Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Ruth Bernhard, 1905-2006


Ruth Bernhard, the Berlin-born photographer who made her home in San Francisco, died late last year at the age of 101.

Bernhard began her studies at the Berlin Academy of Art, but left after two years to emigrate to the United States. Upon her arrival in New York, she took a job as a darkroom assistant for The Delineator, working under the supervision of Ralph Steiner, and enjoyed success as a commercial photographer.

In 1935, following a chance encounter with Edward Weston on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., she decided to relocate to the West Coast and focus her energies on artistic photography, becoming known for her black-and-white studies of seashells and the female form.

Bernhard also earned a reputation as a generous and influential teacher, sharing her knowledge through master classes across the United States until six years before her death.

During her 80-year career, she garnered many honors. Robert Burrill documented Bernhard's life in his 1988 film "Illuminations," the culmination of a four-year collaboration. In the decade preceding her death, Bernhard cooperated with biographer Margaretta K. Mitchell to produce an account of her life, "Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life."