Making a Photographer


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The Early Work of Ansel Adams

Rebecca A. Senf; With a foreword by Anne Breckenridge Barrett

View Inside Format: Hardcover
Price: $50.00
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An unprecedented and eye-opening examination of the early career of one of America’s most celebrated photographers

One of the most influential photographers of his generation, Ansel Adams (1902–1984) is famous for his dramatic photographs of the American West. Although many of Adams’s images are now iconic, his early work has remained largely unknown. In this first monograph dedicated to the beginnings of Adams’s career, Rebecca A. Senf argues that these early photographs are crucial to understanding Adams’s artistic development and offer new insights into many aspects of the artist’s mature oeuvre.
Drawing on copious archival research, Senf traces the first three decades of Adams’s photographic practice—beginning with an amateur album made during his childhood and culminating with his Guggenheim-supported National Parks photography of the 1940s. Highlighting the artist’s persistence in forging a career path and his remarkable ability to learn from experience as he sharpened his image-making skills, this beautifully illustrated volume also looks at the significance of the artist’s environmentalism, including his involvement with the Sierra Club.

Published in association with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona

Rebecca A. Senf is chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. Anne Breckenridge Barrett is associate vice president for the arts at the University of Arizona and director of the Center for Creative Photography.

“In her brilliant book, Dr. Rebecca Senf allows us to go beyond the pure beauty of Adams’s images. We are brought into a much-needed passion and complexity of his practice.”—Catherine Opie

“This is an important work that augments existing literature in both content and methodology. It will be a standard reference for anyone interested in Ansel Adams.”—Britt Salvesen, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“Rebecca Senf brilliantly demonstrates how the first two decades of Ansel Adams’s long career—years that are often dismissed as ‘formative’ or ‘immature’—in fact, sow the seeds of the astonishing work that we now identify as ‘classic’ Adams.”—Steven Hoelscher, The University of Texas at Austin

“In this great, approachable read, Senf helps us appreciate the skills and genius of Adams, who inspired millions of Americans to visit, and to ultimately love and support, their National Parks.”—James E. Cook, CEO, Western National Parks Association

“Lavishly illustrated and painstakingly researched, Senf’s book reveals how a 14-year-old visitor to Yosemite became America’s most famous photographer and a passionate advocate for the National Parks.”—Malcolm Daniel, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

“This book tells the story of how Ansel Adams began as a photographer, balancing commercial assignments to pay the bills while developing a deeply personal creative vision. Senf provides a fresh and valuable perspective on the maturation of a great artist.”—Mary Alinder, author of Ansel Adams: A Biography

“Rebecca Senf reveals how Ansel Adams’s early-career relationships and experiences in nature informed his work and instigated his career. By mining Adams’s biography, Senf provides a key contribution to our understanding of how Adams’s explorations of the places he photographed informed his pictures.”—Tyler Green, author of Carleton Watkins: Making the West American and host of The Modern Art Notes Podcast

“[A] beautifully illustrated volume . . . A deep and nuanced understanding of the artist’s work.”—Antiques and the Arts Weekly

“Rebecca Senf has leveraged her unparalleled access and curious, analytic eye to bring us something completely new and interesting about one of America’s best-recognized photographers . . . shedding light on his artistic development and evolution into an environmentalist and entrepreneur.”—Elin Spring and Suzanne Révy, What Will You Remember (“Favorite Photobooks of 2020”)

“[A] revolutionary dive into one of America’s most renowned photographers.”—Bree Florence, Phoenix Home and Garden

Winner of a grant from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Fund of CAA

Winner of the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize, sponsored by The Center for Cultural Landscapes at the UVA School of Architecture
ISBN: 9780300243949
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona
288 pages, 8 x 10
175 color illus.