Imogen Cunningham

Born 1883 in the USA. Grew up in Seattle, and studied at The University of Washington. Admiring female photographer Gertrude Kasebier, she aspired to become a photographer herself, and recommended by her professor to acquire some scientific knowledge first, she chose chemistry as her major at university.

After graduating, she started working at Edward D. Curtis's photo studio, where she mastered the art of platinum printing. In 1909, she won a university scholarship and went to Dresden, Germany, to study photographic chemistry. After returning to Seattle, she set up her own photo studio, and began to produce picturesque soft-focus photographs mainly of herself and friends dressed up.

Published "Photography as a Profession for Women", in which Cunningham talks about making efforts for oneself, and encourages female awareness and independence. In 1914, her first solo exhibition was held at Brooklyn Museum. Around the same time, she married Seattle-based printmaker Roy Partridge, and gave birth to their son. Roy got a teaching job at Mills College in Oakland, for which he moved to California and therefore closed his studio. Their twin boys were born in 1917.

In the 1920s, Cunningham replaced her former soft-focus style with focused close-ups of plants, and photographs of industrial sceneries and architectural structures from unique perspectives. It is not least because of these works, in which she skillfully handles light, shapes and abstract patterns, that Imogen Cunningham is counted among the pioneers of contemporary photography on the American West Coast. In 1932, photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston set up the "Group f/64", which Cunningham joined as well. In 1934, she was commissioned to shoot for "Vanity Fair" magazine in New York, taking Alfred Stieglitz's portrait among others.

She left her husband behind and went to New York, which led to their divorce. After returning from New York, Cunningham began to take street snaps. In the 1950s, she photographed the poets of the beat generation, and in the 60s, the flower children in Haight-Ashbury, the cradle of the hippie movement in San Francisco.

In 1970, at the age of 87, she received a Guggenheim scholarship, and made prints of her old negatives, while at the same time expressing her stance against the Vietnam War. Even in the last years of her life, Cunningham continued her energetic work until shortly before death, embarking on her final project at the age of 92. She didn't manage to finish the project, a book collecting portraits of people in their 90s, but the book was eventually completed and published after Cunningham's death.


  • Imogen Cunningham

    The Eye of Imogen Cunningham

    Portfolio The Eye of Imogen Cunningham

    Leading 20th century photographer Imogen Cunningham was active from the early 1900s until the mid-70s. This portfolio contains 25 representative items selected from her catalogue of works, divided into five periods from early to mature and very late years. Housed in a specially made box, the portfolio is one item that perfectly showcases Imogen Cunningham's universe of sublime beauty.
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