July 08 1900 - August 17 1992
Photograph of Barbara Morgan with 4x5 Graphlex, 1942, by Willard D. Morgan. (c) Barbara Morgan, The Barbara Morgan Archive, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
Drawings and prints, Painting, Photography
Lithographer, Painter, Photographer, Watercolorist
Since dance is, by definition, motion, it is a formidable subject for the photographer’s lens. Yet Barbara Morgan’s fifty-year career began with her stunning photographs of America’s modern-dance pioneers.
Barbara Brookes Johnson was born in Buffalo, Kansas, but raised in southern California. Having decided at age five to be a painter, she studied art at the University of California, Los Angeles and later taught design, woodcut, and painting there for five years. At UCLA, Morgan mounted an exhibition of Edward Weston, with whom she developed a lifelong friendship. In 1925, she married Willard D. Morgan, a prominent photojournalist, who encouraged her to explore photography. Morgan gave birth to two sons, in 1932 and 1935, and from 1935 until the end of her life, she devoted her professional life to the medium of photography.
In 1930, the Morgans moved to New York, the focal point of avant-garde dance in the United States. Inspired by one of Martha Graham’s performances, Morgan determined to create a book of photographs of Graham’s troupe. Published in 1941, the book, Martha Graham: Sixteen Dances in Photographs
, was a landmark in both Morgan's and Graham's careers. In addition to their extraordinary power and beauty, these photographs, displayed in traveling exhibitions, introduced many people across the United States and abroad to modern dance, then a relatively unknown art form. The photographs impart an instant of action, a moment in time transformed into timeless gestures that also convey emotional truths.
At her home in Scarsdale, New York, where she moved in 1941 and where she spent the rest of her life, Morgan continued taking photographs of dancers, children, and other subjects; she experimented with pictures of light sources in motion, published several more books, and received numerous grants and honors.
Editor, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1919-1923)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Willard D. Morgan
friend of and influenced by Edward Weston
friend of Ansel Adams
friend of Berenice Abbott
friend of Wynn Bullock
friend of Charles Sheeler
friend of Minor White
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, American Society of Magazine Photographers, Washington, DC, USA (1988)
Honorary Doctorate, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA (1978)
Artist Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1975)
Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1931)
A History of Women Photographers
From the Collection: Portraits of Women by Women
Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century
Barbara Morgan: Prints, Drawings, Watercolors & Photographs, Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA (1988) Exhibition traveled until 1990
Barbara Morgan Retrospective, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA and University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA (1962)