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Son of the renowned photographer Imogen Cunningham, Partridge began helping his mother in the darkroom at the age of five. At seventeen he became Dorothea Lange’s apprentice, driving her up and down the back roads of California as she created her well-known images of migrant laborers. In 1937 and 1938 he worked with Ansel Adams in Yosemite, taking the now-famous photograph, “Ansel in the High Sierra’s, late 1930s.”
Intimately associated with the great California photographers of his time, Partridge absorbed all the techniques his teachers could give him, yet he wears this lineage lightly, dedicating himself to following the paths down which his own unique genius leads him. For nearly 70 years he has been a professional photographer, making breathtakingly intimate portraits, devastating environmental statements, stunning architectural images, and capturing telling moments of California history. Eighty-five years old, he lives in Berkeley CA and still photographs every day.
1917 Born September 4th, 1917, in San Francisco to photographer Imogen Cunningham and etcher Roi Partridge.
1920–36 Raised near Mills College in Oakland, California, where his father teaches art.
1922 Begins to spend time in the darkroom with Imogen. Learns to develop film and make sun prints.
1932 Borrows a camera from Imogen and begins taking photographs and developing, printing, and selling them to his classmates and neighbors.
1934 Parents divorce. Partridge begins to assist Dorothea Lange occasionally.
1936 Graduates from high school in January and follows the California rodeo circuit, photographing the cowboys. Returns to Berkeley and assists Dorothea Lange for wages of one dollar a week, food, and cigarette money.
1937–39 Assistant to Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park and to Horace Bristol, a San Francisco photographer working on magazine assignments. Continues to work with Dorothea Lange.
1940 Works for the National Youth Administration, photographing in the western part of the United States. Photographs archived in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Works as a photojournalist for Black Star Publishing in New York.
1941 Marries Elizabeth Woolpert, a University of California law student. Joins the Navy in October and begins service in Navy Intelligence as a photographer.
1945 Daughter, Joan, is born. Partridge, discharged from the Navy in the fall, establishes freelance photographic business, primarily magazine and architectural photography. Extensively photographs his family and the urbanization of California.
1947 Son, Joshua John, is born.
1951 Daughter, Elizabeth, is born.
1953 Daughter, Margaret, is born.
1962 Son, Aaron, is born.
1963–75 Produces and directs films on: painter Wayne Thiebaud; Yosemite National Park, Pave It and Paint It Green; education, They’re Your Kids; and water reflections, The Water Movie. Assembles The Magic Lantern, a multi-projector presentation of hand-painted slides for the Oakland Museum of California. Photographs California’s growing pollution problems.
1972–73 Lecturer on photography and film at University of California, Santa Barbara.
1973–74 Lecturer on photography and film at California State University, Hayward.
1976 to present: Trustee for the Imogen Cunningham Trust.
1980 to present: Master printer for the Imogen Cunningham Trust.
1985 to present: Develops an interest in platinum printing. Gradually shifts his focus from silver printing to platinum.
Select Publications and Exhibitions
Rondal Partridge’s photographs have been published in LIFE, Time, Fortune, Harper's Bazaar, Look, Collier's, Scientific American, House Beautiful, House and Home, Ladies' Home Journal, Architectural Forum, Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, American Heritage, Sunset, Horizon, Think, Audubon, Cry California, Sierra, and Educational Facilities Laboratory publications. Many of his photographs were included in Peter Blake's God's Own Junkyard, William Bronson's How to Kill a Golden State, and Thomas D. Church’s Gardens Are For People.
Partridge’s photographs appear in exhibitions and collections, including the Golden Gate Exposition, 1939; Steichen’s Family of Man; the Museum of Modern Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the California Academy of Sciences; the Louvre; the National Archives; Fotografie Forum International; the Oakland Museum of California; and the California Historical Society.