(April 12, 1883-June 24, 1976) Inspired to take up photography in 1901 after seeing the work of Gertrude Käsebier, she learned platinum printing from Edward S. Curtis, eventually opening a portrait studio in Seattle (1910). Her first work was romantic, soft-focus portraits and nudes. After moving to San Francisco in 1917, she adopted modernism. Cunningham’s images came to reflect Group f/64’s credo (of which she was a founder) that the “greatest aesthetic beauty, the fullest power of expression, the real worth of the medium lies in its pure form rather than in its superficial modifications.” Her tightly rendered 1920s plant studies presents nature with machine precision or as sexual allusion, drawing sensual parallels to the female form that she explored through her long career. Although the picture is a faithful rendering of a plant, Cunningham’s concern was not the subject itself, but what the subject could become under the photographer’s control. She worked as a commercial photographer from the 1930s. Her last book, After Ninety (1979), was a sympathetic portrait collection of elderly people.

Girl and Mimosa, 1959

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7 3/4 x 7 3/4 Gelatin Silver Print Pencil-signed lower right recto, signed label on verso and blind stamped on mount