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Gallery shows legendary artist’s botanical photos

OCEANSIDE — Photographs by pivotal photographer Imogen Cunningham are on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art in “Botanicals: The Photography of Imogen Cunningham,” which opened Jan. 8.
If the name Imogen Cunningham does not ring a bell, her close-up images of plants and flowers probably will. Cunningham’s photographs are recognized as a breakthrough in photography because she stepped outside of the box of traditional documentary photography practiced in the early 1900s and expressed the art of photography in her shots. Her contemporaries were landscape photographers Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.
“She was a really important artist,” Ed Fosmire, museum executive director, said. “One of the first recognized female photographers.”
The exhibit is a collection of about 40 of Cunningham’s black and white photographs from the 1920s to 1930s. Vintage Calumet Monorail, Kodax and Rolleiflex cameras used by Cunningham are part of the exhibit. “It’s a nice, easy to look at show,” Fosmire said. “Anyone can appreciate it.”
To compliment the exhibit, three 15-foot sculptures by Benjamin Lavender, which are inspired by California native plants, are on display in the museum lobby. The sculptures made from twisted steel and wine barrel parts are collectively called “Roots.” Lavender is a furniture maker and sculptor who often uses the same materials in his work and art. “I was waiting for the right show to do it,” Lavender said.
The museum will hold several programs related to the “Botanicals: The Photography of Imogen Cunningham” exhibit. Michael Tcherevkoff, of Canon USA, will lecture on botanical and conceptual photography on Feb. 26, and in March the granddaughter of Imogen Cunningham is expected to speak about the personal side of Cunningham’s life.
For more information on the exhibit and Oceanside Museum of Art programs, visit