Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard

2003 Honoree: Achievement in Fine Art

 

Heri Cartier-BressonAt the age of 98, Ruth Bernhard remains an icon and legend in the world of photography. Her images of nudes, which she has been photographing since 1934, stand as some of the best in the world. Bernhard began her career as a darkroom assistant for the New York magazine “The Delineator.” While photography thrilled her, that job left her cold. She quickly left to strike out on her own, and with her severance check she bought an 8 x 10 viewfinder camera. She started to shoot portraits of her father’s friends—a circle of designers and artisans.

In 1935, Bernhard met Edward Weston on the beach in Santa Monica. His work awed her. With the realization that photography could be art, she moved to Carmel to study with Weston. Difficulty making a living in Carmel eventually prompted a move to Hollywood, where she opened her own studio. Soon numerous celebrities began to dragging in their children to sit for her portraits.
She moved to San Francisco in 1953, and has lived there ever since. Alongside her work as a commercial photographer, Bernhard has continued to devote time and energy to her personal, creative outlets. Her female nudes are renown all over the globe, and her treatment of simple subjects—from dolls to beach shells—captures the eye and the imagination as well.

Bernhard’s work has been honored with countless exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide, and she has continued to publish her work into her 90s.