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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Anne Brigman

Born: Anne Wardrop Nott 
Other: Annie Brigman 
Other: Annie W. Brigman 
Dates:  1869, 3 December - 1950, 18 February
Born:  Hawaii, Honolulu
Died:  US, CA, Oakland / El Monte
Active:  US
Granddaughter of the missionary to Hawaii Lorrin Andrews; she went to US mainland and became a famous Pictorialist photographer, part of the Alfred Stieglitz inner circle; made no images in her native Hawaii but returned for a visit in 1928.
[Hawaiian material contributed by Bruce T. Erickson]
We are seeking evidence for the travels of Anne Brigman and her, as yet unproven, visit to Hawaii in 1928. If you have any details on this, or any other biographical details, there are researchers who would be interested. Until proven the 1928 visit should be treated with caution. (Alan Griffiths, Sept 25, 2007)

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Anne Brigman
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Anne W. Brigman was one of the few photographers from the West Coast to become a member of the Photo-Secession and have her images appear in Camera Work. She expressed an exotic freedom in pictures that often intertwined female nudes with barren coastal rocks and trees. Unlike most of her contemporaries, who worked mainly in platinum or gum bichromate, she made primarily bromide (gelatin silver) enlargements from small negatives, some of which, unfortunately, exhibit rather unrefined handwork.
Anne Wardrope Nott was born in Hawaii on December 3, 1869, the eldest of eight children. Her family made its way to Los Gatos, California, in 1891, and three years later she married Martin Brigman, a sea captain, in San Francisco. Her earliest known serious photographs date from 1901 and are signed "Annie W. Brigman." In 1903, she wrote to Alfred Stieglitz in New York, became a member of the Photo-Secession, and started to have her work included in the group’s exhibitions. Among the foreign countries where her photographs were seen were Canada, England, France, Germany, and Holland. Stieglitz included eleven of her photogravures in issues of Camera Work, in 1909, 1912, and 1913, and announced that Brigman would have a one-person show at the Photo-Secession galleries, but it never occurred.
In 1910, the year she separated from her husband, Brigman traveled to New York for an eight-month visit, during which she met Stieglitz, whom she idolized, and other pictorial photographers. That summer she attended Clarence H. White’s first summer school of photography, in Maine, and then returned to California. She resumed residence in Oakland, and in 1915 helped Francis Bruguière organize an exhibition of pictorial photographs for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco), at which she won the grand prize.
During the 1920s, she studied design and made linoleum-block prints and copper-plate etchings. She moved to Long Beach, California, in 1929, to be near family members, and began making abstract photographs of sand and water. Brigman was one of the few members of the Photo-Secession (which essentially dissolved in 1910), who continued to send her work to salons for another few decades, where it was seen with photographs by the second generation of pictorialists. During the 1910s, she showed in Philadelphia and Los Angeles; during the 1920s in New York, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, San Francisco, and Oakland; and during the 1930s in Tokyo, Madrid, Chicago, and San Antonio. Over her life, she presented one-person exhibitions at the Paul Elder Gallery (San Francisco, 1906), the Oakland Club (1907), Gump Galleries (San Francisco, 1921), Fort Dearborn Camera Club (Chicago, 1929) and the Chicago Camera Club and Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, both in 1932.
During the 1930s, Brigman studied poetry and creative writing and began composing her own poems. Subsequently, she created mock-ups for three books that combined her photographs and her poems, only one of which, Songs of a Pagan (1949), was published. This title features a facsimile of a hand-written letter from Alfred Stieglitz as an introduction and twenty-two pairs of poems and pictures. Most of the images are softly focused representations of figures and nature. The poems used such esoteric language that the book included a glossary of thirty words. Anne W. Brigman died in El Monte, California, on February 18, 1950. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Actress, photographer, and champion of woman’s rights, who separated from her husband to "work out my destiny." Brigman received acclaim and notoriety for her innovative interpretations of the female figure in nature, often inhabiting the landscape with her own nude body. Brigman’s interpretation of the landscape removed the female body from the gaze of a clothed man in the confines of his studio. She was one of the 21 women of the 105 members of the Photo-Secession. Her work appeared in three issues of Camera Work. She was elected to the British Linked Ring Society, and published a book of her poems and photographs (Songs of a Pagan, 1950). 
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Paul L. Anderson
Portrait of Anne Brigman 
Family history 
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Exhibitions on this website

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Supplemental information


Annie Brigman
American, 1869-1950

Anne Brigman was a self-described "free spirit" who rejected society's notion of a woman finding self fulfilment as a wife and mother, and instead found her fulfilment through her artistic expression. Brigman had an intense relationship with nature which figured prominently in her photographs. She frequently photographed female nudes in a landscape expressing a oneness between art and nature. As a member of Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession group, Brigman employed the soft-focus technique and elaborate printing processes favored by them. In order to achieve a desired effect in a photograph, Brigman heavily altered her negatives, as well as her prints, which she believed was part of her artistic freedom. Her photographs were reproduced in Stieglitz's Camera Work and she is considered to be one of the leading west coast pictorialists.
For more information on Brigman, see A Poetic Vison: The Photographs of Anne Brigman, by Susan Ehrens, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1995.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery]

Annie Brigman

Born in Hawaii, Anne Brigman moved to California when she was sixteen. Originally trained as a painter, she had her first photography exhibition in 1902, at the second San Francisco Salon, an annual group show organized by the California Camera Club. Brigman's favorite subject was the female nude, often posed outdoors in dramatic landscapes to suggest an intimate and powerful connection to the natural world. Influenced by Alfred Stieglitz and the Tonalist painters, she sought to bring photography into the realm of fine art.
Brigman often manipulated her negatives in the darkroom to create soft, subjective effects. She used pencils, paint, chemicals and even etching tools directly on her negatives. She also often combined negatives, sandwiching them together in her enlarger so that images were superimposed on one another, ironically to achieve a more naturalistic image. By endowing elements of the California landscape with her highly personal vision, she sought to overcome the commonly held perception that photography was merely a tool of description. Among her other accomplishments, her work appeared in three issues of Camera Work, published by Alfred Stieglitz until 1917. In 1929 she moved to Long Beach, California, where she continued to photograph, focusing on Los Angeles beaches and industry. A year before her death in Eagle Rock, near Los Angeles, in 1950, she published a book of her poems and photographs titled Songs of a Pagan.
Anne Brigman’s work is in major museum collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Source: J. Paul Getty Museum, Oakland Museum of California
[Contributed by the Etherton Gallery] 

Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Anne Brigman.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.96-97 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Lahs-Gonzales, Olivia & Lippard, Lucy 1997 Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century. Selections from the Helen Kornblum Collection (Saint Louis Art Museum, D.A.P.) [Anne Brigman is included in this overview of women photographers.] 
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