Imogen Cunningham




Imogen Cunningham


American, 1883-1976

Imogen Cunningham

It might be interesting to compare Imogen Cunningham's "Leaf Pattern" here with Strand's botanical photo. In a technical sense both pictures are straight photographs; Cunningham's picture is approximately as faithful a rendering of what her camera was pointed at as Strand's is of his subject. It is nonetheless clear that Cunningham was less interested in what the plant was than in what else it might become under pressure, photographed in the right light from the right vantage point.



Imogen Cunningham

In this sense her picture is more typical of the twenties than Strand's is. Photography in that decade had discovered a battery of new ideas and perspectives that could alter the familiar appearance of things, among which was the closeup, natural-form pattern photograph. It would seem that a million such photographs were made during the period in Germany alone.



Imogen Cunningham

Cunningham's spectacularly handsome picture remains exciting because it avoids the vacuous predictability that identifies so many of these design-in-mother-nature photographs.



Imogen Cunningham

The liveliness and surprise of this image depend upon the fact that she recognized and used not only the forms of the plant itself, but also the temporary and accidental forms created by the interstices between its leaves, and by overlapping, and by the effect of the dramatic-even theatrical-light. Cunningham has discovered a new structure, made half of fact and half of aspect, which amplifies the structure of her subject.

from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski





Imogen Cunningham / recommended books
Imogen Cunningham 1883 - 1976

This title collects the best of photographer Imogen Cunningham's work. Spanning all the genres used in her work, the book presents the images which marked Cunningham as one of the early pioneers of the photographic medium from her 1920's plant images to her speciality, portraiture.


Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without End A Life and Photographs

Ideas without End offers the first complete retrospective of 100 of her photographs -- the majority of which have never been published -- from her earliest efforts at the turn of the century to the many now-famous images. A biographical essay by Richard Lorenz, a chronology of Cunningham's life and work, and a bibliography are also included in this superb collection, at once a beautiful portfolio and an enduring tribute to a gifted and compelling artist.



Imogen Cunningham quotes
  • Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow.


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