Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard



Ruth Bernhard was born in Berlin. Her father was the acclaimed graphic designer Lucian Bernhard. Bernhard attended the Berlin Academy of Art for two years, then decided to move to New York in 1927. In 1929, her first job was as a darkroom assistant to Ralph Steiner, head of the photography department for Delineator magazine. She only worked with Steiner for a short time; she was fired for blatant disinterest in the work. With her last paycheck she bought her own 8×10 camera and photography equipment and began freelance photography.

From 1930-1935 she worked for The New York Times, Advertising Art, Macy’s, Sloane’s, and many of her father’s friends. In 1935, Bernhard had a chance meeting with Edward Weston on a beach in California. Emotionally moved by his work she realized the artistic potential of photography. I was unprepared for the experience of seeing his pictures for the first time. It was overwhelming. It was lightning in the darkness…here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible—an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography. She soon moved to California where she continued her freelance photography until 1953. However, during this time she also dedicated herself to her new artistic vision and began photographing still life and nude scenes.

Ruth Bernhard, “Classic Torso With Hands, 1952.”


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Bernhard befriended the likes of Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Wynn Bullock. She briefly served in the Women’s Land Army during World War II in 1943. Bernhard moved to San Francisco in 1953 where she continued her nude studies, but also began to teach at the Utah State University, the University of California Extension, Berkley, San Francisco and master photography workshops. Ruth Bernhard’s photography is represented in numerous prestigious collections and her work has been exhibited around the world.