Adams First Photos

Last week, on August 25, the National Park Service celebrated their centennial, marking 100 years since the agency was created to provide management for a growing list of monuments and parks.

While the park service centennial has received quite a bit of media attention over the past few weeks, another centennial event—perhaps a watershed moment for photographers—also occurred in 1916 in Yosemite Valley, when a young 14-year-old boy peered over the edge of Sierra Point down to the Merced River below, with Vernal and Nevada falls to his left and Yosemite Falls to his right, and clicked a photo.

It was June 22, 1916 and, in a correspondence the next day, the aspiring photographer exclaimed to his aunt “Films are expensive to develop and I expect to be broke if I keep up the rate I am taking pictures. I have taken 30 already.”

Films are expensive to develop and I expect to be broke if I keep up the rate I am taking pictures. I have taken 30 already.

That young photographer was none other than Ansel Adams. And it was in that correspondence from 100 years ago (seen below) that Adams chronicled his first visit to Yosemite and his first set of photographs that would set the groundwork for the acclaimed landscape photographer he was to become, and the pathway for thousands of photographers that follow in his footsteps.

This significant albeit small moment passed without notice within the photography community. But as the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we also tip our hat to this forgotten anniversary that was formative for so many.

AdamsLetter