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Friday, March 16, 2012

Imogen Cunningham & Her Photos

  American photographer of botanical photography, nudes and industrial landscapes Imogen Cunningham, also known as Imo, was born on April 12, 1883 in Portland, Oregon. At the age of 18 she bought her first camera, a 4x5 inch view camera, from the American School of Art located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Ms. Cunningham quickly lost interest in the camera and sold it to a friend.  Five years later, while attending the University of Washington in Seattle, she became interested in photography again with her main inspiration, for picking up the camera again, influential American photographer, Gertrude Kasebier. With the help of  Dr. Horace Byers, Ms. Cunningham's chemistry professor, she began to study the chemistry behind photography and subsidized her tuition by taking pictures of plants for the botany department.

After graduating in 1907, Imogen Cunningham went to work for Edward S. Curtis, photographer of American Indians and the American West, in his Seattle, Washington studio, gaining knowledge about practical photography and the portrait business.

  She won a scholarship, in 1909, from her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, for foreign study and applied with Professor Robert Luther at Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany. There she did not take many photographs and instead concentrated on her studies. In May of 1910, she finished her paper on "About the Direct Development of Platinum Paper for Brown Tones, in which she described her process to increase printing speed, improve clarity of highlights tones and produce sepia tones. On her way back home to Seattle she met photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn in London and photographer and modern art promoter, Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Kasebier.

Dream - 1910

  Ms. Cunningham open her studio in Seattle and went on to win acclaim for her pictorial and portraiture work. Most of her studio work came from sitters in their own home, in her living room or in the woods surrounding her cottage. In 1913, she became a sought after photographer and had an exhibition at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  In 1914, Ms. Cunnigham's works were shown at An International Exhibition of Photography in New York. Also, Wilson's Photographic Magazine published a portfolio of her work.

  In 1915 she married teacher and artist, Roi Partridge. He posed for a series of nudes, which were shown by the Seattle Fine Arts Society. Even though she was critically praised for her work, Ms. Cunningham did not revisit those photographs for another 55 years. Between the time she married in 1915 and 1920, she continued her work and had 3 children. In 1920 the family moved to San Francisco where Roi Partridge taught at Mills College.

Imo refined her style and began taking a greater interest in pattern and detail and becoming increasingly interested in botanical photography, especially flowers. She carried out an in-depth study of the magnolia flower between 1923 and 1925. Later on in the decade she turned her attention to an industrial theme, creating several industrial landscapes in Oakland and Los Angles.

  In 1929, photographer Edward Winston nominated 10 of her photographs for inclusion in the Film und Foto exhibition, which was held in Stuggart, Germany in May - June of 1929, and her renowned Two Callas, debuted in that exhibition.

Unmade Bed - 1957

  Once again Imo changed direction, particularly the human form and specifically hands of artist and musicians. This led her to be employed by Vanity Fair magazine, photographing stars without make-up. With unsentimental straightforwardness, in 1932 she became one of the 7 founding member of Group f/6, a group of San Francisco photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particular Western (U.S.) viewpoint.

  In 1934 Imo was invited to do some work for Vanity Fair in New York. She wanted to go and her husband wanted her to wait until he could go with her. She said no and went and they later divorced. She continued to work for the magazine until 1936, when it stopped publication.

Nude - 1936

  In 1940, while supporting herself with commercial and studio photography, Imo turned to documentary street photography. Ansel Adams, in 1945, invited Ms. Cunningham to accept a faculty position for the art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts.

  In 1973 her work was exhibited at the Rencontres d'Arles festival in France through the group exhibition : Trois photographes americaines, Imogen Cunningham, Linda Connor, Judy Dater. Ms. Cunningham was continuing her work taking photographs until shortly before her death at the age of 93 on June 24, 1976 in San Francisco, California.

Phoenix on Her Side - 1968

Nude - 1939

two sisters - 1928 

Imogen Cunningham and model/writer, Twinka - 1974 by Judy Dater

Gerard Malanga - poet, 1973

Dance 3 - 1926

Three Dancers - Mills College, 1929

Three Heads and Four Hands - 1964

Phoenix - 1969

Navajo Rug - 1968

Martha Graham


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