Born in Portland, Oregon in 1883, Imogen Cunningham became one of
the major photographers of the last century. Imogen studied chemistry
at the University of Washington, where she wrote a 1907 thesis on the
chemical process of photography. One of her first photographs was a
1906 nude self-portrait, taken on an isolated spot on the UW campus
with a 4" x 5" mail-order camera.
After graduation, Imogen worked for Seattle photographer Edward
Curtis, who documented the American Indian culture. She established
her own studio in 1910, becoming one of the very first professional
woman photographers. She encouraged other women to join her,
publishing an article in 1913 titled Photography as a Profession
In 1917, Imogen moved to San Francisco with her husband, artist Roi
Partridge. There, she met Edward Westin and other photographers and
artists. In 1932, Imogen, Ansel Adams, Edward Westin, and others,
founded Group f/64, which promoted photography and helped to
establish photography as an art form. After several of her
photographs of dancer Martha Graham were published by
Vanity Fair in the early 30s, the magazine employed her to
photograph many celebrities and political figures of the time.
Imogen became widely known for her portraits, flower images, and nudes.
She worked as a photographer until her death at the age of
ninety-three in 1976.
We have four Imogen Cunningham photographs on the 6th floor of the
Allen Center. These are gelatin silver "Estate Prints," printed by
her son Ron after her death. The prints include Portrait of the Artist
Frida Kahlo (1931), a flower still-life
False Hellebore (1926), and Dance 3 (1926), a photograph of three
dance students at Cornish School on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Our most recent
addition is the 1933 Self-portrait with Korona View Camera.
Photographs © The Imogen Cunningham Trust.