January 25, 2010

About Anne Brigman, by Art Ward


written by Art Ward, photographer.









I had never heard of Anne Brigman until May 2009, when Dublin based photographer Willie Dillon made a comment that an image Elena Buga and I had created, reminded him of Anne Brigman (1869-1950).



From that moment on I was determined to find out
who Anne Brigman was ?










Anne Brigman










Art Ward
"Child of Lir"
Art Model and UdA Art Editor Elena Buga














Anne Brigman




This remarkable woman was born in Hawaii in 1869. Her grandparents had arrived as missionaries from England in 1828 and her parents lived there until she was around sixteen when they moved to Los Gatos in California.

Anne Brigman was already an artist and writer before taking up photography in 1901. This choice and pursuit for a woman in the political and social environment of America in 1901 was to say the least revolutionary but Anne Brigman was not an ordinary woman.










Art Ward
"Root of Expression"
Art Model Elena Buga











Anne Brigman
"Soul of the Blasted Pine"





Full of enthusiasm, dreams and immense creativity, she explored the medium and within two years of taking her first image, had established herself as a formidable photographer in what was a predominantly male pursuit, where she gained a reputation for pictorial mastery.



As well as pictorial imagery, Anne Brigman had a deep interest and affinity with the natural landscape and in particular the Sierra Nevada. She also had a burning desire to create figurative nudes both male and female in that landscape. She saw their place with the landscape not separate from it :
" In all of my years of work with the lens I've dreamed of and loved to work with the human figure - to embody it in rocks and trees, to make it part of the elements, not apart from them.
Rare humans, rare in their minds as well as in their slim, fine bodies, have given me of their simple beauty and freedom, that I might weave them into the sagas of these wind swept trees on high peaks."

She was one of the first photographer’s to take the figurative nude as a subject in the landscape and present it in a way where it was part of the landscape in beautifully staged art nude pieces.









Art Ward
"Light of Carnmoon"
Art Model Elena Buga












"Spirit dance"
Art Model Elena Buga




Her work is captivating in its simplicity, vision, depth and spirit. The unique unseen elements that make visuals go beyond the visual is saturating her work.

It is more remarkable that this feminine spirit, was a century ahead of her time, not only did she conceptually create her visuals she would also at times be the subject of them. Her passion and creative energy so evident in the lengths she went to create her work. She drew great inspiration from the landscape and especially the trees, some of which became her friends…




" One day on one of my wanderings I found a juniper - the most wonderful juniper that I've met in my eighteen years of friendship among them… It was a great character like the Man of Gallilee or Moses the Law-giver, or the Lord Buddha, or Abraham Lincoln… Storm and stress well borne made it strong and beautiful. I climbed into it. Here was the perfect place for a figure, here the place for the right arm to rest, and even though my feet were made clumsy by boots, I could see and feel where the feet would fit perfectly into the cleft that went to its base."








Art Ward
"Spirit Run"
Art Model Elena Buga




Although the nude had been taken in the landscape prior to Anne Brigman, what separated her work from the rest and gave it distinction was the unique fact that she saw the figure as nature, her nudes were part of nature, not ‘in’ nature.




It was this fact that establishes her as one of the pioneers of the 'spirit' of art nude in the landscape.









Anne Brigman
"Nude in a burled tree"










Anne Brigman
"The Source"









The nude for Anne Brigman symbolised the creative energy of women, empowering and opposite to the voyueristic presentations of the female form of the time. She said in reference to her work : "my pictures tell of my freedom of soul, of my emancipation from fear.”

She gave a lot back to her community and those who valued her work and shared her vision, young contemporaries like Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham all recognised her as an influence in their development and indeed joined her on treks into the Sierra Nevada.






Anne Brigman
"The Lone Pine"




To fully appreciate Anne Brigman is to remember that she achieved all this at a time when societies morals relating to a women where archaic.



Her persona, free spirit and her dynamic and challenging ways where a scandal before she even took an image. She wore trousers, defied the correctness of her time, her gender and her society, to create art which she did beautifully. Today her work still carries that intangible quality that her spirit urged her to create. Anne Brigman was an artist and a brilliant photographer who also wrote and painted.

Personally, I am honored that one of my ‘novice’ images of a ‘nude in the landscape’ would remotely remind someone of this remarkable, creative and gifted women and that this remark led me to discover her work.


Madams and Mademoiselles, is it not great to know a female pioneer the ‘spirit’ of art nude as part of the landscape ?

I think it is brilliant !







Art Ward
"Spirit of the Ancient Sentinel"
Art Model Elena Buga



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