Imogen Cunningham was a famous American
photographer who flourished in the 1920’s and 1930’s where she is most known
for her close-up plant and flower portraits, her nude studies, and her industrial
landscapes. In 1901, Cunningham bought her first camera at the age 18 but soon
lost interest in the art form. However, she soon rekindled her love for it in
1906 when she took up photography as a medium after being inspired by the work
of Gertrude Käsebier. Her work consists of both a Pictoralist style, with
soft-focus fuzzy portraits, and her later work with a Modernist style, with
sharp focused images. Her style changed later in her career, when Cunningham
was a part of Group f/64 which not only dismissed pictorialism, but promoted
photography and helped to establish it as its own art form.

Group f/64, formed in 1932, was an
informal group of 11 California-based American photographers, including Ansel
Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham. Group f/64 was against the
dominant style of Pictorialism, where photographers used soft-focus lenses to
make photos look like drawings. The group believed in what they called ‘pure’
photography. “‘Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of
technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.’ —Group f/64
Manifesto, August 1932.” (Artsy, n.d.) Which meant images
were made with sharp lenses, hence the name f/64, refereeing to the smallest
aperture setting on a digital camera, which gives the sharpest depth of field.
Group f/64 wanted photography, as an arm form, to embrace its natural strengths
and to focus on clarity and sharp definition of the un-manipulated photographic
image. Because of this, Group f/64 helped establish photography as its own art
form by staying true to the photographic medium. Images by Group f/64 members
imitated a Modernist viewpoint, and  
Cunningham’s close-up plant photographs and her nude studies reflected
the groups ideals and viewpoint on pure photography.

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Before joining Group
f/64, Imogen Cunningham opened her own portrait studio in Seattle, Washington
in 1910. Establishing a solid reputation for herself, she became one of the
very first professional female photographers in America. Her early work
consisted of mainly portraits and nude interpretations in the pictorialism
style “She was fond of dressing her subjects in costumes and photographing them
in soft-focus, dream-like poses as she recreated scenes and characters from
literature and poetry.” (Encyclopaedia 2016). One of her early photographs, Eve Repentant (Figure 1) recreates the
biblical story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where God created the
first man and women and put them in the Garden of Eden to care and nurture the
land. Adam and Eve was told they could eat any fruit from the trees except the
forbidden fruit on the tree of good and evil, they were warned that they would
die if the forbidden fruit was eaten. One day, Satan, disguised as a snake,
spoke to Eve and convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit by telling her she
would become like God if she ate it. Eve then took a bite and gave some to
Adam. Adam and Eve, knowing they sinned, hid from God, but God found out and
punished them and banished them from the Garden of Eden. This photograph features
a naked woman, portrayed as Eve, placing her hand on a man’s, portrayed as
Adam, shoulder as he turns away. Adam and Eve are seen in what is depicted as
the Garden of Eden, and it looks as though Adam and Eve are repenting their
sins, feeling regret and shame. Adam is turned away, looking down, and Eve is
comforting him and holding him, showing a worried expression. In the photograph
we see a vignette tone and a fuzzy, soft, dream-like light around Adam and Eve,
drawing the viewer’s eyes to the subject, and makes a narrative for the viewer
to interpret. Cunningham creates this contrast between the background and the
subject, however, that it seems that she only wanted to bring the subject to
attention to show the viewer the strong connection that Adam and Eve have and
to bring focus on the stances of their bodies, the angle and the pattern of
both the bodies. In Adam and Eve, the lines of their body, the curves, muscles,
creases, and bones, like the spine and pubic bone are all visible. Adam and Eve
are completely bare and every detail is noticeable to the viewer, not just the
natural form of their bodies, but their ashamed emotions and their
vulnerability as they stand there in that position in the dark and cold
surroundings, it appears this is the mood that Cunningham wanted to convey in
this specific work. Adam and Eve are completely alone and are guilt-ridden.
After this photograph was published in 1910, it was part of a great public
controversy. People disagreed with Cunningham’s nude interpretation of the Adam
and Eve story because in the Biblical story there is no stated record of Adam
and Ever repenting. The last that is mentioned about Adam and Eve is how they
hid their sin and were punished and banished from the Garden, only one can
speculate the immediate response or emotions they felt, which is what
Cunningham decided to show in this photograph.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s
Cunningham’s work moved to a “starkly geometrical style of straight
photography.” (Warner
Marien 2014 p. 269).
A notable example of this is her photograph Triangles
Plus One (Figure 2) which is the full version of the photograph Triangles which only shows one woman and
not both one, hence the ‘plus one’ in the title. This photograph was
photographed in 1928 but was officially printed in 1993 by Rondal Partidge,
Cunningham’s son. In this image two women are pictured bare, one sitting up,
and one more in a relaxed position, laying down. By comparing the body to
geometry, Cunningham creates a more artistic way to view the body. With this
photograph, triangles are seen
in every small dip, roll, curve, and line in the natural form of the body. In
the foreground the woman is more relaxed is pictured and a triangle is shown in her pubic area, drawn
together by her thigh, which is propped over to create a crease to show the
edge of the shape. The women sitting up also creates a crease with her leg
which displays a triangle shape with the shadow. Triangles are also shown by
the shape of both women’s breasts, through the form, shape, and shadows
presented in the image. Triangles are also formed in the negative space of the
image, with the lines and shadows present. Through the sharp clarity, the
shadows, the texture, and the contrast in colour between the skin and the bodies
of both women, Cunningham highlights the comparison between natural life and
art and how still natural forms of life can be aesthetically pleasing.

Imogen
Cunningham was one of the first professional female photographers in America
and is renowned the most influential and enduring photographers in the 20th
century. Early in her career she focused on dream-like Pictoralist style
portraits and narratives using nude subjects but later started to experiment
with sharper images and moved to more of a straight photography, which helped
her find other photographers interested in this style, and thus created Group
f/64; which was made to preserve photography as its own art form having sharp
focused, unaltered photos. In Cunningham’s successful photographic career, her
work which is comprised of bold line and textures, sensitive and soft forms,
was exhibited numerous time and continues to be collected and inspires artist
everywhere.Imogen Cunningham was a famous American
photographer who flourished in the 1920’s and 1930’s where she is most known
for her close-up plant and flower portraits, her nude studies, and her industrial
landscapes. In 1901, Cunningham bought her first camera at the age 18 but soon
lost interest in the art form. However, she soon rekindled her love for it in
1906 when she took up photography as a medium after being inspired by the work
of Gertrude Käsebier. Her work consists of both a Pictoralist style, with
soft-focus fuzzy portraits, and her later work with a Modernist style, with
sharp focused images. Her style changed later in her career, when Cunningham
was a part of Group f/64 which not only dismissed pictorialism, but promoted
photography and helped to establish it as its own art form.

Group f/64, formed in 1932, was an
informal group of 11 California-based American photographers, including Ansel
Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham. Group f/64 was against the
dominant style of Pictorialism, where photographers used soft-focus lenses to
make photos look like drawings. The group believed in what they called ‘pure’
photography. “‘Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of
technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.’ —Group f/64
Manifesto, August 1932.” (Artsy, n.d.) Which meant images
were made with sharp lenses, hence the name f/64, refereeing to the smallest
aperture setting on a digital camera, which gives the sharpest depth of field.
Group f/64 wanted photography, as an arm form, to embrace its natural strengths
and to focus on clarity and sharp definition of the un-manipulated photographic
image. Because of this, Group f/64 helped establish photography as its own art
form by staying true to the photographic medium. Images by Group f/64 members
imitated a Modernist viewpoint, and  
Cunningham’s close-up plant photographs and her nude studies reflected
the groups ideals and viewpoint on pure photography.

Before joining Group
f/64, Imogen Cunningham opened her own portrait studio in Seattle, Washington
in 1910. Establishing a solid reputation for herself, she became one of the
very first professional female photographers in America. Her early work
consisted of mainly portraits and nude interpretations in the pictorialism
style “She was fond of dressing her subjects in costumes and photographing them
in soft-focus, dream-like poses as she recreated scenes and characters from
literature and poetry.” (Encyclopaedia 2016). One of her early photographs, Eve Repentant (Figure 1) recreates the
biblical story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where God created the
first man and women and put them in the Garden of Eden to care and nurture the
land. Adam and Eve was told they could eat any fruit from the trees except the
forbidden fruit on the tree of good and evil, they were warned that they would
die if the forbidden fruit was eaten. One day, Satan, disguised as a snake,
spoke to Eve and convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit by telling her she
would become like God if she ate it. Eve then took a bite and gave some to
Adam. Adam and Eve, knowing they sinned, hid from God, but God found out and
punished them and banished them from the Garden of Eden. This photograph features
a naked woman, portrayed as Eve, placing her hand on a man’s, portrayed as
Adam, shoulder as he turns away. Adam and Eve are seen in what is depicted as
the Garden of Eden, and it looks as though Adam and Eve are repenting their
sins, feeling regret and shame. Adam is turned away, looking down, and Eve is
comforting him and holding him, showing a worried expression. In the photograph
we see a vignette tone and a fuzzy, soft, dream-like light around Adam and Eve,
drawing the viewer’s eyes to the subject, and makes a narrative for the viewer
to interpret. Cunningham creates this contrast between the background and the
subject, however, that it seems that she only wanted to bring the subject to
attention to show the viewer the strong connection that Adam and Eve have and
to bring focus on the stances of their bodies, the angle and the pattern of
both the bodies. In Adam and Eve, the lines of their body, the curves, muscles,
creases, and bones, like the spine and pubic bone are all visible. Adam and Eve
are completely bare and every detail is noticeable to the viewer, not just the
natural form of their bodies, but their ashamed emotions and their
vulnerability as they stand there in that position in the dark and cold
surroundings, it appears this is the mood that Cunningham wanted to convey in
this specific work. Adam and Eve are completely alone and are guilt-ridden.
After this photograph was published in 1910, it was part of a great public
controversy. People disagreed with Cunningham’s nude interpretation of the Adam
and Eve story because in the Biblical story there is no stated record of Adam
and Ever repenting. The last that is mentioned about Adam and Eve is how they
hid their sin and were punished and banished from the Garden, only one can
speculate the immediate response or emotions they felt, which is what
Cunningham decided to show in this photograph.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s
Cunningham’s work moved to a “starkly geometrical style of straight
photography.” (Warner
Marien 2014 p. 269).
A notable example of this is her photograph Triangles
Plus One (Figure 2) which is the full version of the photograph Triangles which only shows one woman and
not both one, hence the ‘plus one’ in the title. This photograph was
photographed in 1928 but was officially printed in 1993 by Rondal Partidge,
Cunningham’s son. In this image two women are pictured bare, one sitting up,
and one more in a relaxed position, laying down. By comparing the body to
geometry, Cunningham creates a more artistic way to view the body. With this
photograph, triangles are seen
in every small dip, roll, curve, and line in the natural form of the body. In
the foreground the woman is more relaxed is pictured and a triangle is shown in her pubic area, drawn
together by her thigh, which is propped over to create a crease to show the
edge of the shape. The women sitting up also creates a crease with her leg
which displays a triangle shape with the shadow. Triangles are also shown by
the shape of both women’s breasts, through the form, shape, and shadows
presented in the image. Triangles are also formed in the negative space of the
image, with the lines and shadows present. Through the sharp clarity, the
shadows, the texture, and the contrast in colour between the skin and the bodies
of both women, Cunningham highlights the comparison between natural life and
art and how still natural forms of life can be aesthetically pleasing.

Imogen
Cunningham was one of the first professional female photographers in America
and is renowned the most influential and enduring photographers in the 20th
century. Early in her career she focused on dream-like Pictoralist style
portraits and narratives using nude subjects but later started to experiment
with sharper images and moved to more of a straight photography, which helped
her find other photographers interested in this style, and thus created Group
f/64; which was made to preserve photography as its own art form having sharp
focused, unaltered photos. In Cunningham’s successful photographic career, her
work which is comprised of bold line and textures, sensitive and soft forms,
was exhibited numerous time and continues to be collected and inspires artist
everywhere.