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Gertrude Käsebier

Gertrude Käsebier

Laura Gilpin. Gertrude Käsebier, c. 1916. Gift of Mina Turner.

Also known as
Gertrude Stanton, Gertrude Stanton Käsebier
Date of birth
Date of death

Gertrude Käsebier took up photography in middle age and was soon praised by the renowned promoter Alfred Stieglitz as “beyond dispute the leading portrait photographer in this country.” In 1897 she opened a portrait studio catering to the upper crust of New York society, commanding high prices for her work thanks to her self-consciously artistic approach. Käsebier sought to “make likenesses that are biographies,” as she put it, by spending hours with her subjects. She was also known for her heartfelt images of mothers and children, which often looked authentic and unposed even when staged for the camera. Käsebier experimented continually with photographic papers and processes and took full advantage of the painterly effects of gum bichromate, a technique in which the artist manipulated the image during printing.

Käsebier was a core member of Stieglitz’s group the Photo-Secession, and he chose her to be featured in the first issue of his journal Camera Work (January 1903). But after a period of increasing tension starting in 1908, due in part to Stieglitz’s disdain for commercially successful photographers and his shift away from painterly manipulation toward straight photography, Käsebier definitively broke with Stieglitz in 1912, resigning her membership from the Photo-Secession in a tersely worded letter. Her friendships with others from this group remained strong, and she would go on to teach at a photography school run by Clarence White, as well as serving with the Pictorial Photographers of America, an organization founded by White and Alvin Langdon Coburn.

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