The Golden Gate, Before and After The Bridge

March 21, 2012

Ansel Adams is rightly celebrated for his iconic images of Yosemite, National Parks and the Southwest. We sometimes overlook some of his more sublime images from his home in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The Golden Gate before the Bridge, San Francisco, CA, 1932 — One beautiful storm-clearing morning” Adams wrote, “I looked out the window of our San Francisco home and saw magnificent clouds rolling from the north over the Golden Gate. I grabbed the 8 x 10 equipment and drove to the end of 32nd Avenue at the edge of Seacliff. I dashed along the old Cliff House railroad bed for a short distance, then down to the crest of a promontory. From there a grand view of the Golden Gate commanded me to set up the heavy tripod, attach the camera and lens, and focus on the wonder evolving landscape of clouds.”

To the author Mary Austin, he wrote, “I am going to send your latest picture I have made — a view of the Golden Gate. I have been after that for ten years, and at last got a really satisfactory plate.”

The Golden Gate and Bridge from Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA, 1953— Long before the bridge was built, the teenage Adams often took the streetcar from his home near Baker Beach to the waterfront downtown, caught the ferry across the Golden Gate, and spent the day roaming the Marin hills seen to the left this photograph. Compare this image with the Adams’ earlier view without the bridge (above) made in 1932.

In the 1960s, the Sierra Club, with Adams’ help, found the proposal to allow construction of high-rise apartment building on these hills. As a protest, he pasted tiny pictures of apartment building on top of the hills in this photograph and exhibited it in a San Francisco storefront. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was established in 1972 and now protects these headlands.