The Virginia Partners Bank Lecture
Ansel Adams was that rare artist who welcomed life with arms outstretched and heart open. Although some of his closest friends, among them Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Weston, continually chastised him for being too involved in the real world, Adams persisted in taking full part. Alfred Stieglitz could not imagine how Adams could be so bourgeois as to have a wife and children, live in California - not New York City - and squander his time as a volunteer for the Sierra Club.
Born in 1902 in San Francisco, Ansel believed that he became the person he was, artist and environmentalist, because he had been lucky enough to grow up in an area of incredible natural beauty. He loved America, and especially California and the West, with the deepest passion. He felt compelled to create photographs that communicated the splendors of this grand universe to enable others to witness what moved his soul.
Ansel Adams is recognized as one of the finest Americans artists of the 20th century, regardless of medium. In addition to his prodigious output of masterpieces, Adams shared all he knew about his craft by writing books and teaching innumerable workshops until just before his death in 1984. His enormous sensitivity to the natural landscape did not stop in the darkroom but surged into political action. From serving on the board of directors of the Sierra Club from 1934-1971, to counseling presidents, to writing at least one letter a day about a particularly knotty environmental issue, Ansel Adams worked tirelessly for a healthy future for this planet.
When Ansel Adams asked Mary Street Alinder in 1979 to direct his staff and to “make him write his autobiography,” she jumped at the chance. During the next five years, where Adams went, Alinder went, whether to the White House or the hospital. They worked very closely during that time and Adams proved to be an unfailing mentor. Her lecture is that unusual combination of history heightened by personal experience and insight. Ansel Adams was a man of high energies and intelligence who comes to life with exuberance, passion and humor through his images, her words and finally his music. Originally trained as a classical pianist, as a finale, Alinder shares the rare recording of Adams performing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as transcendent accompaniment to his own photographs.
Speaker: Mary Street Alinder
Mary Street Alinder is an independent scholar specializing in the history of photography, who is regarded as an eminent authority on 20th century photography. Her relationship with Ansel Adams began in 1967 when she attended a workshop that he taught. She subsequently worked closely with Adams, serving from 1979 until his death in 1984, after which she completed his unfinished autobiography. In 1996 she published Ansel Adams: A Biography, revised and updated in 2014 – the work that is usually considered the photographer’s foremost biography. She has authored, co-authored, and edited a number of books and articles on fine art photography and has lectured on Adams all over the world.