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Ansel Adams: A Biography Paperback – April 15, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alinder was Ansel Adams's caretaker, nurse and executive assistant from 1979 until the photographer's death in 1984 at the age of 82. This deeply felt, unauthorized biography provides a much fuller picture of Adams's turbulent personal life than his 1985 autobiography, which Alinder coauthored. Adams traveled often, leaving behind his wife, Virginia Best, and their two children; his numerous affairs and continual neglect drained her patience and love, nearly wrecking their marriage. Growing up in San Francisco, with frequent trips to the Yosemite Valley that he would immortalize in crisp, radiant photographs, Adams witnessed the unhappy, formal, proper marriage of his stern, domineering mother and mild father, who usually addressed each other as "Mrs. Adams" or "Mr. Adams." His adult personal life was often in shambles, and he never found emotional happiness, according to Alinder. After 1949, she writes, Adams, paralyzed by fear of failure, suffered creative burnout and turned increasingly from photography to environmental activism and writing. She also discusses his formative friendships with mentor Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe and with photographers Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Having coauthored Adams's Ansel Adams: An Autobiography (1985), Alinder is certainly in the position to write this new work.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805058354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805058352
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Rarely do I start rereading a book immediately after I finish the last page, and it is even more rare for the book to be a biography. Mary Street Alinder's biography of Ansel Adams is one of these.
I have studied and admired Ansel Adams' photography for many years: his mastery of composition and virtuosity in the darkroom are unrivaled. His books on photographic and darkroom technique are well read and have a prominent place in my technical library. I did not know anything about Ansel Adams the man.
Mary Street Alinder was Adams' assistant during the final years of his life, becoming a close confidant and co-authoring his autobiography and later collecting and publishing his letters. In that unique position she had access to almost 70 years of correspondence, tens of thousands unprinted negatives, and more important of all close access to Ansel and his family.
The image of Adams that develops through the pages of the book is a difficult one to interpret. His friendships with other photographers, naturalists, and numerous female assistants were deep and life long (though in the case of the latter never intimate). His relationship to his family was a different matter, and this is where the difficulty lies: Ansel was first and foremost dedicated to, if not obsessed by, his art, at the expense of his wife and children. In this he comes through as less than likable. But it also becomes clear that inside Ansel was always a child, excited by all around him and exuberant with life and a single self-centered focus towards doing what he could for the places he loved.
Alinder's writing is clear and concise. The organization of the book is not strictly chronological. Instead each chapter documents specific events, people, places, or photographs.
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By A Customer on April 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
Alinder has written a superb book, which for the first time, gives us the real Ansel Adams.
And here on the printed page we find what has been whispered about for decades: Ansel wasn't exactly a nice guy. Poor Virginia (his wife who tolerated his infidelity); poor Michael and Anne (his kids who rarely saw him).
Adams joins the ranks of Weston and Stieglitz, who we've also learned were not saints at all. Not even very nice people. But exceptionally gifted artists nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Alinder did a masterful job in documenting the life of a complex genius and American treasure. Whereas Ansel Adams autobiography can be said to be a version of his life a bit "photoshopped" - more as he wished he lived it, Mary Alinder's version is as he lived it. Mary Alinder makes more than just a commendable effort describing Ansel Adams as the human he was, a great genius with his, at times, glaring blind spots/faults. i also believe that those interested in Ansel Adams should read his autobiography -his life in his words.
The book is written with tremendous insight and compassion for one of our greatest artists of the twentieth century with skills that ranged from not only a great artistic eye with incredible powers of visualization but also a technical master second to none.
Bravo, wonderful book, which is the result of compassion and personal experience accompanied by tremendous meticulous and tenacious research skills.
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Format: Hardcover
With the many monographs, existing biographies and the letters already published Mary Street Alinder provides an insight into the "real" Ansel Adams. Without destroying the legend, his life is shown as imperfect, human. This is the complete Adams, the great image-maker, the technical genius, environmentalist, pianist, social figure, but also alluding to a less than perfect personal life. Alinders' position as assistant has allowed her a unique perspective of the world's best-known photographer, the result is a book that is well-structured and entertaining to read. It shows where Adams fits into the greater picture, his associations with other photographers, figures in the art world and his political as well as social connections. The only weakness is the fully justified attack on the trustees of the Ansel Adams legacy; this may not be the place for such personal comments. Ansel Adams: A Biography is an excellent book, whether you think you know about Adams or have never heard of the great man.
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Format: Hardcover
Mary Street Alinder has outdone her earlier work writing Adam's autobiography under his direction with this marvelously comprehensive and revealing look at Adams' life.

There are other well-written texts about Adams' life. Nancy Newhall's biography of Adams and Adam's own autobiography describe Ansel Adam's life interestingly, but they leave the reader feeling that there's something not quite complete about the tale each tells.

Adam's book Letters and Images helps with a couple puzzle pieces by inferring Adams' personal side through letters he'd written to and received from his peers, friends, associates, and various political figures.

Mary Street Alinder's biography of Adams gives us direct insights to Adams that combine what other books already have told us about his generally fun social nature, his brilliant photographic technique, his place in photography's history, his having been a student of music and his stand on the environment with a much closer look at his personal life than what we've seen before. She provides the missing puzzle pieces.

Alinder has accomplished much with her biography of Adams, and in the same book she's offered even more. Her accounts of many of Adams' friends and associates could stand as competent biographies of their own. Any reader interested in Adams' life should read this book. Those who've already read extensively about Adams will learn much more. Those new to Adams will get a wonderfully complete picture of his life
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