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Imogen CunninghamRobert Tat Gallery presents a special exhibition of Imogen Cunningham photographs, featuring a selection of favorite images as well as rarely seen, original prints from the archive of the Imogen Cunningham Trust. The pairing of these Seen and Unseen photographs readily expresses the breadth and genius of the photographer’s oeuvre.
Seen and Unseen
Many of Cunningham’s photographs have become iconic images – including her Magnolia Blossoms, Triangles, Two Callas, Leaf Pattern, and The Unmade Bed. But during her remarkable 75 year career as a photographer, Imogen made many other photographs which are less recognized, yet still wonderful examples of her talent and eye for the image.
The Imogen Cunningham Trust holds a rich archive of these unsigned, original prints which were found in Imogen’s studio at the time of her passing. Most are vintage prints, some are unique. While some have been published, others have rarely been seen before.
These Unseen prints will be exhibited alongside some of Cunningham’s more commonly Seen images, as published by the Cunningham Trust. Imogen’s son, Rondall Partridge, has personally printed these Trust prints for over 30 years, emulating his mother’s printing style. Available in silver and platinum, these are the last Trust prints to be made by Rondall who has recently retired from printing.
Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976)
During the last years of her life, Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) happily assumed the role of grande dame of American photography. Encompassing one of the longest spans of any known photographer, her career began in 1901 when she learned platinum printing while working for Edward S. Curtis in Seattle. She continued making photographs until shortly before her death in 1976.
A turning point in Cunningham’s career came in 1929 when Edward Weston was asked to nominate the work of outstanding American photographers for inclusion in the Deutsche Werkbund’s important international exhibition "Film and Foto". He chose eight examples of Imogen’s work.
While raising her three sons in the 1920s, Cunningham had to stay close to home. But this did not deter her from making photographs. Working in her own garden, she created a series of plant studies that have become classics. In 1934 Imogen joined a group of photographers including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke dedicated to the sharply defined, "straight" photographic image to form "Group f/64." The name was chosen after the lens opening, f/64, which provides the ultimate resolution and depth of field.
Imogen Cunningham is possibly the first woman to exhibit photographs of the male nude. For years she worked on assignments for magazines, conducted a portrait studio, photographed Hollywood stars, and taught at the California School of Fine Arts.
In her last years, she became something of a celebrity in San Francisco, often seen around town with her black cape and camera. Cunningham’s work was frequently irreverent, always perceptive, and often years ahead of its time.