Ansel Encounters

Over the years, we have heard many fun and entertaining stories about peoples’ encounters with Ansel and Virginia in Yosemite, Carmel, and elsewhere. Ansel Adams was a friendly, outgoing man who inspired many through his work and commitment to photography and conservation. Here, we’re trying to collect and retain some of those stories and share them with you.

Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham

Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham by Alan Ross

We’d love to hear from you! If you have had a friendship, passing acquaintance or inspiration from Ansel Adams, please share it with us here.

Voyeur…

It must have been mid to late 70’s. I was your traditional Yosemite climbing bum. One afternoon I was walking over to the Ahwahnee Hotel. Just past Church Bowl I noticed someone with a large format camera amongst the boulders. I suspected it was Ansel and moved closer. Sure enough, it was. I lurked about, trying not to attract attention. He was alone and totally fixated on the task at hand. I was so tempted to approach him and shake his hand but I moved away and left him to his art. What a treat, to see someone alone, without fans or fanfare in the act of his vision. I never actually met him, but seeing him in the valley doing what he does/did was more important and intimate.

Skip Gaynard
April 15, 2020

Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham Audio tapes

 

I never had the honor of meeting Ansel Adams, but have been an admirer of him and his work since my first photography class in college 35+ years ago. I have collected many of his books and writings over the years.

A couple of years ago I acquired some items from the estate of Rick Warner who worked for Kodak as a new product tester / large format photographer and friend of many well known photographers.

When Kodak was thinking of getting into the premium Black & White printing paper market they (Kodak) had Mr. Warner send out questionnaires to many of the “known” photographers. Mr. Adams knew Rick well enough to send a personal, and greatly expanded explanation of his ideas of the ideal paper, which closely aligns with what Mr. Adams later wrote about Oriental paper.

Mr. Warner also made audio tapes of lectures / talks / seminars with several other photographers.

In your latest newsletter there is a photograph of; “Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham” by Alan Ross outside of the Carmel studio.

I have the original 1/4 inch and cassette audio tapes of this encounter and others.

I have not listened to the tapes as I do not have the proper player, but they are labeled;

“Monterey Print Workshop 3/24/70
Intro Dr. Stephen A James, Ansel Adams, Imogene Cunningham” 3/25/70 Lillian de Cock comments on Rick’s prints” and “Imogen Cunningham discussing famous photographers” and “Ansel Adams Lecture 3/25/70  onterey Peninsula College”

I also have more tapes and correspondence.

Thanks for looking,

Mike Ryan
April 8, 2020

Ansel Lecture at U of A

When I was a student at University of Arizona in Tucson, I attended many guest lectures at one of the auditoriums there. U of A had already established its relationship with Ansel Adams, where he entrusted his complete photographic archive to the University’s Center for Creative Photography. It wasn’t too surprising that he would lecture there.

As a teenager in New Engalnd, I had first discovered Ansel’s work, from which I first learned of the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite. In part, it was his work that inspired me to move from New England to be closer and to the geography he loved and to experience it for myself. So you can imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to see him speak. It was an absolutely delightful experience that I will never forget. While I would have relished the opportunity to have met him then, it sadly wasn’t to be. Today, Ansel Adams’ work continues to inspire me as an artist and photographer.

Paul Porter
April 7, 2020

Fleeting Encounters

 

While an Ansel Adams exhibition in 1974 had been my original inspiration and his books my teachers, I only had two fleeting encounters with “the great man” himself. The first occurred when he appeared at the opening of Adolph Gasser’s new 2nd Street photography store in San Francisco in the mid 1970s. Ansel sat benevolently at a little table enjoying a drink brought to him by Mr. Gasser while a small group of adoring photographers asked him trivial questions which he patiently and respectfully addressed. I moved in within 3 feet hoping to find the nerve to ask something. I seemed to detect the trace of a halo-like glow around my hero’s head. Awestruck, I became tongue tied, thus silently squandering my singular opportunity to make extraterrestrial contact. I spent the two hour drive home lambasting myself for my unpardonable act of inaction.

My next big chance came around 1980 when Ansel had a solo exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. It was a wonderful show, made even better by the surprise entry of Ansel and Virginia from a side door near where I was standing. I followed them discreetly down the hallway to discover that Ansel was on his way to a book signing, where a line was already forming. I rushed to the adjacent bookstore, bought one of his books and joined the line. This time I told myself I would not fail to make contact with the master. I had plenty of time to rehearse my question and when my turn finally came, I handed my book over and stammered nervously: “Mr. Adams, what photographic paper do you prefer these days?”. The man with the halo ignored my question entirely, signed the book smilingly and looked to the next person in line. Just as I was feeling crushed by this rejection, a savior’s voice arose from behind Ansel. It was his assistant Mary Alinder, I would later discover. “Ansel”, she said rather loudly, leaning close to his ear, “he asked you what paper you prefer these days”. “Oh”, Ansel responded, and then looked up at me in a kindly way. “I like Oriental Seagull for most subjects. It produces solid blacks and tones favorably in selenium”. “Thank you!”, I said, having been mercifully pulled from the brink of utter dejection. Some years later I was accepted into Alinder Gallery and I related this story to Mary. “Well, you know, Ansel was a little hard of hearing by then”, she said, smiling.

Robert Taylor
April 2, 2020

Poor Student?

In 1976, at the age of 22, I was able to take the Ansel Adams workshop in Yosemite. I didn’t have much money, but my mother paid for 1/2 the cost and I stayed in a friends camper. At the end of the workshop most participants were buying copies of his books. Since I couldn’t afford that I asked him to sign my arm. I was so proud. I drove that day back home in time to play in a softball game. I showed my teammates that Ansel had signed my arm and they all said “Who’s that?” I was so disappointed, but I still didn’t wash my arm for several days! (photos by Robin Whitlock)

Alissa Crandall
April 2, 2020

An Inspiration in Several Ways

 

I became interested in photography while in high school in the early 1970’s, but really got serious when I was able to purchase my first 35mm camera in 1976. At some point around that time I discovered Ansel Adams and his photography. I fell in love with his images. There was something about the tonality that struck a chord with me. I started buying his instructional books (such as The Negative, The Print, etc.) and reading them cover to cover. Over the years I have also purchased many books featuring his photography as well as prints to mat and frame and hang in my house. I was so intrigued by Ansel, I also read his autobiography, which was fantastic. Needless to say, Ansel’s photography greatly influenced my approach to photography. A few years ago I began thinking about what a photographic outing would have been like for Ansel. Carrying a big, heavy camera, a bag full of plates, and a tripod. I imagined him wandering about Yosemite, climbing hills, with all that equipment in tow. I was inspired to write a poem about it which I present below.

Ansel at Yosemite
by Randy C. Finch
(November 15, 2009)

Striking out solo, a trek calls the man
From valley low to a snowy high land.
Thirty pounds weigh his back, tripod in hand.
Images await amidst frozen strands.

The glacial rock carvings do daringly state,
“Put camera to tripod, insert a plate.
Frame me precisely; you know this is your fate:
To capture my beauty before it’s too late.”

With all plates exposed, he descends many miles,
His body exhausted, but face with a smile.
Being anxious for home, he picks up his pace
And reaches his darkroom, a familiar place.

Liquids reveal all negatives in turn,
Then masterful hands apply dodge and burn.
Prints of perfection are matted and framed
To adorn walls of the world’s hall of fame.

Randy C Finch
April 2, 2020

Fun in Yosemite

My father had become acquainted with Ansel sometime in the early 1940’s I believe. At some time in the mid-60’s, we were in Yosemite and I’m not sure if my father was attending a workshop or we were just passing through (I was probably around 10 or so). In any case, one day we were in Tuolomne Meadows with Ansel. On one of the road bridges over a creek, Ansel took some time to amuse my sister and I, by dropping sticks off one side of the bridge into the creek and then running across the bridge with us saying “It goes in there and comes out here” meaning the other side of the bridge. It was funny and my father got the biggest kick out of that.

John Tellaisha
April 1, 2020

Ansel’s Piano

Back in the 1960s I worked summers in Yosemite with my uncle, YP&CCo Chief Accountant Jim Taylor. Jim was a good friend of Ansel & Virginia Adams. Ansel & Virginia had a cocktail party every evening and Jim mixed cocktails for the guests. I once read a book about Ansel and it mentioned a very nice piano he owned outside of Yosemite. But when I visited him his piano was in his Yosemite home behind the Best Studio, AKA Ansel Adams Gallery. One evening Ansel played his piano. I was impressed!

William Taylor
April 1, 2020

Passing Thoughts

It was Monday April 23, 1984. I was taking classes towards my photography B.A. in the Dept of Photography and Cinema at the Ohio State University. That morning the professor came in and told us that Ansel Adams had passed away the previous day. I’m sure the story must have been all over the news but somehow I’d missed it until that moment.

I remember the class sitting in stunned silence as we realized that someone who was so important to photography and an inspiration to many of us, was gone.

As the years progressed, Ansel and his legacy became even more of an influence on me and it’s hard to overstate how much his writings and images impacted my approach to creative landscape photography.

It was a surreal and special feeling that day to be engaged in a photography program and sitting with my fellow students sharing this sad news together.

After 36 years, I still remember it vividly.

Scott Walton
March 31, 2020

Friends of Photography Workshop

I met Ansel at a Friends of Photography Worksop inn 1983 that included Ruth Bernard, Lucian Clergue, and John Sexton. One afternoon we went to Ansel’s home where we met Virgina and Ansel. He spoke to the group then it was cocktail hour. I showed him a book I received from my grandfather. It was a 1948 edition of Yosemite And The Sierra Nevada, Photos by Ansel Adams withs words from John Muir. He flipped through the book look at the reproductions in the book commented how the printing of books was so much better now compared to the book. I asked him if he would mind signing it for me and he didn’t hesitate to sign it and placed it in Carmel. At the very end of the workshop I got a chance to talk to him again and asked if I could get a quick shot of him and of course he said yes. This shot has hung in my office for almost 40 years.

George Mayer
March 30, 2020

Working for Ansel

I was a young electrical apprentice working in Carmel in the 80s, Ansel Adams was one of our clients. We were called in to fix a minor problem at his home/archives/studio in the Carmel Highlands, my hands were all dirty from working on the problem when my journeyman buddy called me over to meet him. I apologized for my dirty hands, he said,’It’s my dirt, don’t worry about it!” and shook my hand. He was a class act,humble and friendly to the end, unlike so many other of his celebrity peers I met while working in the area.I can still visualize walking through his front door and seeing his archives arranged like record store bins in the sunken living room, he lived in the back of the house facing the ocean with it’s floor to ceiling windows and a grand piano nearby..

Thomas Oczkowski
March 30, 2020

Seminar

In 1973 I took a one week seminar in Monterey/Carmel. Each day we met with one of the photographers at their homes. Had the opportunity to spend a day with Brett Weston, Cole Weston, and one day with Ansel in his home. Alan Ross was there and gave us a tour of the darkroom. We also met Virginia who if I can recall had made homemade cookies for us.

Les Pearlman
March 27, 2020

Memories of Ansel and John

Last story. Reed (Thomas) would tell me of photography workshops he’d go to and about some that were with an organization called the (Owens Valley Photography Works Shops) led by John Sexton, Bruce Barnbaum, and RIP, Ray McSavaney. I decided to try one and told Reed about it being held in Carmel/Monterey Bay. He said I’d probably meet Ansel on it, you see John was working for him at the time, and I kind of forgot about that. One day during the event we were sitting on a picnic table eating lunch bought by John at (Point Lobos State Reserve) when he really caught us off guard. I remember him saying “I thought you all might like to go over and visit my boss later”. I just flipped. Ansel met us at the door, after passing his “ZONE 5” Cadillac, with such a wonderful smile. He showed us his gallery and darkroom and John told us stories about “life” in there; like a print Ansel did one time of “Moonrise” that didn’t come out to his liking and ended up in the trash after spilling (fixer) all over it. Well, John took the very brown streeked stained print out of the trash, fixed, washed, and mounted it as a keepsake saving it to this very day. Later Ansel sat us down on couches in the living area, signed books and such for participants, and asked if we had any questions. Me, I was so excited I had to raise my hand and ask if he had any general tips on how to make better prints, like making sure you washed them well and such? And he said: and I didn’t understand what he said. He talked in this very fast method and what I got out of it was “watch out for women photographers”. I said yes, you can get yourself in trouble. Later as we were filling out the door Ansel was shaking everyones hand and as I approached he said, “stick with it”. What a day.

Robert Fleckenstein
March 26, 2020

Ansul in Wawona

I was a college student working as a seasonal grocery clerk at the Wawona Grocery Store. I believe the year was 1960. As a Curry Company employee we were encouraged to report “Undesirable People” to our boss. My first job of the morning was to hose down the front porch of the store. My last chore of the day was to again wash down the front porch, remove the gum etc. that collects from the days’ customers. One morning I noticed an “Undesirable” sitting under a tree across the highway near the edge of the golf course. I noticed him again in the evening when I was hosing down the porch. The next morning I noticed he was there again. I mentioned it to the store manager John. He said give ranger Miller a call and let him know. Well, later that day ranger Miller stopped by and I pointed out the “Undesirable”. Ranger Miller looked over at the man and said “Hey boy come with me”. We approached the man who I now noticed had a camera and Ranger Miller said “Hey Ansul, this kid wants you arrested as an undesirable”. Ansul had a hearty laugh and we all went to the coffee shop adjacent to the grocery store and had lunch. I had lunch with Ansul several other times that summer. I found our conversations interesting and passionate about Yosemite. Although not certain, I think in one of our conversations he mentioned he had met John Muir many years previous.

Bill Driscoll
March 26, 2020

A memory of 50 plus years ago!

In the mid-60’s, I packed my VW Beetle and drove west from Minnesota to a job that I had accepted – in Yosemite National Park. On a sunny May afternoon, driving up the long winding road along the Merced River and up into the Park was a stunning, virtually a spiritual experience! Arriving in Yosemite Valley was – and to this day – the most beautiful place I have ever experienced. There was much to experience and adjust to living and working as a young R.N. in at the Lewis Memorial Hospital. I had just gotten a rather simple 35mm camera and attempted to capture the wonder and magnificence of Yosemite Valley. Unsuccessfully.

Several weeks later, a large, older man appeared into the hospital’s clinic. He was a large man with a beard, wearing rather mis-matched shirt and pants. But more importantly, he had a very large and imposing presence! Apparently all the staff knew him and that he was there to see Dr. Sturm. Someone whispered to me – he’s Ansel Adams! The name sounded familiar – oh, Ansel Adams – the photographer of the profound black and white photographs I had seen in nearby Best Studios in Yosemite Village!

Years later, I left Yosemite and Lewis Memorial Hospital for new professional horizons, and friends gave me a going-away gift: a signed original print of Moonrise Over Half-Dome. Now a half-century later, Moonrise Over Half-Dome is one of my most cherished possessions. I see it virtually every day of my life and the unparalleled memories of how Ansel Adams captured the soul and spirit of Yosemite.

Lucille Omodt Crow
March 26, 2020

Embarrassing

In 1979 or 80 I took a photography class at the University of Arizona. Ansel was giving a talk one night that our instructor told us attendance was mandatory. I had been a huge fan of the photographer for a long time so I had no problem going. He gave a great lecture and took questions afterwards. Me being young and dumb at the time didn’t even think to bring any of my many books or photographs of his to sign so when he offered to sign things I had to get in line. When I got in front of the the master I had nothing else for him to sign but the inside of my notebook cover. I handed it to him, he looked over his glasses at me and I shrugged in embarrassment and he smiled, signed it and handed it back to me. I cut it out and had it mounted with a copy of Moonrise Over Hernandez.

Peter
March 26, 2020

A dream that came true after more than 40 years

Over forty years ago I was a young Brazilian university student, still not sure what to do with my life, divided between engineering, lyrics and music.

Photography, from a very early age, enchanted me, be it for the emotional load of family records, or for the possibilities of artistic expression and the power of photojournalism so present in those years of so many transformations in my country and in the world in general.

My father had a beautiful Leica from the 1940s, a real treasure carefully kept on the shelves in our large library.
I don’t know exactly when, but I started to photograph more and more each day. I bought my first SLR camera and ventured through the magic of development and enlargement in a small laboratory installed in our apartment.
The search for knowledge brought me to the unique work of Ansel Adams. His books of a technical nature were a rarity at a high price in my city. It took me a long time to buy the master’s trilogy (The Camera – The Negative – The Copy). Then came, little by little, his many other books.

Evidently, Yosemite has become a dream ever since.

I worked for a while as a professional photographer and then followed another path until I retired a few years ago.
With the increasing arrival of digital photography, I gradually stopped photographing, suspicious and a little sad of what was happening with analog photography, full of magic and mysteries, in a unique mixture of chemistry, physics, crafts and artistic sensitivity.

After this certain disenchantment, I surrendered to the many possibilities of digital, especially modern smartphones and I continue to photograph a lot.

Finally, in July 2019, I was able to fulfill my dream of a lifetime and went to meet Yosemite in the company of my only son. It was 5 days of dazzle and a lot of emotion that is difficult to describe.

Right after we arrived at the park, in the late afternoon, I went to the Gallery and had a wonderful feeling of peace and joy.

That nice rustic building, so often seen at a distance, actually existed, delicately enveloped by secular forest. Through the windows and closed doors I could see some of the great master’s work on the walls, books, postcards and other products on the countertops.

Radiant, kind of childish, I let myself be photographed under the Gallery sign.

I finally found myself, albeit spiritually, with the idol of decades. I was able to understand, then, a little more than what motivated him to produce such a significant work.

Thank you to all of you who help to keep alive the work and teachings of the great man who was Ansel Adams.

Leonardo Torres Teixeira Leite
March 26, 2020

An encounter with a picture!

I didn’t know who Ansel Adams was,I was a young teenager just starting to explore Yosemite and photography, I hiked near a man carrying a large format camera on a trail I remarked “You can take great pictures with that camera, better than my little one.” His reply was, “It is not the camera that takes the picture, it is you – study the light and then you will take great pictures too!” And off we hiked. Years later I knew of Ansel Adams, but never knew what he looked like. I went to a photographic display of his work while I was at University, there was his picture, the man with the large format camera, the one with the kind words. To say I was dumbstruck would be putting it mildly!

Christine Meleg
March 25, 2020

Smada Lesna

It’s a silly story really. Back in college, 1987-1991 (go Hokies!) my roommate and I would be bored and hangout upside down off our couch. I had purchased an Ansel poster at the school bookstore and upside down and backward it reads Smada Lesna. To this day, with all due respect, this is how we read and pronounce his name.

Heidi Daniels
March 25, 2020

Smile!

My husband and I went to Carmel to have dinner and say good bye to Virgina and Ansel before we departed for Germany for four years in 1980 (USAF). We were taking photos and I handed my Nikkon to Ansel to take a photo of me, my hubby and Virgina.He willingly took the camera and I said: it’s best to turn it to apeture 4 in this light…..My husband gently (not!) nudged me with his elbow and said, I think Ansel can figure that out….Ansel was a sweetie and just smiled and took the picture  I felt like an idiot…..but will never forget.

Anita Adams White
March 25, 2020

Ansel Adams and the Varian Family

I never met Ansel, but he was good friends with my family. My great uncle Russell Varian befriended Ansel while a member of the Sierra Club and remained friends for years. Ansel did a portfolio on Russell to help finance the purchase of Castle Rock State Park near Los Gatos, CA. I have 3 of the photos framed by my aunt Sheila with poems by Russell and his father, John Varain. I still visit Halcyon, a theosophists community where Ansel visited the family on a regular basis. One funny story my Aunt Sheila told me was the time Ansel came to her horse ranch with a new camera, but was unhappy with the resulting photos, a Polaroid Land Camera.

Bob Rowlands
March 25, 2020

SQUIRELL!

This is a second hand account. The person who the story belongs to has died so I don’t really have the authority to say you can publish it. Of course you could remove his name and identifying info at the very start of the story and then it would be fine. He was certainly very public about it as he told all of his classes.

I took a color photography course from a man named Ed Tuttle, his family owned the local camera store and he was a Long Beach City Councilman in the late 70’s. This is his encounter:
He and his wife were traveling up the coast and when the Monterey / Carmel area, they stopped the car at a look out. That is when he spotted this old many with a big bulky view camera up on the hill top. He, being a photographic expert immediately thought he would go give the guy some pointers. In just a few steps he realized that it was the old master Ansel Adams himself, so he turned to his wife and handed her a Rolliflex with a brand new roll of film in it and said, whatever you do make sure you get a picture of me talking to Ansel. He had a wonderful chat with Mr. Adams and was very excited as he came back down the hill and asked his wife, did you get a good picture? She responded YES! I shot the whole roll. As soon as they returned home, he went to the dark room to develop and print the evidence of his encounter with Ansel Adams, the highlight of his photography career. What he found was an entire roll of pictures of a squirrel eating peanuts. At first he thought it was the wrong roll, but when he asked his wife she replied, Oh yes, I remember that, but the squirrel was so cute.

Sven Anderson
March 25, 2020

AA Workshop confidence builder

I had been accepted (by submitting a portfolio of my photography) into the Ansel Adams workshop in the summer of 1982. It was not held at Yosemite because Ansel was 80 and his arthritis was preventing him from certain activities. The workshop was held in Carmel, at the Adams home and the Robert Louis Stevenson School nearby. John Sexton, Don Worth, Roy Decarava, Olivia Parker were among the Adams colleagues putting on the workshop. I will always remember Ansel Adams going out of his way to go over my social documentation photographs, in my portfolio. He was very supportive and of course gave me ideas to enhance my body of work. I remember him as positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic. I feel very blessed to have spent quality time with him. I have continued my photography career through teaching, commercial work, and magazine work. I give Ansel Adams credit for my confidence and success in photography. I have now photgraphed in all 62 US National Parks, in all 50 US Startes, and on all 7 continents. Ansel gave me the confidence to pursue my dream!

Ansel took the time to enthusiastically go over my portfolio. He has and continues to inspire so many photographers and environmentalists. This was an amazing opportunity for me. He is one of the main reasons I continue my creative photography to this day. I have photographed in all 62 US National Parks, all 50 US States, and on all seven continents. From film to digital, from traditional to experimental, I received my main inspiration with Ansel Adams photographic work. Thank you for keeping his important legacy going, through the Ansel Adams Gallery. I photographed in Yosemite in September 2019. It was my first time back since 1982 and I so enjoyed the gallery and the fond memories of my early photography explorations.

Howard Jennings Jr.
March 25, 2020

Speechless before my hero

About the time Ansel Adams was on the cover of “Time” he came to Washington, D. C., to visit a gallery. He visit was published in the “Washington Post” and I was living in the city at the time working for “Aviation Week.” I went to meet him and saw him the minute I entered. Suddenly I was awestruck and couldn’t say a word. I held out my hand. He took it and, thinking I had no idea who he was he said, “I’m Ansel Adams.” All I could say was, “I know.” He looked at me some more and the gallery manager said, “And you said nobody would know who you are.” They walked away talking with me still watching. I can say I met him, but I can’t, and couldn’t, say anything else.

Alton Marsh
March 25, 2020

Yes it is

Ansel always had a great sense of humor. It was the spring of 1980 and I was working the film counter at the Ansel Adams Gallery. The gallery was fairly busy that day. Ansel and Virginia had come to Yosemite for a visit. At that time the back wall of the gallery was full of Ansel’s special edition prints and on an adjacent wall, by the entrance to the office, was a picture of Ansel by his darkroom in Carmel. Ansel came down to the gallery that day was milling around looking at pottery and books. There was a young couple in their early twenties in the store and the young woman glanced at Ansel and her eyes lit up, she thought she recognized him. To make sure, she quickly made her way to his portrait and looked at the image and then back at Ansel. She then rushed to her partner and whispered in his ear and pointed to Ansel. Her partner shook his head no. The girl insisted it was Ansel and went back and checked the portrait again. She stared at Ansel and went back her partner, again he shook his head no. She took his arm and dragged him over the the portrait. As they were looking at the portrait, Ansel walked by them, and said, “yes it is” and opened the door and walked back to the office

Next Year

It was the summer of 1979 or 1980 and Ansel was teaching his workshop in Yosemite. Ansel was always generous and he would sign his autograph to just about anything. One of the highlights of the workshop was when Ansel would sit at a desk at the elementary school and workshop participants could bring him books, postcards, and posters to sign. I was working at the Ansel Adams Gallery that year, and was assigned to helping with the line of attendees, opening the books to be signed, etc. That particular year Ansel’s assistant, John Sexton, had made some T shirts with Ansel’s picture on the back, and some students carried the T shirt up to the table to be signed, which Ansel was glad to do. One particular attractive young woman approached the table wearing her T shirt and asked Ansel to sign it and turned so her back was facing Ansel and he could sign by his picture. Ansel signed the shirt, and then with a bring grin and a twinkle in his eye, turned to John Sexton and said, “Next year put my picture on the front.”

Lewis Kemper
March 25, 2020

Speechless before my hero

I’m guessing the time would have been 1962-63 and I was around 12. My family was camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We were at the edge of the campground and trees were all around. It was late afternoon and here is a bearded gent leading a small group. All were carrying the strangest looking object and soon they settled in for some instruction from the leader. This was my first look at a view camera on a tripod. I was shy and didn’t get close enough to hear what the bearded man was saying. You didn’t see many beards back then. Out came a dark cloth material that went over their heads and the pleated box. The students had now found their own scene and were hunched over. The unfamiliar but unique event slowly faded from my memory.

Three more years were to pass before I asked my dad to help to build a negative processing darkroom for me under the front steps. At the same time, I began to make prints at the San Francisco Photography Center in Duboce Park. This lead to becoming the photo editor of my high school yearbook. Which lead to the Photo Dept. at City College of San Francisco and then a lifetime of photography. Even then, the connection of Ansel Adams to that afternoon stayed hidden until my late 20s when, of course, who else could that have been! The memory and inspiration has been alive ever since.

Kevin Shea
March 25, 2020