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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Barbara Morgan

Other: Barbara Brooks Johnson 
Other: Barbara Brooks Johnson Morgan 
Dates:  1900 - 1992
Born:  US, KS, Buffalo
Active:  US
Best known for her dance photography but she worked on a wide range of fine art subjects.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Born in Kansas, Morgan studied art at UCLA and taught there from 1925 to 1930. She had decided at age four to become an artist. When she married photographer Willard Morgan they moved to New York and she continued her abstract painting until the birth of two sons. Having met Edward Weston in 1925, Morgan already knew that photography could be a potent art form, and with encouragement from her husband, she began making photographs. With a camera she could explore the rhythms of nature that she had learned about from her father as a little girl (that all things are made of moving, dancing atoms). Her most famous work soon followed; the dance movement photographs of Martha Graham. Morgan had said that dance was a "combustion" of energy and she felt challenged to capture this on film. Letter to the World Kick (1940) is her triumph (Graham interpreting the life of Emily Dickinson). For ten years until 1945, Morgan documented the genesis of modern dance in America, dramatically capturing for posterity the graceful and athletic movements of Graham, Merce Cunningham, Charles Weidman, and Jos Limn. Morgan was also a pioneer in her use of photomontage and moving light abstraction. Portraits and nature subjects also were found in her portfolio. She was a founding member of the Photo League (1937) and of the influential quarterly, Aperture (1952). She was co-owner, with her husband, of the photographic publishing house Morgan & Morgan, Scarsdale/ Dobbs Ferry, New York (19351972). 
(Author: Ken White - Rochester Institute of Technology) 
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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Bill Jay
Barbara Morgan 
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

Terms and Conditions

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

Printed biographies

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

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.172 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.336,337,338 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.223 [Includes a well written short biography on Barbara Morgan with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Barbara Morgan.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.196-197 [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.) [Barbara Morgan is included in this overview of women photographers.] 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Barbara Morgan are included in this classic history.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.136 [Analyzes a single photograph by Barbara Morgan.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Barbara Morgan was represented in 72 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 


The wit and wisdom.

"Light is the shape and play of my thought… my reason for being a photographer."
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