Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA

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Imogen In Paris

Though Imogen Cunningham is often associated with West Coast photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, who also came to prominence in the greater San Francisco area in the 1930’s, her photographic origins are equally rooted in the European tradition. As a young woman Imogen traveled to Dresden, Germany to study chemistry and photography in 1909. This was a bold step for a woman at the turn of the Twentieth Century; one of many pioneering courses Imogen would chart in her long life. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

In 1960 and 1961, Imogen again crossed the Atlantic to reconnect with old acquaintances and meet photographers she admired, according to Meg Partridge; an Oscar nominated filmmaker and Imogen’s granddaughter. “She really felt a part of the European photography culture because she had studied in Germany as a young woman, and she had kept up with the work of Europeans. She was curious about the icons of photography…she just sought them out her whole life. Imogen had relationships with other artists that lasted 50 years. She never stopped making connections.”
The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, Paris, 1960

The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, Paris, 1960

During these two trips in the Sixties, Imogen made iconic photographs of artists August Sander, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Man Ray, as well as evocative street scenes in Paris and other European cities.Lumière is proud to exhibit a selection of Imogen’s European works as part of the Circle of Light Exhibition that opens September 26, 2015.
While reconnecting with her circle of friends, Imogen’s sense of curiosity also led her out into the streets of Paris. “She sought out places were people would be accessible and active, such as The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, a French bird market,“ said Partridge. “A lot of humanity goes on in the streets of Europe because the spaces are so much smaller than in the United States. Public places in Europe can be very intimate.” Imogen…was always looking for a spark of connection or recognition that would transcend the language barrier
American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960

American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960

In American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960, Imogen trains her lens on an elegant woman whose gaze seems to slice through the crowded bar and directly connect with the photographer. While looking at this image, a viewer can almost feel the room fall silent when the shutter is clicked. Imogen cleverly uses subtle architectural details, such as a piece of an awning hanging from the top of the frame to guide the eye straight through the crowd towards her subject. Imogen contrasts this woman with a younger man off to the left side of the image who looks out into the distance, as if contemplating his fate, while the elegant woman seems to know hers. “That glance speaks to me of how Imogen persisted and responded to someone, and she got that picture – that special flash of recognition that passes between subject and photographer,” Partridge said.
Child, Near Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961

Child, Near Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961

The openness of children is another of Imogen’s favorite subjects. Child, Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961, which depicts a young boy who pauses in the act of snapping a rubber band to scrutinize Imogen, is a vivid example of this interest. A viewer can imagine that Imogen appeared to this child like a character in a fairy tale with only she carried a camera instead of a magic wand. Edna Tartaul Daniel, an interviewer with The Regional History Project of the University of California at Berkley described Imogen’s appearance around the time Child, Place des Vosges was taken, “A small blonde person, neither thin nor thick; She dressed in garments of easy cut with accents in either color or design of pleasant and occasionally picturesque nature. Without concern for fashion, she wore clothing useful and interesting to herself, and shoes appropriate to a working photographer, who transported herself, with photographic paraphernalia slung about her, on train or bus.” “She sought out children who engaged her on the street – she did that time and time again – children without their parents. She was looking for that honesty and innocence found in children. Children are transparent, and that’s what Imogen was going for,” says Partridge.
Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960

Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960

Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960, is a photo of a shop window full of lingerie that seems to have come alive, despite the absence of a mannequin or human. A single stocking clad foot seems to tip toe through the frame while a girdle leans provocatively against it. What sets the picture apart are the unusually angular shapes the fabric makes, as if the shopkeeper wanted to emphasize how uncomfortable, yet still beautiful, these garments must be. This tableau seems familiar because it is part of a continuum in the medium. “This image speaks to the history of photography in Paris and references Atget. All that living was just over the top,” said Partridge.
The photographs in this exhibition are part of a larger body of work created in Berlin, Munich, Paris and London in 1960. More photographs were created the following year, when Imogen returned to Paris and also journeyed to Norway, Finland, Sweden Denmark and Poland. Her friend and fellow photographer Edgar Bissantz drove her around the continent, visiting their friends and making images. The European images were largely printed by Imogen’s son Ron Partridge in the 1980s and 1990s.
Complete information about Cunningham’s work, can be found on her Artist Page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

One thought on “Imogen In Paris

  1. Tim Marker says:

    Very interesting article, had no idea Cunningham ever photographed in Europe.

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