Imogen Cunningham – A Retrospective

Review by Douglas Stockdale

After moving to Southern California and adapting to the zone system for my natural black and white landscape photography, Imogen Cunningham as a result of her affiliation with the West Coast Group f/64 was already legendary. She was well known for her botanicals, nudes, and portraits, as well as a strongly opinioned and high-spirited San Francisco photographer. Our paths did cross once but very briefly at a local gallery reception.

So, it was with anticipation I was looking forward to obtaining the recent monograph, Imogen Cunningham – A Retrospective, published by the Getty, an organization that has previously provided exquisite monographs on other photographers. I am not disappointed.

The essays by Paul Martineau and Susan Ehrens provide the backstory, biography and evolution of Cunningham’s body of work in a manner that easily read and while being extremely informative. Fortunately, there are many letters and other correspondence as source material to provide substance to their writings. It is apparent from this correspondence that as a pioneering woman photographer, she had a very challenging and daunting lifetime as both a professional photographer and artist while becoming a single mother to three growing boys.

The book is extensively illustrated, with a wonderful collection of her well-known photographs mashed up with her relatively unknown images. To the Getty’s credit, I think that they did it right in choosing to publish Cunningham’s photographs with the same tonalities of her original prints, ranging from warm to cooler tones. There are almost two hundred of her photographs and for the fans of Cunningham, I think you will be pleased by the breath and quality of the reproductions.

For those interested in the history, this is a landmark book about a woman who helped shape the photography of the 20thcentury.

All in all, I think Imogen would have approved.


Imogen Cunningham’s photobooks previously featured on PhotoBook Journal; Capturing Spirit


 Imogen Cunningham – A Retrospective, Paul Martineau, Curator of Photographs

Photographer: Imogen Cunningham, (1883 – 1976) born Portland, Oregon, passed San Francisco, CA

Publisher: Getty Publications, an imprint of J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles, copyright 2020

Essays: Paul Martineau, Susan Ehrens

Text: English

Hardcover, image wrap, 256 pages, Plate list, Notes, Institutional Holdings, Bibliography, Index, printed in Germany by Dr. Cantzsche Druckerei Medien GmbH, ISBN 978-1-60606-675-1

Photobook Designer: Catherine Lorenz


Articles and photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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