Defining Purity

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IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM EDITED BY JUDY DATER PURITY DEFINING MASTERS OF THE CAMERA
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    23-Mar-2016
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This book offers a sampling of my book design on the photographs of Immogen Cunningham. I uniquely wove her photographs with the type to furthern my concept.

Transcript of Defining Purity

  • IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM

    EDITED BY JUDY DATER

    PURITYDEFINING

    PURITYDEFINING

    MASTERS OF THE CAMERA

  • IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM

    EDITED BY JUDY DATER

    PURITYDEFINING

    FOLIO PRESSNEW YORK

  • CONTENTS

    INTRODUCTION 2

    1. THE EARlY YEARS 16

    2. GROwTH 29

    3. THE lATER YEARS 36

    4. PlATES 53

    5. INDEx OF PlATES 86

  • CHAPTER 1

    THE EARlY YEARS

  • CHAPTER 1

    IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM 17

    Imogen Cunningham entered the University of Washington in Seattle in 1903 when she was twenty years old. No courses in studio art or in art history, both interests she had pursued since childhood, were then offered at the university. And, considering the date, it is not remarkable that photography did not appear in the curriculum either.

    Imogen had become acquainted with photography when she was eighteen. She then sent to the American School of Art and Photography in Scranton, Pennsyl-vania for a 4 5 inch view camera and instructions for its use. She soon lost interest in it, however, sold the camera and instructions to a friend and devoted herself to her studies and her social life. In 1906 she bought another camera, a 5 7 inch view camera; it was then that she determined to become a photog-rapher. With this goal in mind, she majored in chemistry at the university and was able, because of her experience with the camera, to help pay her tuition by making slides for the botany department.

    I was brought up on art. You see, my father thought I had a great hand at art and he sent me to art school on Saturdays. That was because of my report card in the general public schools. I had one teacher who was so keen about art. For instance, she put me in the back rowthe very last seatso that I could draw all the people in the room, if I wanted to, and when I had my lessons done. And those things influenced my father who said, You should go to art school. So, on Saturday mornings I went to art school. I was always connected with it in some way or other. But he did not want me to become a photographer. Not on account of the money, which he knew nothing about. But he said, why should you go to school so long and just turn out a photographer?

  • 26 DEFINING PURITY

    VISION OF NATURE

    The year 1921 was a distinct turning point for Cunningham. She refined her vision of nature, changing her focus from the long to the near. Her interest in detailed pat-tern and form became evident in studies of bark texture and contorted tree trunks along the Carmel coast, a writhing snake curled on a gnarled Monterey cypress, and the trumpetshaped morning glory that grew wild in her backyard. A family visit to the zoo about the same year produced a series of zebra studies, one of which pre-cisely defines the natural black and white abstraction of the patterned belly and loin. Within her portraits of this period, such as a 1922 series of Edward Weston and Mar-grethe Mather, she formed tightly composed relationships between the sitters within the framework of the plate. The emphasis on clarity, form, definition, and persona displaced her previous use of pictorialist space.

    By 1923, Cunningham broke new ground in West Coast photogra-phy. Her photographs of lunette sunlight patterns diffused through a leafy tree during a solar eclipse were straightforward documenta-tion of a natural phenomenon but they were also unusual nonrepre-sentational abstractions, recalling the strange, stellate light studies of Coburns vortographs. About 1923, possibly in response to Co-burns suggestion to make multiple exposures on one plate, Cun-ningham composed a doubleexposure portrait of her mother, her profile veiled by a still life of a pewter pitcher filled with spoons, the utensils forming virtually a shining headdress. The double im-age, composed of an un manipulated double exposure on the same sheet of film or the superimposition of two negatives, fascinated Cunningham and facilitated her creation of visual metaphors. Mir-ror images, reflections in water or window glass, layered multiple images (created in camera or darkroom), relationships between positive and negative, and the direct photography of similar or twin forms found in nature are significant leitmotifs throughout her work.

  • IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM 27

    I started out as a magazine photographer. That is, my first break with the Vanity Fair in the 1930s was taking any order I could get. And now, when People magazine called me, I did the job on Ansel. You knew that. I said to the editor, when he asked me if I would go down there (he didnt expect me to, I think), why sure I will. And if I photograph Ansel, hell have to photograph me. He said, Could you arrange that? And I said, well, Im older than Ansel and he has to mind me. He made it the most easy occasion Ive ever had. If you ever knew what its like to have two boys waiting on you, and not interfering and not being in the way, and the gal that wrote it up never appearing when we were photographing. Always at the right time and not taking any notes, and never misquoting you. It was an extraordinary occasion. But let me tell you, they have not returned the negatives. Ansel wrote me about that. And I telephoned her. She was in New York. The gal that took my message telephoned her in New York and I havent heard yet. They have to dig them up. They have no right. They used to have that custom of hoarding them so that nobody else could then take ad-vantage of them. You couldnt take advantage of the use of them until theyd done their trip. Thats logical.

  • BETH AlTMAN wITH TAIwAN lEAVES 1963

    lEAVES 1948

    82 DEFINING PURITY

  • MONEY PlANT 1956lEAVES 1948

    IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM 83

  • INDEx

  • INDExADAMS, ANSEL 12, 17, 59AGAVE 6, 50, 99, 101AMERICAN SCHOOL OF ART 20 24ASPEN TREES 66, 75, 87BATH 3, 10BERRY, WALLACE 45, 89, 125, 127BRUTON, ESTER 115BULLOCK, WYNN 102CARMEL, CALIFORNIA 34, 4DATER, JUDY 33, 48, 58GARDEN 2, 56GRAHAM, MARTHA 77, 80, 91, 130HANDS 11, 15, 29LEAVES 6, 8, 12

    LIBRARY 79

    MAGNOLIAS 39, 42, 60

    MONTEREY CYPRESS 31

    MOUNT RAINIER 12, 18, 22

  • PURITYDEFINING

    IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM

    I was brought up on art. You see, my father thought I had a great hand at art and he sent me to art school on Saturdays. That was because of my report card in the general public schools. I had one teacher who was so keen about art. For instance, she put me in the back rowthe very last seatso that I could draw all the people in the room, if I wanted to, and when I had my lessons done. And those things influenced my father who said, You should go to art school. So, on Satur-day mornings I went to art school. I was always con-nected with it in some way or other. But he did not want me to become a photographer. Not on account of the money, which he knew nothing about. But he said, Why should you go to school so long and just turn out a photographer?

    FOLIO PRESSNEW YORK