People often ask how I managed to land a job with the man who would become the most noted photographer of the 20th-century. Ansel always liked to say that “chance favors the prepared mind,” and maybe that’s what happened. Here’s the story…you can decide!
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1971, I had the good fortune to land a job as studio assistant for M. Halberstadt, the most in-demand advertising photographer in San Francisco at the time. Hal, as he liked to be called, had been Moholy Nagy’s photo assistant at the School of Design in Chicago, and was innovative in his vision and a stickler for technical excellence. He was also a long-time friend of Ansel Adams–they even had an assistant in common, although somewhat before my time.
In 1973, Hal retired and closed his studio, leaving me an unemployed freelancer. I had met Ansel the year before in Yosemite, so I worked up the nerve to write and ask if he needed an assistant. He wrote back almost by return mail, saying he didn’t need anyone at the moment, but because of my successful track record with Hal (who was known for chewing through assistants), he would be delighted to have me assist some of the numerous workshops at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, beginning that June. By July 1974, I was running the darkroom for Ansel’s “Making of a Photographic Book” workshop. A few days into the session, Ansel had his business manager pull me aside and ask if I would be interested in moving to Carmel to work full-time. I thought about that for maybe a microsecond!