The Portrait Photography of Gertrude Käsebier

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Self-portrait of Gertrude Käsebier.
Self-portrait of Gertrude Käsebier.

As an artist who has had to give up her art due to health concerns, I can truly relate to the strange feeling of being an artist without a craft.

Photography has been one of those realms that I have longed to explore since first acquiring, as a kid in the 1980s, one of those point and shoot cameras with the detachable flashbulbs that burned out with each picture. An ancient turquoise-colored relic by today’s digital standards, for sure.

Last year, for my birthday, I ordered a stack of photography books from Amazon and began to refresh my memory about photography basics. Aperture. Shutter speed. ISO. All that good stuff.

I also started exploring the work of past photographers because I didn’t know where to begin or what to photograph.

Portrait of Zitkala Sa by Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Zitkala Sa by Gertrude Käsebier.

After finding the portrait photography of Gertrude Käsebier, I fell in love. And when I discovered that she hadn’t begun to study art and photography until she was 37 years old, I knew I had found an inspiration.

(Now, at 35-years-old, I am enamored with photography.)

Gertrude Käsebier’s portrait photography is some of the most revealing portrait photography I’ve seen.  She was a master at capturing person and personality.  Some of her favorite subjects included women, mothers, and Native American men and women.

I am now a mother and a grandmother…My children and their children have been my closest thought, but from the first days of dawning individuality, I have longed unceasingly to make pictures of people…to make likenesses that are biographies, to bring out in each photograph the essential temperament that is called, soul, humanity.

-Gertrude Käsebier

Portrait of Gertrude Käsebier O'Malley, daughter of Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Gertrude Käsebier O’Malley, daughter of Gertrude Käsebier.

 

Portrait of Sioux Chief Iron Tail by Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Sioux Chief Iron Tail by Gertrude Käsebier.

 

Portrait of Josephine Brown by Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Josephine Brown by Gertrude Käsebier.

 

Portrait of Zitkala Sa by Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Zitkala Sa by Gertrude Käsebier.

 

Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit by Gertrude Käsebier.
Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit by Gertrude Käsebier.

Perhaps it is as a mother, a woman, or an aspiring photographer that I am impressed by the beauty and thought behind her photography.  I find it endlessly inspiring.

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