683 Brockhurst St, Oakland, CA 94609
674 32nd St, Oakland, CA 94609
Anne Wardrope Brigman (née Nott; December 3, 1869 – February 8, 1950) was an American photographer and one of the original members of the Photo-Secession movement in America. Her most famous images were taken between 1900 and 1920, and depict nude women in primordial, naturalistic contexts. Her studio was in a converted barn on Brockhurst St. She was also close friends with Jack London.
Brigman was born in the Nu‘uanu Pali above Honolulu, Hawaii, on 3 December 1869. She was the oldest of eight children born to Mary Ellen Andrews, whose parents moved to Hawaii as missionaries in 1828. Her father, Samuel Nott, was from Gloucester, England. When she was sixteen her family moved to Los Gatos, California, and nothing is known about why they moved or what they did after arriving in California. In 1894 she married a sea captain 23 years her senior, Martin Brigman. She accompanied her husband on several voyages to the South Seas, returning to Hawaii at least once. Imogen Cunningham recounts a story supposedly told to her firsthand that on one of the voyages Brigman fell and injured herself so badly that one breast was removed. This story was never confirmed by Brigman or anyone else, but by 1900 Brigman stopped traveling with her husband and resided in Oakland, California. The couple separated before 1910 and she lived in a cabin at 674 Thirty-Second Street with her dog Rory, a dozen tamed birds, and occasionally with her mother. Her photo studio on Brockhurst St. was nearby. She was active in the growing bohemian community of the San Francisco Bay Area and became close friends with the Oakland writer Jack London and the Berkeley poet and naturalist Charles Keeler. Perhaps seeking her own artistic outlet, she began photographing in 1901. Soon she was exhibiting and within two years she had developed a reputation as a master of pictorial photography.
Between 1908 and the mid-1920s Brigman frequently vacationed in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where she exhibited her photos at several of the seaside salons. She began to study etching in Carmel under James Blanding Sloan and exhibited her prints “of fine design and feeling” in April 1925 with other Sloan students at the League of Fine Arts in Berkeley and at the City of Paris Galleries in San Francisco. In August 1926 her photos were paired with the block prints of William S. Rice in a show at Morcom's Gallery in Oakland; the following March she exhibited her photographs at the Fine Arts Society of San Diego. In the summer of 1928 she made the first of several lengthy trips to Covina in southern California. The following March she submitted a photograph of “figures in a somber dance” to the Exhibition of Dance Art at San Francisco's East-West Gallery.
[Soul of the Blasted Pine], 1908 (A self-portrait of Brigman)
In 1929 she moved to Long Beach, California, where she lived alone in a number of apartments near the ocean. She found inspiration along the picturesque shorelines of the Pacific and held a major solo exhibition at the Bothwell and Cooke Galleries in January 1936; the Los Angeles Times singled out Wings, Design and El Dolor as her “choicest” photographs. In 1940 she lived in Los Angeles and gave her occupation as “writer”. Within three years Brigman had returned to Long Beach, where she was a member of the Poets’ Guild and the Writers’ Market League. At the latter she read her narrative Deepwater Ships that Pass.
Declining vision led her to abandon professional freelance photography in 1930 although she continued photography through the 1940s. Her work evolved from a pure pictorial style to more of a straight photography approach, although she never really abandoned her original vision. Her later close-up photos of sandy beaches and vegetation are near-abstractions in black-and-white. In the mid-1930s she also began taking creative writing classes, and soon she was writing poetry. Encouraged by her writing instructor, she put together a book of her poems and photographs called Songs of a Pagan. She found a publisher for the book in 1941, but because of World War II the book was not printed until 1949, the year before she died. Brigman died at the age of 80 on 8 February 1950, at her sister's home in El Monte, California.
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