Imogen Cunningham by niamh mcinally

Who was Imogen Cunningham?

Imogen Cunningham (1883 - 1976) was an American photographer known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes.

What was she known for?

Imogen Cunningham was known for her sharply focused, detailed photographs of plants as well as her revealing portraits. Cunningham took many well-known portraits of celebrities and artists, especially while working for the popular magazine, Vanity Fair, in the 1930s.

What processes was she known for?

In a career that spanned most of the 20th Century, Imogen Cunningham worked in almost every area of photography imaginable and in a variety of photographic styles, from Pictorialism to Modernism.

In the later stages of her photographic work, she moved even further from her earlier photographs, using negative printing, solarization, double exposure and other unconventional processes to produce images.

What equipment did she use?

Imogen Cunningham purchased her first camera when she was 18-years-old. It was a $15 mail-order kit that consisted of a wooden 4x5-inch format camera with an instruction booklet. Cunningham's son, Rondal Patridge, remembers her most frequently used cameras which are listed below:

- 4x5 view camera (1923-1928)

- 4x5 Revolving back Graflex with an 8 inch Tessar lens (1925-1976)

- Super Ikonta B (1936-1946)

- In 1945, Cunningham bought the first of three Rollieflexes - cameras she used increasingly for the rest of her life

Cunningham's son, who joined her in the darkroom at an early age, remembers standing on a box at the sink during the early 1920s. He remembers that his mother developed "large format film in ABC pyro and judged development by inspection". Both Cunningham's darkrooms (in Oakland, then San Francisco) were in the basement. (

Below is a YouTube video about Imogen Cunningham and her photographic work.

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