Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham
Self-Portrait with Korona View, 1933
Specialty Botanical photos, nudes, industrial landscapes
Born Apr. 12, 1883
Died June 24, 1976
Nationality American

Imogen Cunningham was a famous American photographer. She is best known for her botanical photography, industrial landscapes, and nudes.

Early Life

Imogen Cunningham was born on April 13, 1883, in Portland, Oregon. When she turned 13, she bought her very first camera, which was a 5.5 inch view camera that she purchased from the American School of Art in Pennsylvania. After a while, she lost interest in this camera and sold it to her friend.

In 1906, while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, she got inspired after an encounter with work of Gertrude Kasabier to try photography once again. With the aid of her chemistry teacher, she started studying the chemistry behind photographs and even subsidized her own tuition by photographing some plants for the school’s botany department. In 1907, Cunningham graduated from the University of Washington.

Post-Graduation Career

After her graduation, Cunningham’s first job was with Edward Curtis in his own Seattle studio. Here, she gained knowledge about portrait business and practical photography. Two years later, she won a scholarship for foreign study.

She traveled to Germany and concentrated on her studies without taking many photographs. In May of 1910, she completed her paper in which she described a process used to increase the speed of printing, improve clarity of the highlighted tones and also produce sepia tones. After this, she went back to Seattle.

Life Back in Seattle

In Seattle, Imogen opened her studio and even won acclaim for her pictorial works. Most of her work during this time basically composed of sitters at their homes, in the woods, or in her own living room. Within a short time, she was a sought after studio photographer and even exhibited her work at Brooklyn Academy in 1913.

After two years, in 1915, she married Roi Patridge, a teacher and artist. Her husband posed for a numerous nude photographs. Between 1915 and 1920, Imogen continued her work in photography and had three children. In 1920, the family moved to San Francisco where her husband taught at Mills College.

Cunningham’s Other Major Works

Cunningham2Imogen Cunningham changed her photography style with time. Before long, she took greater interest in the pattern and detail of her subjects. Her interest was directed to botanical photography, especially flowers. Between 1923 and 1925, she took a serious study of a magnolia flower. Later on, she turned her interest toward industry, taking numerous landscape photographs in Oakland and Los Angeles.

Once again, Imogen changed direction and became interested in human form, especially the hands. She was fascinated with hands of musicians and other artists. She was even employed by Vanity Fair, where she photographed stars without makeup. In 1932, she became a co-founder of Group f/64.

Later Years

In the 1940s, Imogen turned to documentary of street photography. This was a side project since she still supported herself with commercial and other studio photography. In 1945, she was invited to take a position as a faculty member for the art of photography department at California Schools of Fine Arts.

In 1973, her work exhibited at Rebcontres d’Arles festival held in France. Imogen continued with photography until her death on June 24, 1976. She was 93 years old.

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