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         IMOGEN  CUNNINGHAM     
         1883–1976

imogen cunningham

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During a remarkable career that spanned seven decades, Imogen Cunningham produced a diverse body of work that mirrored the course of American photography through much of the twentieth century. She acquired her first camera in 1905, and her early portraits and figure studies were in the soft-focus, pictorial mode that defined art photography of the day. In the mid-1920s, her work took a new direction when she adopted a sharp-focus, modernist aesthetic to create boldly rendered images of plants, nudes, and industrial landscapes. Although formal portraiture became Cunningham's mainstay after 1930, she continued to explore other aspects of her medium, including still-life, documentary, and street photography. Wide public recognition eluded Cunningham for most of her career, but when it came late in life, she delighted in her newfound celebrity. Describing his encounter with Cunningham for ARTnews, Abe Frajndlich recalled, "She was in her garden, and she started holding her garden shears . . . as a play on the way I was holding my camera. That was Imogen—a woman totally alive and witty at 91."

Abe Frajndlich (born 1946)
Gelatin silver print, 1975 (printed 1997)
Published April 1991
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Paulette and Kurt Olden
in memory of Lily E. Kay

Photo ©Abe Frajndlich
(Printable page)

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