In memory of Ansel Adams and his recent birthday, Warren Krupsaw writes about his experiences with the master photographer.
I first met Ansel Adams in 1964 when I was a junior in college (22) and he was giving his one-week Yosemite Workshop, among other things at age 62. This was a marvelous and eye-opening experience: eat, breathe, sleep photography with a dozen or so other like-minded enthusiasts of diversified backgrounds in an incredible visual wonderland with contact and instruction from The Great One himself (plus a couple assistants). Year after year however, I heard the workshop size increased dramatically and hence believe their experience was “diluted” proportionately.
In 1966 I became a “consultant” to Polaroid Corp. whereby free film was provided for field testing purposes with results submitted periodically for portfolio review and then if deemed worthy, inclusion in The Polaroid Collection. Adams had already been doing this for a number of years, but apparently on one visit there saw some of my work and wrote with some nice things to say (wish I could find that letter…).
When I drove West a few years later (c.1973) with my girl-friend, he graciously invited us to dinner and to stay the night. Among the few details I remember was his grand piano, a very large, long table for arranging prints, a huge ceremonial drum, and one hell-of-a view of the Pacific Ocean from above. We ate at his long dining table, about a dozen other people, and learned that his favorite dinner wine was Paul Masson Emerald Dry. I think, by then, his best work had been done and now he enjoyed being more of a show-man: appearing in Polaroid commercials, lecturing, teaching, writing, exhibiting, printing (or supervising it), and still doing some photography. It seemed to me he was spreading himself too thin over too many areas, but also think it was his nature to keep a lot of balls in the air. While Ansel was very much the extrovert, about all I remember of Virginia was that she was very gracious, shy, quiet, and retiring.
The next day, before we departed, he showed us his immaculately clean and beautifully organized darkroom. For some un-remembered reason, I was without tripod (can’t believe forgotten; must have broken), so he generously lent me one (Tiltall), overkill for the 35mm system I was using at the time. Because of the kind of work I was doing, he suggested I meet with Elliot Porter, so he made a call and set it up (Another story for another time).
© Warren Krupsaw
I later learned he liked the picture I took of him and Virginia so much that he displayed it in his entrance way.
Warren Krupsaw, a one-time student (and house guest) of Ansel Adams is a nature photographer concentrating on landscape & detail. After participating in the first year of a new graduate program in Photography at M.I.T. with Minor White, he earned his M.F.A. in Photography under Harry Callahan at the R.I.S.D. in 1968.
Book: Portraits of Passion and Other Dalliances