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June 2000

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Witness To Magic

With the click of a shutter, Ansel Adams captured the beauty and soul of wild places and showed us that in nature, there is magic.

CLICK! After a climb up Banner Peak, Jim snaps one last photograph of Thousand Island Lake as we head back down the valley on the John Muir. That a trail named for John Muir would traverse a wilderness named for Ansel Adams seems poetically

ironic. Muir used his fiery words in defense of wilderness; Adams used is photography and his persistence.

To Adams, art and activism were separate branches that sprang from the same trunk. “I believe the approach of the artist and the approach of the environmentalist,” he said, “are fairly close in that both are, to a rather impressive degree, concerned with the ‘affirmation of life’… Response to natural beauty is one of the foundations of the environmental movement.”

And people responded to the natural beauty of his photography. Adams himself prowled the halls of Congress with a collection of Kings Canyon photographs promoting a proposed national park. The park became a reality in 1940. His 1959 book This Is the American Earth has been called “one of the great statements in the history of conservation.” In 1975, he presented President Ford with a print of “Yosemite: Clearing Winter Storm” (1935) with the instructions, “Now, Mr. President, every time you look up at this picture, I want you to remember your obligation to the national parks.”

And in 1972, as President Carter signed into law the largest land preservation act in American history and protected more than 104 million acres of Alaska, a print of “Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake” hung prominently in the White House, a timely gift from Ansel Adams.

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