Picture-perfect life: Daughter of Ansel Adams

SALINAS >> If a little girl grows up among towering rock formations, majestic waterfalls, ancient trees, and exotic little creatures, her story usually begins with “Once upon a time…”

Anne Adams Helms frolicked as a child in Yosemite National Park, where her mother ran a small artist’s studio that doubled as the family home. Her father was a photographer and an environmental activist who became a lifetime member and a director of the Sierra Club.

Anne Adams Helms, the daughter of photographer Ansel Adams, and her husband Ken Helms stand in front of her father’s photo titled the Tetons and the Snake River at her home in rural Salinas on Wednesday. David Royal – Monterey Herald

Her parents met, fell in love, and were married after a six-week courtship at the foot of a 617-foot waterfall known as Bridalveil.

“It was such a romantic story that it got written up in the Chicago Tribune,” remembers Anne, now 80, who lives today with her 79-year-old husband, Ken Helms, in a former bed-and-breakfast with a spectacular view of the emerald hillside that rolls away from Laureles Grade.

The walls of their home are decorated with stunning original photos that were taken by her father, Ansel Adams, one of the most celebrated photographers who ever lived.

“Sometimes we called him Pops or whatever, but usually my brother (Michael) and I just called him Ansel,” she says. “It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful — not at all. We loved him, but he really wasn’t a daddy-ish kind of person. There weren’t any family vacations to Disneyland or anything like that.” … read more

2 replies
  1. Teri Rhodes White
    Teri Rhodes White says:

    I read your post about Anne Adams Helms just after a friend posted something that reminded me of the following story that I think is about Anne.

    What’s awesome with me today is you reminded me of a story. I was 20 something and traveling alone for the first time. I was in Aspen at a design conference. I felt very awkward and uncomfortable because I barely had enough money to be there. I was staying in a cheap hotel and walking everywhere I went. I happened to sit next to this nice, kinda hippy-looking woman. We struck up a conversation and it made me feel better. Later she found out I was walking back to my hotel alone and in the dark and offered me a ride. We got to her vehicle. It was an awesome VW bus! I jumped inside and it was beautifully restored and on the inside hung this large Ansel Adams print. I said something about how beautiful the print was and she sheepishly told me Ansel was her dad! She ran his gallery and was there taking a break. I can’t remember her name, but I will always remember her kindness. Thanks for the memory!

    I’m now 54 and it has been at least 30 years since Anne’s act of kindness towards me.

    If you could simply forward this to her and let her know that she made a difference, I would greatly appreciate it. I need nothing in return. I simply want to say “thank you” and let her know that I am still grateful.

    Thanks. Be well. Teri


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