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.”
Here’s a rare behind-the-scenes look into Ansel Adams’ home in Carmel, California and the custom built darkroom in which most of Adams’ famous prints were created. It’s pretty amazing how much editing Adams’ did in transforming the plain negatives into the beautiful works of art hanging on walls around the world.
The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.
– Ansel Adams
Michael Adams, Ansel’s son and the “tour guide” in this video, also shares some of Ansel’s tools, techniques, and tricks.
Rick Norsigian, a painter based in Fresno, California, was browsing through a garage sale in 2000 when he came across two small boxes with 65 glass plate negatives. He was able to purchase the photographs for $45 after bargaining them down from $70. Now it turns out he made one of the biggest finds in photographic history.
Experts are now saying that the negatives were created by Ansel Adams between 1919 and the 1930′s — before Adams became famous — and that the photographs could be worth at least $200 million.
The previous owner purchased the plates at a warehouse salvage in Los Angeles prior to selling them to Norsigian.
TIME reports that although experts have concluded that the photos are indeed by Adams, some remain skeptical. Matthew Adams, the grandson of Ansel Adams, is reported as saying,
Mr. Norsigian has been claiming these negatives were made by Ansel Adams for many years. I am unaware of anyone knowledgeable agreeing with him.
Next time you’re at a garage sale or warehouse salvage, give those old looking negatives an extra hard look. You never know what you might find.