It’s simple sufficient to develop the phantasm that the legendary names commemorated all through the historical past of images have been someway so completely different from ourselves. Whereas’s it’s definitely true that the photographic local weather has modified, we nonetheless share the identical ardour for the artwork as those that clicked shutters fifty years or perhaps a century in the past. Lots of them confronted the identical challenges, inspirations, successes and failures as we do. Maybe that’s why I like studying extra in regards to the giants of images and making use of classes from their work to my pictures.

On this installment of “Classes from the Masters,” we’re going to take a more in-depth take a look at the work of the estimable Imogen Cunningham. Her dedication and herculean achievements positioned her working alongside different formative photographers of the 20th century. The contributions she made to images as an artwork helped form the photographic panorama we all know at this time.

Imogen Cunningham


Self Portrait with Korona View, 1933 ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Belief

Named after the heroine of the Shakespearean play Cymbeline, Imogen Cunningham entered this world on April 12th, 1883. Born to slightly paradoxical mother and father (her father a spiritualist and her mom Methodist) in Portland, Oregon she was a self-described “ill-tempered” baby.

When she was 18 years previous, she saved sufficient cash to buy (by way of mail order) her first digicam in 1903, a 4×5 kind, together with a field of glass plate negatives. She then started instructing herself make pictures. Cunningham knew images could be her life’s work though her path wouldn’t be a direct one.

Following her commencement from the College of Washington with a level in Chemistry in 1907, Imogen labored with Edward Curtis at his Seattle studio. There, she honed her abilities within the darkroom whereas printing his iconic photographs of Native People and the American West.

Two years later, Cunningham acquired a $500 grant which enabled her to proceed her research overseas in Germany. Throughout this time she developed theories on photographic chemistry nonetheless practiced at this time.

On her return to the west coast from Europe, Imogen made a well-known pilgrimage which different notable artists of the time typically made and ventured to New York Metropolis for a gathering with the legendary Alfred Stieglitz at his “291” gallery. Stieglitz launched her to Gertrude Käsebier who was the primary skilled feminine industrial photographer at the moment.

After this influential assembly, Imogen dedicated her power to images. She opened a studio in Seattle, Washington and shortly made a reputation for herself via portraits.

It was this studio the place Imogen made her dwelling whereas discovering time to delve into extra private work earlier than relocating to California in 1917. Sadly for us, she left nearly all of her pictures and negatives behind, so there isn’t a big wealth of examples from that interval of her profession. In 1929, the Movie und Foto Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany, included a ten-piece number of Cunningham’s work. The fabled Group f/64 would kind a number of years later to which Imogen was a founding member. Different founding members included her buddy Edward Weston in addition to Henry Swift, John Paul Edwards, Sonja Noskowiak, Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke. Over time, Imogen Cunningham’s physique of labor could be as eclectic because it was groundbreaking.


Imogen photographing Ansel Adams…photographing Half Dome in 1953. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Belief

After dwelling a unprecedented lifetime of images, Imogen Cunningham handed away on June 23rd, 1976 in San Francisco, California on the age of 93.

Now that you already know somewhat bit in regards to the individual, let’s dig somewhat deeper. We’ll take a look at a number of of the numerous the teachings you may study from the life, work, and angle of Imogen Cunningham which may help to enhance your images.

Prolong your vary

Imogen Cunningham’s alternative in material was ‘various’ to say the least. From her earliest pictorial work to her self portraits and nudes, it’s protected to say that the concept of sticking to at least one topic and even one style for that matter was not one thing that held again the inventive spirit of Imogen Cunningham. She believed that pictures offered themselves to her organically.

She seldom went “in search of issues to shoot,” as a substitute preferring to permit the subject material to enchantment to her aesthetic consciousness. I imply, come on, she was even one of many early practitioners of avenue images earlier than there was avenue images!


Hashbury, 1967. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Belief

Lots of Imogen’s most iconic pictures gravitated in the direction of the usage of mild and shadow to current widespread scenes in a unprecedented manner by accentuating texture and shapes. She may look previous what a topic was to see what it might be. This superbly simplistic aesthetic is likely one of the causes so many Cunningham prints carry a timeless enchantment.


The Unmade Mattress, 1957. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Belief

Typically we discover ourselves concentrating so vigorously on acquiring a specific {photograph} that we overlook different alternatives to supply nice work. Whereas it’s true that we will and may visualize how we would like the ultimate picture to seem, the method is commonly helped alongside if we stay versatile.


One among my favourite pictures by Imogen Cunningham, “Callas” from round 1925. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Belief

Don’t enable your self to be mired down by one specific topic or location. That is very true for us at this time whereas bombarded by social media accounts producing visually comparable pictures in response to a theme slightly than private expression. This results in an nearly unconscious dulling down of creativity.


My very own nonetheless life picture of lilies making use of sunshine and texture to convey out the refined class of a easy topic.

{Photograph} something and all the things that you simply please – even when won’t match with what you usually shoot.

Really feel the concern…then do it anyway

One among my favourite quotes from Imogen Cunningham goes like this:

“…you may’t anticipate issues to be clean and straightforward and delightful. You simply must work, discover your manner out, and do something you may your self.”

Indubitably, Imogen was a strongly unbiased, succesful and witty lady who pursued her work with an depth of goal. On the identical time, she was human. She confronted challenges, hardships, and concern simply as all of us do.



The important thing to overcoming your self-doubt is to maintain shifting ahead. I feel that’s what Cunningham was getting at right here. It’s not that we must always attempt to be fearless however as a substitute work to be tireless within the face of concern or our insecurity.

In the case of images, there’ll at all times be areas the place we don’t really feel as educated or proficient as we wish. Nevertheless, that shouldn’t cut back you to pondering you’ll at all times really feel that manner. Take it from Imogen. Work onerous and settle for that you simply received’t at all times end up in simple conditions. However by no means, by no means, by no means quit.

Interface with different photographers

Surrounded by different photographers, like many different defining artists of her time, Imogen cherished discussing all features of picture work. As a founding member of Group f/64, she understood the worth of sharing concepts and ideas with different photographers who approached the medium with the identical zeal as she did. They realized from each other and labored to additional the craft.

Some of the enlightening and pleasing issues I’ve ever executed on this regard was to begin the continued ITOW (In Their Personal Phrases) Mission. This mission consists of interviewing different photographers that I both know personally or work together with on social media. The insights gained via these discussions proceed to assist deepen my very own appreciation for the way in which different folks see images.


By Seth Doyle by way of Unsplash

Each time potential, take the time to get to know different photographers and focus on images brazenly and truthfully. This doesn’t imply you must strike up a dialog with anybody you see is carrying a digicam, nevertheless it’s at all times attention-grabbing to look at how different folks go about making their photographs and why.

Worldwide communication has by no means been extra intensive or available. We now have the aptitude of connecting with folks whom we might have by no means identified existed in any other case. One of many best belongings we’ve got for development in our work is by interacting with different individuals who respect the worth of images.

Parting ideas on Imogen Cunningham

Having been lucky sufficient to view a few of Imogen’s authentic prints, it’s simple for me to grasp why she was, and nonetheless is, one of the influential and completed photographers of all time. Together with different pioneering photographers, we owe a debt of gratitude to Imogen for serving to advance images to the unimaginable medium we all know at this time.

The teachings we will study from her work prolong effectively past the photographic. She helped present that magnificence is present in locations and objects we see daily and that we will accomplish nearly any aim – regardless of how distant it might appear.

I urge you to study extra about Imogen Cunningham, her pictures and her fantastic instance of dwelling a full life.

Creator’s Observe: I wish to prolong my immense appreciation to The Imogen Cunningham Belief for allowing the usage of lots of the pictures offered on this article. 

!function (f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {
if (f.fbq) return
n = f.fbq = function () {
n.callMethod ?
n.callMethod.apply(n, arguments) : n.queue.push(arguments)
if (!f._fbq) f._fbq = n
n.push = n
n.loaded = !0
n.version = ‘2.0’
n.queue = []
t = b.createElement(e)
t.async = !0
t.src = v
s = b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0]
s.parentNode.insertBefore(t, s)
document, ‘script’, ‘’)

fbq(‘init’, ‘1420262834888800’)
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’)

Shop Amazon