Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ruth Bernhard 1905 - 2006

Ruth Bernhard, Chicago, Illinois, 1981. Photograph: Sophie Vogt.

Earlier today, I learned of the passing of Ruth Bernhard in San Francisco at the age of 101. When I first met Ruth in 1981, she was already 76 but I had little doubt she had 25 good years left in her. She has proven me correct. With an iron will and unswerving modernist convictions, Ruth was truly one of the greats of 20th century photography. She will be remembered as an inspired teacher and mentor to many, including myself.

Born in Berlin in 1905, Ruth studied at the Academy of Fine Arts before following her father to New York in the 1920s. A decade later, she headed west to Hollywood where she met Edward Weston, who would become her dear friend and soul-mate. Ruth soon reduced the nude to pure essence, creating several of the most iconic images of the female form of the modernist era, most notably In the Box, Horizontal 1962.

I first met Ruth in Chicago when she was touring with Margaretta K. Mitchell’s exhibition Ten Women of Photography. Accompanying her were two other greats of 20th century photography, Lotte Jacobi and Barbara Morgan. All are gone now, but the legacies of their kindness, vision and pioneering spirit will outlast us all.

Here’s a link to Ruth’s obituary in this morning’s Los Angeles Times.

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