what a PHOTOGRAPH can be

March 30, 2011

Anne W. Brigman

Cleft in the Rock
1907
ANNE W. BRIGMAN
Biography:  Originally from Hawaii, Brigman moved to California following her birth in December of 1869.  Starting out with paint as her artistic medium, she moved to photography in the early 1900s.  Joining her seafaring husband, Brigman once traveled the South Seas but retired from this hobby following an injury.  Separated from her husband in 1910, she died in California in February 1950 following the publishing of her book, Songs of a Pagan.
Significance:  In comparison to the articulated and staged work of her contemporaries such as Alfred Stieglitz and Imogen Cunningham, Brigman's work appeared emotionally intense, yet pure. In fact, Brigman was recognized as a Fellow of the Photo-Secession founded by Stieglitz.  Supported by her writing instructor, she published a collection of her photos entitled Songs of a Pagan. Photos featured in the book were accompanied by her aptitude in poetry, a later development.
Techniques:  Adding to the signature aesthetic of her photography, Brigman used techniques such as superimposition and negative touch-ups with paints and pencils as her "processing" medium.
Motivations:  Brigman describes her subjects as
"    Slim, hearty, unaffected women of early maturity     "
living a hardy out-of-door life in high boots and jeans,
toughened to wind and sun.
Her photos' female subjects (many of them Brigman herself) were regularly in the nude, dramatically posed in their surroundings.  The majority of her work was completed, spectacularly enhanced, and branded by the mountainous regions of the Sierra Nevada.  Some critics read liberal feminism and bohemian trends into her photography; I prefer to consider her work as capturing
the pure beauty of an unbound body.

Dawn 1908 ANNE W. BRIGMAN



View more of Brigman's work at




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