Ansel Adams worked to help less fortunate

Chris Tucker,
Posted 9/26/17

When Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated and interned at camps in the U.S. during World War II, it didn’t sit well with famed photographer Ansel Adams, according to Adams’ son, …

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Ansel Adams worked to help less fortunate


When Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated and interned at camps in the U.S. during World War II, it didn’t sit well with famed photographer Ansel Adams, according to Adams’ son, Michael.

Ansel Adams “did a very extensive photographic project with the Japanese-Americans who were forced to live in Manzanar Relocation Camp near Lone Pine, California,” Michael Adams said in an email interview with The Leader.

“He made several trips to the camp in 1943-44, and I went along on two of them. An exhibit and a book, entitled: ‘Born Free and Equal’ came of this project,” Michael Adams said.

“His feelings for these American Citizens incarcerated in these camps at that time, were very strong, and the ‘Born Free and Equal’ book revealed those sentiments.”

In a letter to the Library of Congress in 1965, Ansel Adams wrote, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.... All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.”


Michael Adams talks about his father’s work during an exhibit, reception and dinner on Sept. 30 at the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock.

“I am very happy that my father’s photographs are on display. I will be giving a talk and will exhibit much more of his work in Yosemite, the Southwest, California and the National Parks,” Michael said.

Michael is also to talk about Ansel Adam’s life and legacy, including the photographer’s youth in San Francisco and his exposure to music. The talk is to be accompanied by a slideshow of some of Ansel Adams’ most beloved photographs.

“I remember coming to Port Hadlock in 1947 after returning from a trip to Alaska with my father,” Michael recalled.

“I remember the Old Alcohol Plant as a big, concrete structure with a lot of vegetation growing in and around. My father told me stories of the plant, and we looked for the home that he remembered when he visited in the 1910-15 era. I came back to Port Hadlock in 1962 on my honeymoon and showed my wife the plant … very similar to the earlier experience. We again came to Port Hadlock in the 1980s with our children and again showed them the abandoned concrete structure.”

Several of Ansel Adams’ photographs are on display at the plant.

“My favorite photograph is the ‘Moon and Half Dome’ image, which was first seen as our wedding announcement in 1962. Another is ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, 1941.’ I was with Ansel when that image was taken,” Michael said.

All proceeds from the fundraising dinner is to benefit Bayside Housing and Services, which is part of a unique partnership with the Old Alcohol Plant to provide safe, temporary, supportive housing so people in need can secure permanent housing.

The Old Alcohol Plant is located at 310 Hadlock Bay Road, Port Hadlock. Doors open at 4:30. A VIP reception is at 5:30, and the dinner and presentation begins at 6:30.

“I am pleased that Ansel’s work can be used to support the program of the Old Alcohol Plant. I am also happy that the housing program is successful and that the work supports that aspect.”


Michael Adams was born in the Yosemite Valley and educated at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, and Stanford University. He received a B.A. in geography from Fresno State College, and his M.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, according to information from the Ansel Adams Gallery.

In addition to his private medical practice, Michael has also served as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force (USAF) and the California Air National Guard in Japan and New Mexico, and as a flight surgeon/pilot physician in Germany and Fresno, California. He retired from the USAF and Air National Guard in 1993, as a major general and from duty as deputy surgeon general of the USAF for the Air National Guard.

Michael is chairman of the board of the Ansel Adams Gallery, now in its 114th year of operation in Yosemite Valley. He is an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical School, and teaches in the UCSF Fresno residency training program. Michael has been an adviser to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where the Ansel Adams photographic archive is located. He also is a council member of the Yosemite Conservancy.


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