About the Imogen Cunningham Trust

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE TRUST

The Trust is engaged in preserving Imogen Cunningham's work, managing her rights and permissions, and promoting her work through publications and exhibitions. The Trust offers prints for sale through a few select galleries, and also presents work for sale directly on this site, both Imogen Cunningham's Original Prints as well as contemporary Estate Prints.

WHAT IS AN ESTATE PRINT

Estate prints are contemporary darkroom prints from Imogen's original negative. We have both silver gelatin prints as well as platinum/palladium prints. 

Silver Gelatin prints were the most known form of printing photographic images before digital work was produced. It is a process in which the negative is put into an enlarger and the print is made on paper that hold silver halides in a gelatin base. Today this process is considered a special and almost historic process, as digital printing has replaced most silver gelatin prints today.

Platinum/Palladium printing is a beautiful warm-toned process originally developed in the mid-1800s. Imogen printed her work in platinum very early on, and it was a process in which she excelled. 

Each print is debossed with the blind-stamp signature and seal of Imogen Cunningham. The back mat has an attached label of provenance,  insuring it's authenticity with details which include the print media and print title. 

PRINT PROCESSES, DESCRIBED

Silver Gelatin Process

This contemporary printing process produces beautiful, rich prints made from bright luminous whites, deep blacks, and a full complement of tones in between. The silver gelatin process was the dominant black and white photographic process of the 20th century.

This process has remained largely unchanged since it was introduced in the 1880s. The fiber paper is coated with gelatin that holds light-sensitive halide particles. The image from a negative is projected onto the paper, exposing the silver particles to varying degrees of light. The paper is then placed in a chemical developing solution where the exposed silver particles are transformed into tones of grey corresponding to the amount of light received by each particle. The wide spectrum of grey tones produced ranges from full black to full white and creates what is called the 'black and white' print.

Platinum Printing Process

Imogen Cunningham became a skilled platinum printer while studying photography in Dresden at the Techniiche Houschule from 1909 to 1910. In the spring of her year abroad, she wrote her thesis on platinum printing. Introduced in the 1870s, platinum printing is a process that is still practiced today as a handmade photographic process; one which is distinguished by its matte surface and subtle tonal gradations.

The luminous and dimensional appearance is the result of hand-made emulsions of platinum, and often palladium, laid down on archival paper. Platinum, like gold and silver, is a ‘noble’ metal, and the resulting platinum print is stable and permanent. Correctly processed, platinum prints are one of the most archival of any image made on paper. The platinum image is made as a contact print. The negative is placed in direct contact with the platinum-sensitized paper, then exposed to a strong ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light reduces the platinum to a darker, pure metallic state. The final image is formed out of crystals of pure platinum metals, embedded in the paper fiber.

THE MANAGEMENT OF THE TRUST

The Trust was established by Imogen Cunningham in 1975, and is still a family run operation: Meg Partridge, Imogen's granddaughter, is the Director of the Trust. A photographer and filmmaker, Meg worked for Imogen as a teenager as one of her assistants, archived Imogen's negatives in 1980, and worked for the Trust during the 1980s and 1990s in a variety of roles, from Archivist to Acting Director. As a filmmaker, she directed and produced the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Portrait of Imogen, among other films.

Here is a PDF of an article published by the Seattle Times, on Meg Partridge,