Ruth Bernhard was born in Berlin in 1905. In 1927, after two years at the Berlin Academy of Art, Ruth moved to New York where she began to seriously pursue a career in photography. Eight years later she met Edward Weston in California and was deeply moved by his work. He revealed to her the profound creative potential of photography and its artistic implications. Desiring to work with him, she moved to to the West Coast shortly thereafter.
In 1953, she moved to San Francisco and became a colleague of Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Minor White and Wynn Bullock. She has lectured and conducted master classes throughout the United States through her 95th birthday.
It was at the age of 24 that Ruth first struck at the chord of professional photography. In 1929 she took a job as a darkroom assistant for the New York magazine The Delineator, working under the supervision of Ralph Steiner. But she wasn’t terribly excited about the position and soon left the magazine’s employ. With her severence pay she bought herself an 8 x 10 viewfinder camera and with it began taking portraits of her father’s friends – a circle of designers and artisans. From this point she sustained herself as a freelance photographer while, as well, exploring her own interest in still lifes, fashion, architecture, advertising, etc.
In 1935 Ruth met Edward Weston on a beach in Santa Monica, California. It was a meeting that would transform and elevate her entire perception of photography. « I was unprepared for the experience of seeing his pictures for the first time. It was overwhelming. It was lightning in the darkness … here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible – an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography. » The mere realization that photography could be Art, in its truest sense, was enlightening. Soon thereafter, Ruth moved to the West Coast to study with Edward Weston in Carmel.
Making a living in Carmel proved to be difficult and so she packed her bags for Hollywood where she opened her own studio. Much of her clientele were celebritries who brought in their children to have their portraits taken—many of them posing with their beloved dolls or pets. Then in 1953, she made the move to San Francisco, where she has made her home for the last 47 years.
While making a living as a commercial photographer, Ruth still found the time to devote energy to her personal, creative outlets. Her nude images of women are some of the most highly regarded within the breadth of her portfolio. Her visions of the female form are classical derivates that maintain a vernacular sensuality. Yet it has been even simpler subjects that have always charmed her heart—from children’s dolls to found shells on the beach shore. Ruth Bernhard’s photographs of these ever common objects exudes a feeling of sentimentality and personal clause.
|In te Waves, 1945|
|Trees Reflected in a Shaving Mirror, 1958|
|In circle, 1934|
|Nude bowl, 1934|
|Spanish dancer, 1971|
|At the Pool, 1951|
|Vailed Nude, 1968|
|Double Vision, 1973|
|Golden Light, 1960|
|Abstract Torso, 1947|
|Veiled Black, 1947|
|Rockport Nude, 1947|
|Carmen, dancer in reposo, 1951|
|Dream Figure, 1968|
|Wet Silk, 1938|