Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective

Paul Martineau and Susan Ehrens. Getty, $50 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60606-675-1
Getty Museum photography curator Martineau and historian Ehrens (A Poetic Vision) succeed marvelously in their mission to “update, reevaluate, and celebrate” the groundbreaking work of the early feminist photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976). The lavishly illustrated volume features more than 200 color plates and 186 pages of stunningly reproduced illustrations, with text that draws on Cunningham’s correspondence, journals, and previously unpublished interviews. In a novel turn, the authors shed light on Cunningham’s thoughts on the “stress of being in a male-dominated profession” and the fact that “Cunningham felt disparaged by some of her male colleagues” who “downplayed her talent and influence.” Born in Portland, Ore., Cunningham started taking photographs after seeing Gertrude Kasebier’s work, and later apprenticed with Native American photographer Edward S. Curtis before studying in Germany. She returned to Seattle in 1910, worked as a portrait photographer while raising a family, and in 1920 began selling the nude, botanical, and modernist images for which she became famous. The narrative is strongest when describing how Cunningham kept afloat financially after her 1934 divorce (shooting for Vanity Fair, continuing to make portraits, and teaching) before finally earning international acclaim in the 1960s. This standout offering impresses on every page. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 11/24/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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