Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Interesting Self-Portraits of Imogen Cunningham

"So many people dislike themselves so thoroughly that they never see any reproduction of themselves that suits. None of us is born with the right face. It's a tough job being a portrait photographer." - Imogen Cunningham.

Born in Portland, Oregon, on April 12, 1883, Imogen was just 6 years old when her parents moved to Seattle. In 1901, at the age of eighteen, Cunningham bought her first camera, a 4x5 inch view camera, from the American School of Art in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She soon lost interest and sold the camera to a friend. It wasn’t until 1906, while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, that she was inspired by an encounter with the work of Gertrude Käsebier, to take up photography again. With the help of her chemistry professor, Dr. Horace Byers, she began to study the chemistry behind photography and she subsidized her tuition by photographing plants for the botany department. After graduating in 1907, Cunningham went to work for Edward S. Curtis in his Seattle studio, gaining knowledge about the portrait business and practical photography.

In 1909, Cunningham won a scholarship from her sorority (Pi Beta Phi) for foreign study and applied to study with Professor Robert Luther at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany. She decided to went off alone to Germany to study photography. She spent a year at the Technische Hochschule and returned home in 1910, where she opened her own portrait studio and became one of the first female professional photographers in America.

From 1906 to 1976, Imogen took self-portraits with her camera. Her first nude self portrait was described by Imogen: "My first nude photography was a self-portrait in the woods, 1906, on the University of Washington campus. I set it up and jumped into it, and that was it."

Self Portrait, 1906

Self Portrait in 1863 Costume, 1909

Self Portrait with Camera, 1912

Self Portrait with My Children, late 1920s

Self Portrait with Family, 1925

Self Portrait in Mirror, Hume, 1934

Self Portrait with Jane Foster, Lake Tenaya, 1939

Jane and Alice and Imogen, 1940

Self Portrait on Market Street, 1950

Self Portrait with Grandchildren in the Funhouse, 1955

Self Portrait in the Mother Lode, 1957

Self Portrait on Geary Street, 1958

Self Portrait, Denmark, 1961

Self Portrait in Broken Mirror, 1970

My Label, 1973

Self Portrait in Broken Mirror, 1973

Self Portrait with Bill Hammer, 1973

Self Portrait with Morris Graves, 1973

Self Portrait with Esther Bruton, 1974

Self Portrait, 1900s - 1974

(Photos by Imogen Cunningham; courtesy of The Imogen Cunningham Trust)

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