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Ansel Adams (American Experience) (2002)

Josh Hamilton , Barbara Feldon , Ric Burns  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Josh Hamilton, Barbara Feldon, Eli Wallach, Ansel Adams, David Ogden Stiers
  • Directors: Ric Burns
  • Writers: Ric Burns
  • Producers: Ric Burns, Adrienne Bramhall, Annette Handley Chandler, Inness Wei, Kate Roth Knull
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Pbs Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 14, 2003
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007G1YJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,576 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ansel Adams (American Experience)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Written, directed and produced by Ric Burns and timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ansel Adams's birth, Ansel Adams is an elegant, moving and lyrical portrait of one of the most eloquent and quintessentially American photographers. At the heart of the film are the themes that absorbed Adams throughout his career: the beauty and fragility of "the American earth," the inseparable bond between man and nature and the moral obligations that the present owes to the future. Ansel Adams was co-produced by the Sierra Club and attracted 5 million broadcast viewers upon its initial airing on PBS.

Ric Burns's documentary for the American Experience series winningly persuades one to think of Ansel Adams as not only the greatest American photographer of the 20th century, but also one of its most treasured artists. Using the familiar formula of New York (and his brother Ken's documentaries), Burns vividly brings Adams's world to life. Narrator David Ogden Stiers is used minimally after the initial set-up, leaving the words to curators, authors, and family members who knew Adams's life and art best (Adams's own letters are also voiced). The film, sponsored by the Sierra Club to mark the 100th anniversary of the photographer's birth, makes a passionate plea for this man "who helped transfer the meaning of wilderness and what people thought about it." There is plenty of time for his magnificent pictures to be shown, often nicely accompanied by modern-day color films of the area. It's a must-see for any fan of Adams. --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography of Adams August 11, 2003
By Zossima
I purchased this as a birthday gift for my wife, who has recently picked up photography as a hobby. We both feel like we've spent 90 minutes in the presence of a brilliant, fascinating, passionate visionary. We are amazed at his life and work. In short, this documentary does what any good, short documentary should do: It makes you want to know Adams and his work better.
* Nice biography of Adams' life, highlighting the role his father played in facilitating Ansel's self-directed learning as a youth, his introduction to photography, his marriage (with its ups and downs), etc. We were able to see what drove Ansel Adams.
* Need I say anything about his work? There has never been and never will be another photographer like Adams. This documentary just makes me want to sit in front of his photos for hours!
* Insights into how his photography and extensive time in the wilderness shaped his philosophy/worldview.
* Insights into how he exposed and developed photographs to reveal what he saw as he took the pictures--his embrace of realism.
* The television screen is not an ideal place to view Adams' photos. Ric Burns did a great job of panning and zooming to allow us to experience Adams' work, but if you're really interested in Adams, you need to buy some of his prints or a coffee table book or find a museum with a collection of Adams photos. This is not Ric Burns fault--he did an amazing job telling this story.
If you are interested in Ansel Adams, photography, or even just interested in art and the creative process, this is an excellent film. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical and stirring documentary December 26, 2004
A moving and very well-constructed tribute to Adams, the film doesn't shy away from things like his affairs, drinking, over-work, poverty, etc. But the film is all the stronger for this. Some of the most perceptive critics and fellow artists give great insight; as Adams himself rarely talked in any depth about his own work on camera or radio. His large images, most of which would look puny if shown whole on a TV screen, are made accessible by panning and zooming. The film has some absences (Adams sympathetic documenting of a Japanese PoW camp comes to mind), and some of the home-movie footage is used 'out of timeline', but overall it is a very satisfying portrayal of a complex artist. If you like it first time around, you'll watch it again and again.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny... May 20, 2003
The photo documentary for which all others should be based upon. Whether you like, love or hate AA, this is a well make, moving and informative Biography of AA. Of course is was done by one of the Burns brothers so it has to be great.

Covers the life of AA, is trial and tribulations, his highs and lows. It also covers some of his greatest accomplishments as well as is personal achievements.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It won me over September 11, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I've seen Ansel prints in the stores and in peoples homes but I never cared too much about the guy. One quiet evening the documentary was on tv. So I decided to give it a try. I was blown away by this man's life and body of work. I rarely have seen a documentary that has moved me so deeply. By panning and zooming a corner of a photo was a great peice unto itself. There will never be another artist like it. Everything after is merely an imitation of something great. I just decided to buy a copy for myself to show my friends and family. Thanks PBS!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A video biography of Ansel and his works April 3, 2011
Format:VHS Tape
This DVD contains video that was directly copied from the PBS "American Experience" program. You can tell it was not touched up or enhance their fixed or anything else. I suspect that they were not planning on people having 46 inch televisions. The credits in the beginning part of the program are really fuzzy. But when it gets down to talking about Adams he gets down to talk about Adams and many of the photographs mysteriously get sharper. We get so engrossed in the subject matter both Adams and his pictures that we know longer care one way or the other were sharp or not.

My only complaint is that it was in a soundbite form. I don't know who designed the program that but they could have focused on one person or another instead of person A, and B, and C, and a, and B, and c, again and again and so forth so forth so forth. It breaks the continuity of thought.

For me the experience is enhanced because I've been to most of these places several times. I hope to go back again. I've also been intrigued with the mechanics of photography before it became the digital age. I'm now still interested in digital photography. But photography aside by the time that you get to the end of this program you will feel that you've lost your only friend.

This presentation gave me a different way of looking at life and being conservative with what nature has brought us.

American Experience: The Wizard of Photography
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Larger than life May 7, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
Ansel was an obsessive compulsive who had emotional and financial peaks and valleys that mirrored the contrasts within his photographic subject matter.

Many of the photos are breathtaking but cannot be adequately portrayed on screen; they are panned and zoomed to depict entire image but you lose the totality of the entire composition. Nevertheless, the documentary is a good introduction to a larger than life image on both ends of a camera lens.
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