Craft Matters

Ode to Ruth Bernhard

Viewport in my Home's Stairwell — an ode to Ruth Bernhard

“My quest, through the magic of light and shadow, is to isolate, to simplify and to give emphasis to form with the greatest clarity.” — Ruth Bernhard

I have a 3-story ascent of stairs in my home. It’s great daily exercise. And occasionally, in the stairwell, the light gifts me with inspiration, particularly in late afternoon when natural exterior and artificial interior lights converge. The inspiration and simplicity in this photograph conjured up the wisdom of Ruth Bernhard. If you’re interested in photography and not familiar with her, educate yourself. You’ll never see Lifesavers the same way again. Ruth passed away in 2006 at the too-young age, for her, of 101.

From the NY Times obituary:

Ms. Bernhard was known primarily for her dramatically lighted nude studies, which expressed her interest in abstract shape and form…. In 1935 a chance meeting with the photographer Edward Weston on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., altered the course of Ms. Bernhard’s life. He became her mentor, and she studied with him for years. Seeing his pictures for the first time, she said, was a revelation. “It was lightning in the darkness,” she said. “Here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible — an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography.”

To have Edward Weston as a mentor… wow. Ruth reciprocated the generosity later in her life mentoring a number of people I’ve met and some I know personally. They all speak affectionately of her. If I can one day mentor, and affect people in a similar way, I’ll be truly grateful.

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