Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976) was born in Portland, Oregon. She was one of America’s finest photographers and one of a handful of great portrait artists. In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, she worked in almost every area of photography imaginable and in a variety of photographic styles, from soft-focus Pictorialism to sharp edge modernism.
Her father, Isaac Burns Cunningham, named Imogen after the heroine of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. He encouraged her to read before she entered school and paid for art lessons every summer.
After graduation Imogen worked in the Seattle portrait studio of Edward S. Curtis, the photographer who produced the twenty volumes of “The North American Indian.” Here she learned the techniques of platinum printing. In 1914, her first one-person exhibition was held at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.
Ten of her photographs were exhibited in the prestigious Film and Foto ExhibItion in Stuttgart, Germany. As an original member of Group f.64 she participated in the exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco and had a one-person exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum.
Imogen Cunningham was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland. Cunningham was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to print from her early negatives. The University of Washington Press published her first book, “Imogen Cunningham: Photographs” and the Smithsonian Institution has purchased a major collection of her work.
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