Imogen Cunningham

Famous Photographer

Imogen Cunningham, born in April 12, 1883, in Portland, Oregon, U.S., died June 24, 1976 in San Francisco, California.


Cunningham studied at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she developed an interest in photography. Her earliest prints were made in the tradition of Pictorialism, a style of photography that imitated academic painting from the turn of the century. After studying photography at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany, from 1909 to 1910, Cunningham opened a portrait studio in Seattle in 1910 and soon established a solid reputation.

Family Life

Cunningham was one of 10 children, she was named after a character in William Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Cunningham was home schools until age of 8 and she always had a affinity foe art and she bought her first camera 4x5 inch view camera at the age of 18.

In 1915 she met and married artist Roi Partridge.

Between 1915 and 1920 Cunningham continued her work and had three children (Gryffyd, Rondal, and Padraic) with Roi. Then in 1920 they left Seattle for San Francisco where Roi taught at Mills College.


Cunningham went to work with Edward S. Curtis in his Seattle studio that was her first job. This gave her insight into the commercial workings of a portrait business. In 1909 Cunningham won a scholarship from her sorority (Pi Beta Phi) which allowed her to study abroad. She decided to study at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany.

After returning from Dresden, she opened a portrait gallery in Seattle, Washington, and soon established a national reputation. Most of the work she did at her studio involved portraits and nature shots done around her cottage. In 1913 she exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Science. She had some of her photographs published in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine in 1914 and an exhibit in New York entitled “An International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography.”


Cunningham was best known for her sharply focused images of flowers and her revealing portraits. In 1932, Cunningham became one of the co-founders of the group F/64, which included such well known photographers as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams invited her to join the faculty at the first fine art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts.

Why she became Famous

She worked around 70 years in almost every area of photography. She photographed the world with a woman's eye, from different viewpoint.

In 1932 they assigned her to photograph the movies starts, she was invited to photograph Hollywood's artists.

What she said about her work

She used to think: "I don't talk about success I don't know what it is Wait until I'm dead.".

She didn't like to picture big models, she didn't like made portraits for living.

She says: "I' d never kill myself for a man I wouldn't do it for anybody."

What Others said about her work

She photographed a series of nude photographs of her husband, which were shown by the Seattle Fine Arts Society, although critically praised, she received negative response from society at large.

I appreciate about her work that she try to photographed the world from another perspective, in some of her photographs she get very close to the subjects, so it made you appreciate the details of every subject and I like the way that she used to think, because she use to say:

"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

I think that phrase means that nobody born for be perfect, so we should accept and love ourselves just the way that we are.


~Joseph Bellows, Richard Lorenz, 1992, take from:

~ Encyclopedia Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 12-17-2014, take from:

~About Teach, Judith Habert, take form:

~Brainy Quote, take form: