Ansel Adams Didn’t like His “Day Job” as a Commercial Photographer

Did you know that in addition to making his famous landscape images, Ansel Adams made ends meet by shooting commercial work? Although he made photos for clients as large as IBM, AT&T, and LIFE, Adams didn’t like his job. In a 1938 letter to a friend, he wrote,

I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work. [#]

It was around this time that one of his photos was chosen for the cover of LIFE magazine — a cover that’s now considered one of the publications 20 worst covers. LIFE notes, that shortly after the issue was published, “the photographer stopped taking pictures of lutists and began photographing Yosemite.”

(via LIFE via The Atlantic Wire via Photojojo)

  • Timm Eubanks

    It also helped that he came from a family with $$$$.Easy to be an artist with a safety net.

  • photogog

    $$$ had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t paid to have the work ethic he did. You couldn’t pay me enough to create and practice the “Zone System.’

  • Markus WET

    Well, every photographer has some photos he’s not proud of, right?

    by the way: looks like LIFE stopped having crappy covers somewhere around 1968 :D

  • Carl Herbert

    Every photographer creates lots of bad photographs. I’d suggest the editors of Life are more to blame for that cover.

  • Dannynoonan82

    I’d suggest that a photographer can choose how to use his creativity – Restrained? I don’t know – Adams simply didn’t care for the work…

  • Pauline Bishop

    Every photographer has to pick and chose his subjects… unless the government tells you otherwise. Ansel Adams has given us the most serene natural pictures we could ever ask for. “Step forth into the woods and capture, my love.”