Imogen Cunningham was a photographer who is best known for her stunning close-ups of flowers even though her first love was portraiture. After graduating from the University of Washington as a chemistry major, Cunningham worked in the portrait studio of Edward S. Curtis. Afterwards, Cunningham traveled to Germany to study photographic chemistry.
Cunningham established her own studio in 1910, becoming one of the very first professional woman photographers. She photographed her husband nude on Mount Rainier in 1915, producing the first series of male nudes made by a woman photographer. It wasn’t until the 1920s that she began to explore plants and flowers as subjects for her photographic work. In 1932, Cunningham along with Ansel Adams and Edward Westin, founded Group f/64 to establish photography as an art form. The ‘f/64’ was a reference to the aperture setting which gives the sharpest clarity from foreground to background in a picture.
Although she was well respected as a photographer among her peers, she never was given proper recognition in the art world until the 1960s and 1970s. But she did live long enough to finally see the recognition that was her due.
Her work is in the collections of major museums, such as Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and others.