Sierra Club Productions
Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns
Co-produced by Sierra Club Productions & Steeplechase Films
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Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film premiered on April 21, 2002 on American Experience. WGBH Boston, a flagship PBS station, is the presenting station for the program. To date, the Emmy-Award winning film has reached more than 3 million viewers nationwide and continues to be replayed.
Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film is an elegant, moving and lyrical portrait of this most eloquent and quintessentially American of photographers. Written and directed by Ric Burns, and produced by Steeplechase Films and Sierra Club Productions, it explores the meaning and legacy of Adams's life and work within the context of the great themes that absorbed him throughout his career: the beauty and fragility of "the American earth," the inseparable bond of man and nature, and the moral obligation our present owes to the future.
Few American photographers -- indeed, few artists of any kind -- have reached a wider audience, or enjoyed more widespread popularity in their own lifetime, than Ansel Adams. None has had more profound an impact on how Americans grasp the majesty of their own continent. Born in San Francisco in 1902 in the years following the closing of the American frontier, Adams first encountered the transcendent beauty of Yosemite Valley when he was fourteen.
"From that day," he later wrote, "My life has been colored and modulated by the great earth-gesture of the Sierra." At once a visionary photographer, a pioneer in photographic technique and an ardent crusader in the cause of environmentalism, his life and work were part of an extraordinary revolution -- in photography itself, in ways of seeing what he called "the continuous beauty of the things that are," and in the moral relation of man to the natural world.
Among the most beloved and widely reproduced images of the American West, his greatest photographs sought to capture "the instant of revelation -- of timelessness" amidst the evanescent beauty of the natural world. In the process, they documented the end of the infinite on the American continent, or rather its precarious passage into the custodianship of human beings. -- Ric Burns