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Matinee: Ruth Bernhard Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

6 December 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the sixty-second in our series of Saturday matinees today: Ruth Bernhard.

"If you are not interested in life, photography has no meaning," Bernhard begins this seven-and-a-half minute video.

"It's a wonderful thing to be a photographer," she asserts. "It makes you look at everything as you go down the street with different eyes than most people. Because you are always a photographer, even if you don't have a camera."

Bernard, who lived to be 101 before leaving us in December 2006, had an epiphany when she met Edward Weston in 1935. Viewing his work, she realized she was looking at "an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography."

Her love of aesthetics had already given her a successful commercial career before she knew what had happened. "I said 'Yes' to everything," she said. She was good at it because she had a knack for making things beautiful.

But photography became more than a business when she met Weston. She realized that her images could mean something. From Weston she got a sense of photography as art, she acknowledges.

She moved to the West Coast and started working with Group f64 in the 1940s, working most in the studio. In 1953 she moved to San Francisco, rubbing elbows with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Minor White, Wynn Bullock and Dorothea Lange.

Nudes were no different to her than flowers. She had photographed her father's nude models for his reference, so working with nudes was nothing unusual. But she made them memorable.

She could alway find beautiful parts even of a non-beautiful body, she says. "You put the right light on the body and move the arms and the legs in such a way that they become beautiful," she explains.

In 1986 she published The Eternal Body, a collection of 50 of her black and white nudes.

"To be out in the world and to see, to be aware, is the greatest gift you can have," she says at the end of this short interview.

And if that makes you want to jump out of your chair and take a little stroll down the street to see what you might find, then don't let us stop you.

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