What explains the fact that Imogen Cunningham is still an elusive figure? She was once considered one of the greatest photographers, alongside her contemporaries Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams, and during the 1960s and '70s, at the height of the women's liberation movement, many recognized her important contributions as blazing a trail for women who wanted to take up the medium.
But at some point, her popularity dropped off a bit. Even today, though a few U.S. museums have collected her work in depth, the full view of Cunningham's photographic work-which runs the gamut from expressively lighted shots of flowers, to piercing portraiture shot on commission, to mysterious street photography, to experimental abstractions, and more-has largely gone unseen, which might owe to her being under-known in the decades since her death in 1976. "I photograph anything that can be exposed to light," Cunningham, who was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883 and was based in the Bay Area for much of her career, once said.
That all is beginning to change, as more scholars begin to turn their attention to Cunningham’s groundbreaking artistic practice.