SF Rec and Park Presents Legendary Photographer Imogen Cunningham’s Work

“Paris in the Sixties” Unveiled at Harvey Milk Photo Center

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will host a photo exhibit titled, “Paris in the Sixties” celebrating the legendary photographer, Imogen Cunningham.  Cunningham’s Parisian photographs were taken at a seminal time in Paris, just before the student uprisings of 1968 and they have not been seen in the Bay Area for more than twenty years. Compared to Cunningham’s other work, her Paris photos are a relatively unknown, but an essential part of her body of work nevertheless.  The exhibit will begin on Saturday, January 17th and run until February 28th at the Harvey Milk Photo Center.


“It is a thrill to see Imogen Cunningham’s work at our site,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park, “She continues to reinvent and push the limits and this exhibit reminds us of her creativity and tenacity.”


Best known for her photographs of botanicals, nudes and industrial landscapes, there was another side to Imogen Cunningham’s work, which she began to explore in the 1960’s.  She had always been both a practicing portrait photographer and a dedicated experimentalist.  In her eighth decade, at an age when most people have long since retired, she became fascinated with street photography and made two consecutive steamship trips to Europe seeking new directions for her work.


Her photographs from this period became homage to a humanistic approach to photojournalism, illustrated by a casual immediacy, and a marked sense of humor. They have provided a delightful exclamation point to her more carefully considered portraiture. Her street work began in San Francisco, and extended to include the photographs she produced in France.  However, the photographs in the exhibit, Paris in the Sixties, were rarely exhibited in her lifetime.


Imogen Cunningham was a well-known local photographer and instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute. She passed away in the 1976.  Her surviving son, Ron Partridge who is now 97 years-old, continues to live in the Bay Area.



“I am excited to see that Imogen’s photography will be exhibited in San Francisco, her chosen home,” said Meg Partridge, The Imogen Cunningham Trust Director.  “Imogen’s photographic eye captured a moment in time in Paris and also presents another facet of her work –  her very contemporary street photography.”


“Perhaps it is the quality of the quiet paradox that best describes Imogen Cunningham’s exquisite work over a life dedicated to photography. She is one of America’s most distinguished photographers, whose work, though well known, has not been given the critical attention or commentary that it deserves,” said Jane Reed, Curator for the exhibit at the Harvey Milk Photo Center.  “Cunningham’s photographic career spanned a period of seventy-five years, from the early 1900’s to her death in 1976 at the age of ninety-three. Her persistence of vision and diverse range of subject matter have contributed many important icons to the history of photography.”


In conjunction with Imogen Cunningham’s work, the Harvey Milk Photo Center will have an exhibition of a selection of Paris Changing: Revisiting Eugène Atget’s Paris by photographer Christopher Rauschenberg who spent time in Paris re-photographing many of the images of Eugène Atget.  Atget photographed Paris extensively in the early part of the twentieth century, creating a visual record of the city that served as an inspiration for many of the photographers that followed him. This exhibition explores Paris through the lenses of two photographers working decades apart.


Established in the early 1940’s, the San Francisco Photography Center is the oldest public darkroom in the United States.  The Center moved to SF Rec and Park’s Harvey Milk Recreation Center in 1957, and since became the Harvey Milk Photo Center, and has been a community hub for artists.  For more information about visiting Harvey Milk Recreation Center and Photo Center, please visit www.sfrecpark.org



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