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Famed Ansel Adams photos of Yosemite, Golden Gate to be featured on new U.S. stamps

Iconic landscapes will go on sale Wednesday after ceremony in Yosemite Valley

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled 16 new stamps featuring the work of legendary Bay Area photographer Ansel Adams. The stamps will be issued starting Wednesday May 15, 2024 at a ceremony in Yosemite National Park, which Adams photographed over seven decades until his death in 1984. (U.S. Postal Service/TNS)
The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled 16 new stamps featuring the work of legendary Bay Area photographer Ansel Adams. The stamps will be issued starting Wednesday May 15, 2024 at a ceremony in Yosemite National Park, which Adams photographed over seven decades until his death in 1984. (U.S. Postal Service/TNS)
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For more than 150 years, visitors have taken hundreds of millions of photographs of Yosemite National Park.

But many of the park’s most iconic images — timeless, internationally famous shots of Half Dome, Tunnel View, Mirror Lake and other wonders that strikingly depict America’s natural heritage —  were made by Bay Area native Ansel Adams.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service will issue featuring some of Adams’ most renowned photographs, including images of Yosemite Valley, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other majestic western landscapes, from the Grand Tetons to Monument Valley, Arizona.

The first such tribute to Adams’ work by the Postal Service, the stamps will be released at a first-day issue ceremony in Yosemite National Park, only a few feet from the Ansel Adams Gallery, where Adams, who died in Monterey in 1984, worked for decades redefining nature photography.

“It’s an incredible honor for Ansel,” said Matthew Adams, his grandson, on Thursday. “It shows that his popularity continues 40 years after he passed. His work resonates across time. He would be excited and honored.”

Adams timeless black-and-white photographs are celebrated for their sharp focus, high contrast and complex dark room craftsmanship. Many of them he took with large format cameras on a tripod mounted to a platform he built on the roof of his 1940s-era Woody station wagon.

An art director with the Postal Service, Derry Noyes, worked with the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust to select the 16 photographs featured on the stamps, Matthew Adams said. Before he died, the legendary photographer set up the trust to manage the rights to his images.

The Postal Service is printing 20 million of the stamps, said David Coleman, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington D.C.

More than 400 stamp collectors, photographers, and other fans of Adams’ work are planning to attend the ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Yosemite Valley to unveil the stamps. Anyone who pays admission to enter the park is allowed to attend.

“There’s a huge buzz around the park,” said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. “We’re super-excited. Ansel Adams is synonymous with Yosemite. He pioneered a lot of his techniques with the big box cameras here in Yosemite in the 1930s and 1940s.”

At that event, which will feature remarks by Yosemite Superintendent Cicely Muldoon, Matthew Adams, and Daniel Tangherlini, a member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, first-day covers of the stamps will be sold, with a postmark from the Yosemite Valley post office.

“People come from all over the world and ask where did Ansel Adams take this photo, or that photo?” Gediman said. “His work epitomizes the spirit of the park in a way the way no other photographer has ever done. In a lot of people’s opinion, Ansel Adams is the preeminent photographer for national parks.

“This is a really fitting and well deserved tribute to his life and legacy.”

Adams had a remarkable life.

Born in 1902 in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, he broke his nose when he fell down during the 1906 earthquake as a 4-year-old child. It remained crooked his whole life. As a boy, he spent time exploring Baker Beach and other wild areas around the city. He visited Lick Observatory near San Jose with his father to study the planets and stars.

He became an accomplished piano player.

When he was 14, he visited Yosemite for the first time with his family. His parents gave him a Kodak Brownie No. 1 box camera, which inspired him to photograph the waterfalls and scenery of the park. He returned the next year with a tripod and more cameras. He began to learn darkroom techniques, joined photo clubs and read photography magazines.

A lover of nature, Adams joined the Sierra Club and worked at LeConte Memorial Lodge in the park from 1920 to 1923. His first photographs were published in 1921 when he was 17, and his prints began selling in the park at Best’s Studio, the business of landscape painter Harry Best, whose daughter, Virginia, Adams eventually married, and whose studio later became the Ansel Adams Gallery.

(NO U.S. TABLOID SALES) Legendary photographer Ansel Adams with his large format camera Sept. 3, 1979 in Point Lobos (south of Carmel), California. Adams, born in San Francisco, was a commercial photographer for 30 years. He created photos of western landscapes that were inspired by a trip to Yosemite, California as a child. He won three Guggenheim grants to photograph the national parks (1944--58), served on the board of the Sierra Club (1934-71) and founded the f/64 group with Edward Weston in 1932. Adams passed away April 22, 1984 of heart failure aggravated by cancer. (Credit/David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Ansel Adams with his large format camera Sept. 3, 1979 in Point Lobos, Calif. (Credit/David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

He began traveling to parks around the West. He published his first book, Taos Pueblo, in 1930; then put up an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution the following year featuring his photographs of the Sierra Nevada, and a year later, opened a photo gallery business in San Francisco in 1933.

He was first elected to the Sierra Club’s board of directors in 1934 and served on its board for 37 years. During that time his photographs helped conservation groups push Congress to establish new national parks, including Kings Canyon. He donated photographs as part of the campaign to advocate for voters to pass Proposition 20 in 1972, which created the California Coastal Commission.

Adams helped establish the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Today his work hangs in many of America premier fine arts museums, and original prints have sold for hundreds of thousand of dollars.

He moved to the Carmel Highlands near Big Sur in the mid-1960s, taught photography workshops at Yosemite, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by in 1980 by President Carter.

Another U.S. postage stamp in 2002 featured an Adams image, “Sand Dunes at Sunrise,” that he made in Death Valley National Park in 1948. It was part of the “Masters of American Photography” issuance featuring 20 different photographers from Dorthea Lange to Edward Weston.

“Stamps are miniature pieces of art,” Coleman said. “And these Ansel Adams stamps are pieces of art. How much more Americana can you get than Ansel Adams?”

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled 16 new stamps featuring the work of legendary Bay Area photographer Ansel Adams. The stamps will be issued starting Wednesday May 15, 2024 at a ceremony in Yosemite National Park, which Adams photographed over seven decades until his death in 1984. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service)
The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled 16 new stamps featuring the work of legendary Bay Area photographer Ansel Adams. The stamps will be issued starting Wednesday May 15, 2024 at a ceremony in Yosemite National Park, which Adams photographed over seven decades until his death in 1984. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service)

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