Week 12/52 ~ Monthly Masters | Imogen Cunningham

by Heidi Egerman March. 22, 2019 4242 views

Recently, I ran across several images from a number of photographers I was not very familiar with. Since I have never studied these masters of photography, I thought that this was as good a time as any to start.

Once a month I will feature a famous photographer that has influenced today's photography in some way. My intent is not to copy their images or emulate their style, but to share with you my observations. These photographers will influence and inspire my future work in some way if they have not already done so. Maybe they will inspire you too.

Here is how these post will work. After posting a quote (if available), I will tell you a little about the photographer. If you would like more information, I have posted resource links below. I will then post a few images by the photographer that I particularly like. There may be times when I have an image that was influenced by the photographer. If so, I'll post my images last, and feature one of them as the post cover image.

I am delighted to start my 'Monthly Masters' with Imogen Cunningham. I've read that she was called "the woman whom plants talked to'. Her work speaks to me in many ways and I found so much information about her, I couldn't stop exploring.

Imogen Cunningham

“I don’t think there’s any such thing as teaching people photography, other than influencing them a little. People have to be their own learners. They have to have a certain talent.” – Imogen Cunningham

About Imogen Cunningham

  • She studied magnolias for a whole two years.
  • She liked to photograph "ugly men".
  • She was part of the movement called the f.64. Members included Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and other west coast photographers. But Cunningham’s interests were always too eclectic, her attitude too flexible, to be constricted by the rigidity of Group f/64 definitions, whose style of realism and general choice of subject matter she later considered a regional West Coast style. (Biography, Imogen Cunningham Trust)
  • She experimented endlessly with multiple layered images, double and multi-exposures, torn Polaroid negatives, skeletons of actual leaves, mirror images, reflections in water and glass, and relationships between positive and negative, and created her own style of photography called “sharp focus photography.” (From The Woman Plants Talked to. See Resources below)
  • Imogen produced some of her finest portraits in the 1950s, a diverse array of street photography, and images of artists and writers.

“Cunningham’s work of the late 1920s presents a strong case for her position as the most independently sophisticated and experimental photographer at work on the West Coast.” ~ In his book, Imogen Cunningham (Taschen, 2001), Richard Lorenz

Imogen Cunningham Images

Imogene Cunningham. Blossom of Protea, 1935.

Imogene Cunningham. Blossom of Protea, 1935.

When her boys were napping, she would make portraits of the flowers in her garden.

Imogene Cunningham. Succulent, 1920s

Imogene Cunningham. Succulent, 1920s

Her succulent image reminds me of the 'broccoli series' I did last year.

Imogene Cunningham. Rubber Plant, 1929.

Imogene Cunningham. Rubber Plant, 1929.

I love the flow, texture and the negative space in this rubber plant image. She had an interesting style in cropping that other photographers didn't have at the time.

My Images ~ Influenced by Imogen Cunningham

Although I was not familiar with Imogen's photography until recently, I could see some similarities in a few of my own monochrome images. Although this is quite coincidental, it is why I chose her as this week's master photographer. As I mentioned before, my intent is not to copy an artists images or emulate their style. I am sure she will continue to inspire me as I continue this year-long journey in monochrome photography.

Heidi Egerman. Artichoke.

Heidi Egerman. Artichoke.

Heidi Egerman.Broccoli Study.

Heidi Egerman.Broccoli Study.

Heidi Egerman. Amaryllis Bud

Heidi Egerman. Amaryllis Bud


The Woman Whom Plants Talked to

Imogene Cunningham Trust

If you have a master photographer or a contemporary photographer that has influenced or inspires you, I'd love to hear about it.

Join the conversation
There are 3 comments , add yours!
Jay Boggess 2 years, 6 months ago

I can see why she was an strong influence! Beautiful images & interesting bio!

2 years, 6 months ago Edited
Björn Roose 2 years, 6 months ago

Good idea, this series. And no, no influences by masters in photography (that I know of). If I'm influenced by any masters, it's by "old masters" in painting. Rembrandt's clair obscure for instance or Turner's fog and mist. Those are things I love in photography too, although I'm not striving to "copy" or "emulate" them.

2 years, 6 months ago Edited
Heidi Egerman Replied to Björn Roose 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Bjorn. I think I too am influrnced by the painters of long ago. I studied art history in school and ended up with a degree in fine arts. Sometimes you aren’t really sure of all the things that influence your work until you see it again or study and research. I’ve also read that these early photographers studied the painters who created before them. I also ran across a photographer who had a painterly style. His name is Léonard Misonne. I’m looking forward to learning more about him. Stay tuned.

2 years, 6 months ago Edited
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