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Ira Eisenberg and Imogen Cunningham then and now

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


Ira Eisenberg

This is a transcribed interview.  Readers are welcome to submit questions to sal@gelardin.net.  The interviewee will respond to all questions through the interviewer.


High Achieving Women when It Was Rare for Women To Achieve Recognition


Ira Eisenberg interviewed Imogen Cunningham in 1975, when she was 92-years old. She died a year later. Imogen was one of the great pioneers of fine art photography. He interviewed Imogen at her cottage on Green street in San Francisco, where she had been living alone and independently.  Imogen was one of the great pioneers of photography.  Imogen lived for many years in Berkeley, where she brought up two sons and took many of her most admired photographs in her back yard.  Imogen was best friends with Dorothea Lange, the great documentary photographer who immortalized the plight of the dustbowl migrants, who came to California during the Great Depression of the 1930s and inspired important reforms.




Ira Eisenberg is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist.  He received a regional Emmy (one of three) for the television program he produced about Imogen Cunningham, while employed by KRON TV as a documentary writer/producer/director in the late 60s through the mid-70s. Eisenberg also wrote Persistance of Vision, a screenplay about the life and times of Dorothea Lange, under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which still remains to be produced as a motion picture.  During his over 40 years of working life, he worked for a decade for the California Employment Development Department in the Unemployment Insurance Division in Oakland.




DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

That Dorothea Lange succeeded in her quest to “do something” about the Great Depression through her photography is history. That she managed to overcome self-doubt, the hardships of the time, personal tragedy and the traditional lot of womankind to achieve that success -- and discovered true love in the process -- is what makes her story compelling to our own time.  

Ira Eisenberg (Synopsis of Persistence of Vision Screenplay)

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Background of Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham (April 12, 1883 - June 24, 1976) was an American photogrpaher known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes. MORE..


Background of Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange, another great documenary female photographer.  Dorothea Lang (May 26, 1895 - October 11, 1965) was an influential American photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. MORE...

Interview Questions

  1. What were the times like when these women launched their photography careers, what motivated them,  and how did they achieve fame? During the 1930s, for a woman to succeed in any field, including photography, was rare and difficult to obtain, because like other fields, it was dominated by men. Women were hemmed in by their family obligations and social conventions. There was a big prejudice against women doing anything so ambitious at that time.
  2. At what cost did they achieve fame? Neither Imogen or Dorothea's marriage could survive their professional ambitions.
  3. How did you get to know Imogen? At the time I interviewed her, Imogen was not only a famous artist, but also a well-known Bay area personality.
  4. What inspired you to interview her? I was working in media; she was a famous artist and noteworthy personality.  I was keenly interested in photography.
  5. What drew you to writing a screenplay about Dorothea? My lifelong interest in documentary work and the seminal role she played in advancing documentary photography.  She rejected the path of fine arts photography and chose to be a documentary photgrapher at a time when that was very rare.  Cameras were very cumbersome and difficult to operate at that time.  It was before the 35 mm camera was invented.
  6. What can we learn from entrepreneurial women, such as Imogen and Dorthea, that can be helpful in current times? I wouldn't describe them as entrepreneurial.  What distinguished these women were their talents and ambitions, despite the barriers set up by their families and society, to say nothing about the difficulty of the times.
  7. You also became a California Employment Development Officer at some point in your career.  Why did you transition to this field? I was an Employment Program Representative in the Unemployment Insurance Division.  I became such because I needed a job because the media industry had changed so drastically that it was difficult for a person like me to find work.
  8. What is most important to you at this stage of your life? I would love to see Persistence of Vision produced as a motion picture before I die, because I believe that it is a very timely and important story, given the economic and social turmoil of our times.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.