Lavenson, Alma (1897–1989)

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Lavenson, Alma (1897–1989)

American photographer. Born Alma Ruth Lavenson in San Francisco, California, in 1897; died in Piedmont, California, in 1989; University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1919; married Matt Wahrhaftig (a lawyer), in 1933 (died 1957); children: Albert (b. 1935); Paul (b. 1938).

A contemporary of Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White , and Marion Post Wolcott , Alma Lavenson took up photography in 1919 and continued working until her death at age 92. Her portraits, still lifes, industrial, and architectural photographs reflect the development and trends in photography over a 70-year span.

Alma Lavenson was born in 1897 and spent her early years in San Francisco. When the 1906 earthquake destroyed the city, she moved with her family to Oakland. Following her graduation from the University of California at Berkeley in 1919, Lavenson went on a seven-month tour of Europe; during this time, she became interested in photography. In the 1930s, she exhibited in both her native San Francisco and in New York City, where she met and was influenced by Imogen Cunningham and Alfred Stieglitz. Although not a member of Group f/64, Lavenson was represented in their first exhibition in San Francisco in 1932. She was also influenced by Ansel Adams, and took many photos in California and New Mexico. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, she traveled and photographed in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Alma Lavenson was a frequent contributor to the magazines Photo-Era and Camera Club, and her photographs appeared in Sydney B. Mitchell's book Your California Garden and Mine (1947). She was also represented in Edward Steichen's Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955. In 1979, a retrospective of her work was held at

the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside. Lavenson was married in 1933 to lawyer Matt Wahrhaftig and had two sons, Albert and Paul. She died in 1989 in Piedmont, California, where she had lived since 1935.


Moreland, Kim, Leo Ribuffo, and Catherine Griggs. "Book Notes: American Photography," in American Studies International. October 1992.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville Press, 1994.

suggested reading:

Ehrens, Susan. Alma Lavenson Photographs. Berkeley, CA: Wildwood Arts, 1991.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Lavenson, Alma (1897–1989)

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