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Barbara Morgan

(Buffalo, Kansas, 1900 - 1992)

North America, American

Born in Kansas at the turn of the century, Barbara Morgan grew up in California and attended the University of California at Los Angeles where she studied painting from 1919 to 1923. After graduation, she joined the University’s faculty and taught basic design, beginning landscape painting and woodcut printmaking. During this time, she met and married Willard Morgan, a writer who illustrated his freelance articles with photography. Morgan had no interest in photography until she was introduced to the work of Edward Weston while hanging his photographs for an exhibition in 1926. It was then that she realized the importance of photography as a truly creative art. Inspired by summer vacations spent in the Southwest studying Native Americans and their dance rituals, Morgan embraced photography as a fine art, and it soon became her primary medium.
Morgan and her husband moved to New York and in 1935 she attended a performance of the Martha Graham Dance Company; she was so moved by it that she insisted on meeting the choreographer. This led to a creative collaboration between Morgan and Graham for more than ten years, resulting in Morgan’s most renowned work. She attended hours of dance performances and would select specific poses to be re-staged and photographed in her studio. After working with Graham for three years, Morgan was invited to be the official photographer of The Bennington College Summer School of Dance, which trained such icons as José Limon, Jane Dudley and Merce Cunningham.
From then on she worked with all manner of photographic manipulations including photograms, light drawing and photomontage to extend the expressive dimensions of the medium. She was an enthusiastic lecturer and had more than 35 solo exhibitions during her 70 year career.

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