included in the book. Especially when he mentions specific photos and the context...and no photo to see. Boo.

Other than that, I found it a little dry. But hey, he was a nature photographer and proponent, not an action hero.
Kerry Lynch
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a most enjoyable book. He makes connections between himself and other artists that we tend to study individually in Art History that brings them all into perspective as a cohesive artistic and philosophical community, each influencing and contrasting with each other. Great insight into the personalities of those whose creations are so well known by themselves.
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have an Ansel Adams photography exhibition at museum & so was curious to learn about his life/ his art. Neat to read how he adapted photos to fit the image in his head, manipulating exposures & development. If you enjoy biographies, especially of artists, I recommend this.
Terry Cornell
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I knew somewhat about Ansel Adams the photographer and environmentalist, but didn't know about his talent as a musician, wordsmith and humorist. I worried it might be too technical regarding some of the photography, but it is as advertised--an autobiography.
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Though wilderness and the environment were his grand passions, photography was his calling, his metier, his raison d'etre.

From: Ansel Adams, Photographer

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