30 Imogen Cunningham Quotes to Advance your Photography

Looking for the best Imogen Cunningham quotes? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Imogen Cunningham was a pioneering female photographer who strove to capture reality through her lens. Her remarkable portrait, nude and still life photography helped establish the medium as an art form.

Below we’ve listed 30 of the best Imogen Cunningham’s to inspire, motivate and help advance your photography.

Imogen Cunningham Quotes

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.

Once a woman who does street work said to me, ‘I’ve never photographed anyone I haven’t asked first.’ I said to her, ‘Suppose Cartier-Bresson asked the man who jumped the puddle to do it again – it never would have been the same. Start stealing!’

I don’t talk about success. I don’t know what it is. Wait until I’m dead.

My interest in photography has something to do with the aesthetic, and that there should be a little beauty in everything.

I never divide photographers into creative and uncreative, I just call them photographers. Who is creative? How do you know who is creative or not?

Everybody who does anything for the public can be criticized. There’s always someone who doesn’t like it.

Imogen Cunningham Quotes 1

Cunningham on Subjects

[My] taste lay somewhere between reality and dreamland.

I photograph anything that can be exposed to light. The reason during the twenties that I photographed plants was that I had three children under the age of four to take care of so I was cooped up. I had a garden available and I photographed them indoors. Later when I was free I did other things.

I’ve tried my best to sell people on the idea that I photograph anything that can be exposed to light.

I never stopped photographing. There were a couple of years when I didn’t have a darkroom, but that didn’t stop me from photographing.

You know, a documentary is only interesting once in a while. If you look at a whole book of Dorothea [Lange]’s where she has row after row of people bending over and digging out carrots – that can be very tedious. And so it’s only once in a while that something happens that is worth doing.

I don’t like landscapes. I never had had the time to run out when the weather was right. You know, always I would be getting dinner for somebody, when it was sunset time, when you can do a nice landscape. Or, crack of dawn, I’m not there. So, I’ve very seldom have done anything that could be called a landscape. But I do things in a landscape.

I’m still sticking with people more than things and I don’t walk around the city as much as I did. I don’t know why. Telephone. All the other agonies of life, keep you from doing what you really think you should do.

I was invited to photograph Hollywood. They asked me what I would like to photograph. I said, Ugly men.

The imaginative photographer is always dreaming and trying to record his dream.

Alta on the Beach
Alta on the Beach, Late 1920s © Imogen Cunningham Trust

Portrait Photography Quotes

The thing that’s fascinating about portraiture is that nobody is alike.

So many people dislike themselves so thoroughly that they never see any reproduction of themselves that suits. None of us is born with the right face. It’s a tough job being a portrait photographer.

A woman said to me when she first sat down, You’re photographing the wrong side of my face. I said, Oh, is there one?

I turn people into human beings by not making them into gods.

Related: 150+ Portrait Photography Quotes

Oh, you ask me, what is the greatest torture of a person who does portraits for a living? I could fill several volumes with nice nasty stories. I don’t know.

When you do portraits professionally it’s not a desire, it’s for money.

One must be able to gain an understanding at short notice and close range of the beauties of character, intellect, and spirit so as to be able to draw out the best qualities and make them show in the outer aspect of the sitter. To do this one must not have a too pronounced notion of what constitutes beauty in the external and, above all, must not worship it. To worship beauty for its own sake is narrow, and one surely cannot derive from it that esthetic pleasure which comes from finding beauty in the commonest things.

Ansel [Adams] once said to somebody that I [Cunningham] was versatile, but what he really meant was that I jump around. I’m never satisfied staying in one spot very long, I couldn’t stay with the mountains and I couldn’t stay with the trees and I couldn’t stay with the rivers. But I can always stay with people, because they really are different.

The Poet Alter Ego
The Poet and his Alter Ego, 1962 © Imogen Cunningham Trust

Cunningham Quotes for Better Photography

I just believe in working. I’m not one of those romantic explainers of my own individual point of view.

I don’t think there’s any such thing as teaching people photography, other than influencing them a little. People have to be their own learners. They have to have a certain talent.

I wasn’t very ambitious. I think that’s the solution. I just took things as they came. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have any problem, but I didn’t care. I didn’t think I was going to save the world by doing photography as some of these people do. I was just having a good time doing it, and so I still had a good time no matter what I had to photograph.

There are too many people studying it [photography] now who are never going to make it. You can’t give them a formula for making it. You have to have it in you first, you don’t learn it. The seeing eye is the important thing.

…I can’t recreate my feelings about how I happened to do this or that, because a lot of my stuff was done without any motivation, more than just what I call having a good time fooling around.

I made a lot of mistakes, and I still do. But, I try not to worry about it, because I never will be the perfectionist, and I never tried to be, I guess. Just so they didn’t come out all, mussed up. I don’t think anyone knows his own work. We always make mistakes about what we like and what we don’t like. One can never tell, I’ve done so many things that I’ve no idea about how to evaluate them.

The formula for doing a good job in photography is to think like a poet.

Imogen Cunningham Quotes 2

What’s your Favorite Imogen Cunningham Quote?

Have a favorite Imogen Cunningham quote from the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page, or print it out, and refer to it next time you need some inspiration. If you’ve found the article helpful, then we would be grateful if you could share it with other photographers.

To see more of Imogen Cunningham’s photography, head over to the image archive on the Imogen Cunningham Trust website.

Looking for more words of wisdom from master photographers? Check out the quotes section of Photogpedia for more great photography quotes.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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