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Ansel Adams at Grace Cathedral

One of the greatest American photographers of the twentieth century, and a champion of wilderness conservation, Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984) was born and raised in San Francisco. A childhood visit to Yosemite Valley made a deep impression, and although he trained to be a concert pianist, Adams' love of nature and photography eventually won out. In 1930, he began his career as a commercial photographer, and set up a successful Geary Street studio. In the following years, Adams began to make a name for himself, and was soon known for his nature photography, notably his Yosemite, High Sierra and New Mexico work. In 1932 he formed the f/64 group with Edward Weston and others, dedicated to exploring the aesthetic potential of unmanipulated, straight-forward photography. In 1934 he was elected to the board of directors of the Sierra Club and began work on his influential technical manual "Making a Photograph".

In 1935, Lewis P. Hobart, architect of Grace Cathedral, commissioned Adams to photograph the two-thirds-complete Cathedral. The Depression had halted cathedral construction the previous year, as building funds had run out. However, the first furnishings were being installed. The state of the furnishings as seen in the prints, and the mid-day sun angle, suggest a date in early March, 1935. Although views of a man-made structure, these photographs reveal Adams' great love of the natural world and the California landscape, and hint at his undogmatic spirituality. The outdoor views of Grace Cathedral echo his Yosemite work in their cliff-like forms, while the interior views recall his photographs of quiet redwood groves. Adams' consummate craftsmanship, and his mastery of difficult lighting conditions, shines through these prints. Although virtual presentation cannot begin to do them justice, we present several of them here for the first time, a unique glimpse of a great artist and a great cathedral, early in their careers.

These images are reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All Rights Reserved.

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