There probably isn’t a photographer out there that Ansel Adams hasn’t influenced.
At least that’s what Pete Souza, former chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama, thinks.
Souza, who wrote the forward for Adams’ new book “Ansel Adams’ Yosemite: The Special Edition Prints,” out Tuesday, told USA TODAY a trip to Yosemite National Park led him to “make believe” he was Adams.
“Never in my imagination would I ever have imagined that someday I would be writing a forward to an Ansel Adams book,” Souza says. “He’s a giant.”
The new book includes photographs arranged in a sequence selected by Adams before he died in 1984. The focus of the sequence is Yosemite National Park, where Adams spent a great deal of time.
Adams is known for his black-and-white landscape photography and as an environmentalist.
Michael Adams, son of Ansel Adams, told USA TODAY that the photographer first visited the park when he was 14, in 1916.
“He went back every year of his life thereafter. He met his wife-to-be in Yosemite in 1921,” Michael Adams says. “He lived there off and on, part time and full time for many of those years. He enjoyed all of the seasons in Yosemite and it was ‘home’ for many years.”
Michael Adams was born in Yosemite in 1933. Now, he visits multiple times each year.
In the book, readers can see how much Yosemite meant to the photography icon.
“He was so committed to this one national park, and I think that in the book you get a great sense of how much Yosemite meant to him and was a part of him,” Souza says.
While Souza never met Adams, he wrote in the forward that he and his friends became obsessed with Adams’ craftsmanship and precision. They tried their best to emulate his framing and composition.
Michael Adams says that the appeal of his father’s photographs is universal and continues today.
This particular sequence of photos has never been published in book form until now.
“He would be thrilled to have all of his special edition prints both formally recognized and all published in one book,” Alan Ross, Adams’ darkroom assistant, told USA TODAY.
According to the book jacket, Adams initially selected eight photographs in the late 1950s of Yosemite to offer to park visitors as affordable souvenirs to inspire others to have a respect for nature that he felt himself.
He continued adding to that collection over the decades.
While Adams spent time at Yosemite throughout his life, Souza has only been once: He visited with the Obama family in 2016, one century after Adams first visited himself.
“It’s a little overwhelming because Ansel spent so much time there and was there for different seasons and the light was right, and I was there for two days,” Souza says.
Souza spent the trip taking in the beauty of Yosemite and imagining Adams walking the same trails he was and setting up his big tripod to get the right shot.
While there, he used his digital camera on a black-and-white setting while hiking with the Obamas.
“So I could make believe I was Ansel Adams,” Souza says.
Follow Morgan Hines on Twitter: @MorganEmHines.
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