Imogen Cunningham

American Photographer | Born: 1883 - Died: 1976

Imogen Cunningham is renowned as one of the greatest American women photographers. In 1901, having sent away $15 for her first camera, she commenced what would become the longest photographic career in the history of the medium.. Cunningham soon turned her attention to both the nude as well as native plant forms in her back garden. The results were staggering; an amazing body of work comprised of bold, contemporary forms. These works are characterized by a visual precision that is not scientific, but which presents the lines and textures of her subjects articulated by natural light and their own gestures. Her refreshing, yet formal and sensitive floral images from the 1920’s ultimately became her most acclaimed images. Cunningham also had an intuitive command of portraiture but her real artistic legacy was secured though her inclusion in the "F64" show in San Francisco in 1932. With a small group of photographers which included Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, she pioneered the renewal of photography on the West Coast. Awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, Cunningham’s work continues to be exhibited and collected around the world.

Source: Photography West Gallery


Cunningham was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883. In 1901, at the age of eighteen, Cunningham bought her first camera, a 4x5 inch view camera, from the American School of Art in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She soon lost interest and sold the camera to a friend. It wasn’t until 1906, while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, that she was inspired by an encounter with the work of Gertrude Käsebier, to take up photography again. With the help of her chemistry professor, Dr. Horace Byers, she began to study the chemistry behind photography and she subsidized her tuition by photographing plants for the botany department. After being graduated in 1907 Cunningham went to work for Edward S. Curtis in his Seattle studio, gaining knowledge about the portrait business and practical photography.

In 1909, Cunningham won a scholarship from her sorority (Pi Beta Phi) for foreign study and applied to study with Professor Robert Luther at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany. In Dresden she concentrated on her studies and didn’t take many photographs. In May 1910 she finished her paper, “About the Direct Development of Platinum Paper for Brown Tones,” describing her process to increase printing speed, improve clarity of highlights tones, and produce sepia tones. On her way back to Seattle she met Alvin Langdon Coburn in London, and Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Käsebier in New York. In Seattle, Cunningham opened her studio and won acclaim for portraiture and pictorial work. Most of her studio work of this time consisted of sitters in their own homes, in her living room, or in the woods surrounding Cunningham's cottage. She became a sought after photographer and exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913.

In 1914, Cunningham's portraits were shown at An International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography in New York. Wilson's Photographic Magazine published a portfolio of her work. The next year, she married Roi Partridge, a teacher and artist. He posed for a series of nude photographs, which were shown by the Seattle Fine Arts Society. Although critically praised, Cunningham didn’t revisit those photographs for another fifty-five years. Between 1915 and 1920, Cunningham continued her work and had three children (Gryffyd, Rondal, and Padraic) with Partridge. In 1920, they moved to San Francisco where Partridge taught at Mills College. Cunningham refined her style, taking a greater interest in pattern and detail and becoming increasingly interested in botanical photography, especially flowers. Between 1923 and 1925 she carried out an in-depth study of the magnolia flower. Later in the decade she turned her attention toward industry, creating several series of industrial landscapes in Los Angeles and Oakland. In 1929, Edward Weston nominated 10 of Cunningham's photographs (8 botanical, 1 industrial, and 1 nude) for inclusion in the "Film und Foto" exhibition and her renowned, Two Callas, debuted in that exhibition. Cunningham once again changed direction, becoming more interested in the human form, particularly hands, and she was fascinated with the hands of artists and musicians. This interest led to her employment by Vanity Fair, photographing stars without make-up.

In 1932, with this unsentimental, straightforward approach in mind, Cunningham became one of the co-founders of the Group f/64, which aimed to “define photography as an art form by a simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods.” In 1934, Cunningham was invited to do some work in New York for Vanity Fair. Her husband wanted her to wait until he could travel with her, but she refused. They later divorced. She continued with Vanity Fair until it stopped publication in 1936. In the 1940s, Cunningham turned to documentary street photography, which she executed as a side project while supporting herself with her commercial and studio photography. In 1945, Cunningham was invited by Ansel Adams to accept a position as a faculty member for the art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts. Dorothea Lange and Minor White joined as well. In 1973, her work was exhibited at the Rencontres d'Arles festival in France through the group exhibition: Trois photographes américaines, Imogen Cunningham, Linda Connor, Judy Dater. Cunningham continued to take photographs until shortly before her death at age ninety-three on June 24, 1976, in San Francisco, California.

Source: Wikipedia

Imogen Cunningham
Author: Celina Lunsford, Jamie Allen, Marisa Sánchez and Imogen Cunningham
Publisher: TF Editores/D.A.P.
Year: 2013 - Pages: 262
Throughout her long life, Imogen Cunningham was tireless and exemplary in her pursuit of new developments in photography and in the expansion of her own practice. An inspiration to several successive generations, she reinvented the genres of botanical photography, street photography, nudes and portraiture, and expanded the possibilities of the double exposure. This publication celebrates the rich diversity of this modernist pioneer, covering Cunningham's entire seven-decade career--from her abstract shots of plants and nudes and optical illusions created using techniques such as inverted positive/negative images and double exposure, to her iconic portraits for Vanity Fair of artists, dancers, actors, musicians and writers such as Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Martha Graham, Frida Kahlo, Gertrude Stein, Morris Graves and Merce Cunningham. The selection also includes many rarely reproduced works, plus essays by Celina Lunsford, curator of the exhibition, Jamie M. Allen and Marisa C. Sánchez, an illustrated chronology and selected bibliography.
 
Imogen Cunningham 1883 - 1976
Author: Richard Lorenz, Manfred Heiting
Publisher: Taschen
Year: 2001 - Pages: 256
This title collects the best of photographer Imogen Cunningham's work. Spanning all the genres used in her work, the book presents the images which marked Cunningham as one of the early pioneers of the photographic medium from her 1920's plant images to her speciality, portraiture.
 
David Bailey: SUMO
 
 

More Great Photographers To Discover

Raquel Chicheri
Nationality: Spanish
Born: 1973
Raquel Chicheri is a freelance photographer.
I am from Galicia, Northern Spain but because it was cold and wet I decided to move to Fuerteventura, an island off the coast of Africa which has a much better weather. I loved photography since I was a kid, my father is a great photographer and his work inspired me from the beginning. I studied " comercio internacional" (International commerce or trade) but I only worked one year in that field and then decided to study graphic (…)
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
Raquel Chicheri
 
Branda Bancel
Nationality: American

Brenda Bancel is the president of the Take 5 Foundation and owner of Brenda Bancel Photography LLC. She spent ten years in the advertising industry working with clients such as Apple and IBM before realizing that she wanted to focus on nonprofit work and using her own creative talent. She is a recent graduate of the New England School of Photography, where she graduated with honors in Documentary. She hopes to use photography to bring awareness to important social (…)
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
Branda Bancel
 
Michael Kenna
Nationality: English
Born: 1953

Michael Kenna was born in Widnes, England in 1953. As one of 6 children born to a working class Irish-Catholic family, he initially aspired to enter the priesthood but his passion for the arts led him to The Banbury School of Art where he studied painting and then photography. Later he attended The London College of Printing and began working as a photographer and artist. He moved to San Francisco in 1977 where he was astounded by the number of galleries the city (…)
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna
 
Goran Tomasevic
Nationality: Serbian
Born: 1969
Born in Belgrade in 1969, Goran Tomasevic started working for Reuters as a freelance photographer in 1996 during the anti-Milosevic demonstrations. He was based in Baghdad during the Iraq conflict, in Jerusalem during tense times between the Israelis and Palestinians and was senior photographer in Egypt during the uprising. Goran is currently covering the conflict in Syria. In 2003 and 2005 Goran won the Reuters photographer of the year award.
 
Diane Arbus
Nationality: American
Born: 1923 - Died: 1971

Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971) was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of "deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal.". Arbus believed that a camera could be “a little bit cold, a little bit harsh” but its scrutiny revealed the truth; the difference between what people wanted others to see and what they really (…)
 
Vicky Martin
Nationality: English

Vicky Martin is an award winning fine art photographer based in the UK. Although she studied art and photography in the 1990s it was not until 2008 when she was awarded a prestigious Rhubarb Bursary that she was able to pursue photography full time. Since then Vicky has had her work published and exhibited nationally and internationally: from Europe to the USA in solo and group shows. Her work continues to garner many awards and nominations, including Winner of Single (…)
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
Vicky Martin
 
Stephen Wilkes
Nationality: American
Born: 1957
Since opening his studio in New York City in 1983, photographer Stephen Wilkes has built an unprecedented body of work and a reputation as one of America's most iconic photographers, widely recognized for his fine art, editorial and commercial work.

His photographs are included in the collections of the George Eastman Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Dow Jones Collection, Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, Jewish Museum of NY, (…)
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
Stephen Wilkes
 
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nationality: French
Born: 1986
Born in 1986 in Suresnes, I moved all over France during my youth as I followed my father's professional transfers. Middle School in Languedoc, part of High School in Jura and the rest in Besancon.

Back in Paris in 2010 after being accepted at the Icart School of Photography (in Levallois Perret), I obtained my diploma in 2013, finishing second with my series "Architectura".

Since then, I had several internships with architectural photographers and I (…)
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
Nicolas Thomas Moreno
 
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Nationality: Egyptian
Born: 1993
Yasser Alaa Mobarak is a 24-year-old, Egyptian award-winning photographer based in Delhi, India. He has won photography prizes from National Geographic Traveler India, National Geographic Egypt, International Federation of Photographic Art, Photographic Society of America and Prix De La Photographie Paris. Yasser's works have been featured in Digital Camera World Magazine, Amatuer Photographer Magazine, Smart Photography Magazine, Silvershotz Magazine, Adobe Blog, PBS (…)
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
Yasser Alaa Mobarak
 
Josef Sudek
Nationality: Czech
Born: 1896 - Died: 1976
Josef Sudek was a Czech photographer, best known for his photographs of Prague. Sudek was originally a bookbinder. During The First World War he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1915 and served on the Italian Front until he was wounded in the right arm in 1916. Although he had no experience with photography and was one-handed due to his amputation, he was given a camera. After the war he studied photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke. His Army (…)
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
Josef Sudek
 
David Bailey: SUMO
 
Join our newsletter
Be up-to-date with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events
 
Discover the 6th Issue of AAP Magazine
All About Photo Magazine showcases the winners of AAP Magazine Competitions
 
 
 
The Jules Maeght Gallery is a contemporary art gallery who seeks to engage the San Francisco community by infusing European artists, young and established alike, into a diverse, multimedia dialogue.
 
TAKES U TO THE NEXT LEVEL
 
Since 2005, your guide through contemporary art from a French perspective to let you make exciting choices