A 1958 Documentary About the Life and Work of Photographer Ansel Adams

If you have a free 20 minutes, here’s a great 1958 documentary on the life and work of iconic landscape photographer Ansel Adams. Created while Adams was living at a house near the Golden Gate Bridge, the film provides a look into his home, interests, attitudes toward art, camera equipment, and photographic techniques.

It’s interesting seeing him work in each part of the analog photography process, from carefully calculating the technical details of an exposure to bringing the images to life in a darkroom. You might also be surprised by how much gear he brings along on his photo expeditions, with countless cameras, lenses, and accessories stuffed into an 8 passenger car — one that has a custom photo platform attached on top.

Here’s the second ten minutes:

Aside from being an avid photographer, Adams was also a musician, environmentalist, mountaineer, writer, and teacher.

  • Johnjoe Nugent

    Interesting documentary, I really want to get my dad’s old Contaflex up and running, which is funny because it’s the smallest camera in the documentary, wouldn’t mind a Hasselblad though.

  • Moritzp

    Interesting documentary but horrible background music. What would happen if one sets up photgraphic gear like his in an industrial environment e.g. a harbour today?

  • Richard

    I think the idea of the background music was to share another one of Adams’s many loves: piano. That was him playing and no doubt Nancy Newhall wanted to use his music.

  • Tim

    How much gear??! It just goes to show you can never have enough! I love ansel adams and i’ve got a couple of his books including “the negative” which is a great book, especially if you shoot film (but a lot of it is relevant to digital exposure). Thanks for sharing this.

    And how good is the car with the platform on top?!

  • John R

    The final moonlit shot has always been a favourite. Beautiful and extremely technical. I loved seeing his hands burning and dodging, plus a graduated burn with paper. He was a master of producing the optimum result from the available materials.

  • Russ MacDonald

    Awe inspiring! If I can ever scrape together enough money, I’ll buy one of his originals.

  • Thomas Casey

    The darkroom sequence was necessarily faked as it’s not possible to film it. I can’t remember exactly how it’s done, something to do with bleaching. It was good to see his dexterity though, I have only previously seen him as a very old man.