Born in 1883 in Oregan’s city Portland, Imogen Cunningham was an America photographer known for industrial landscapes, botanical photography and nudes. In 1901, when she was 18 years old, Cunningham got her camera from Pennsylvania’s American School of Art. The talented lady grew up in Washington, D.C. and studied at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her professor advised her to learn science if she wanted to become a photographer. She paid for the tuition by taking pictures of plants for the department of botany. Hence she majored in chemistry and her thesis was Modern Processes of Photography.
After her graduation in 1907, she began working in a studio in Seattle owned by Edward S.Curtis. From Curtis, she learned about the practicalities of photography and knowledge about the portrait business.
Cunningham received a scholarship from Pi Beta Phi, her sorority, in 1909. Hence, she applied for the Technische Hochschule in Dresden to study with Robert Luther, a professor in Germany. At this time, her main focus was her education. A year later, she completed working on her assignment which aimed to describe ways to increase the pace of printing, generate sepia tones and bring advancements in the lucidity of highlight tones.
Later in Seattle, she opened her own studio and earned commendations for pictorial and portraiture work. She took images of people sitting in the woods, in her lounge or in their own houses. She became a popular photographer and displayed her work in 1913 at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Sciences.
After one year, portraits shot by her were displayed in New York at An International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography. Moreover, she work was published in the Wilson’s Photographic Magazine.
In 1915, she tied herself in the matrimonial relationship with an artist and teacher, Roi Patridge. He became the subject of nude photography and the Seattle Fine Arts Society exhibited the photos. Until 1920, she continued with her professional career and in the meantime also gave birth to three sons Padriac, Rondal and Gryffyd. After this, the family shifted to San Francisco.
Imogen Cunningham became interested in details and patterns and she began leaning towards botanical photography, particularly of flowers. Thus, she did an extensive study on magnolia flower for two years starting from 1923. Later in the same decade, she started working on industrial landscapes in Oakland and Los Angeles. In 1929, her ten photos were nominated by Edward Weston for an exhibition, Film und Foto.
Moving on, Cunningham again changed her roads and became interested in human body and form, especially hands. She was fascinated with musicians’ and artists’ hands. As a result, she was hired by Vanity Fair to photograph celebrities sans makeup. Her straightforward approach led her into being a co-founder of Group f/64. In 1934, Cunningham divorced her husband in order to continue working with Vanity Fair until 1936.
She began working on street photography in the 1940s. This was just a pass time while she supported her living with studio and commercial photography. In 1945, she on an invitation by Ansel Adams joined the California School of Fine Arts as an art photography teacher. Minor White and Dorothea Lange also joined the same place.
Imogen Cunningham continued to photograph subjects she liked exposing until the time she died in June 1976 when she was 93 years old.