Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Imogen Cunningman: Photographer par excellence

Recently I was asked who taught me about shadows, tones, and textures for my art. I answered,"A big source was making studies from Imogen Cunningham's book titled, Flora, which I had found in a used book store." I thought the photography was wonderful and I wanted to know more about the artist.

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976)was born in Portland, Oregon. (Her father named her Imogen after the heroine in Shakespeare's Cymbeline.) Growing up, she took art lessons every summer. She found her medium in photography and bought her first camera at 18.

Her further education in photography was at the UW in Seattle where she studied chemistry in order to learn more about photo lab techniques. After graduation, she worked for the famed photographer, Edward Curtis.

Cunningham was about 26 years old when she received a grant to go to Germany for further study of photographic chemistry. She returned to Seattle and opened a portrait studio. (She was the only photographer who was a charter member of the Society of Seattle Artists. )

Her stunning work gained international recognition and exhibitions - Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and collected by the Smithsonian Institute.

Although it was her plant photos that caught my attention, she was also known for her nudes and industrial landscapes.

Were you familiar with her work? What do you think of her photography?


  1. Like with a lot of women artists, I never heard of her. Her photographs remind me of Weston's work.

  2. Amazing photos...will look out for her book...hope its still in print.
    love jx

  3. I have never heard of her, but her work is priceless!! FB

  4. I had heard of Imogene and love her work. cc

  5. Ooh, nice! i know her work from a collection of women's photography published in the 1970's ... along with other greats ...Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Gertrude Kasebier. I didn't know she was from Portland, though. Cool!

  6. @Birdie: You named most of the women photographers who were making a mark during the 20th Century - along with Cunningham. And, yes, she was a born and bred Northwesterner.