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Mather, Margrethe (c. 1885–1952)

Mather, Margrethe (c. 1885–1952)

American photographer . Born around 1885, in or near Salt Lake City, Utah; died in 1952, in Glendale, California.

Margrethe Mather, who was born around 1885, lived in an orphanage until she was adopted by a mathematics professor and his common-law wife. She was unhappy with them, and as a teenager ran away to San Francisco, where for a time she earned a living through prostitution. Around 1911, Mather began an affair with a wealthy woman identified as "Beau" who guided her cultural education. Exactly when she began to study photography is not known, but it was probably sometime before 1912, when she met noted photographer Edward Weston. They established an "essentially platonic" working and personal relationship that would last for nearly two decades, sharing a highly respected studio in Glendale, near Los Angeles. Producing portraits and other images as well as working with interior decorators, Mather was included in several photography exhibits in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and eventually took over the Glendale Studio.

Her photographs, which often featured isolated parts of the human body, exhibited a sense of artistry which is believed to have influenced Weston's work both during and after their collaboration. She was published in Camera Craft, Pictorial Photography in America, and American Photography magazines, and with her friend William Justema organized a 1931 exhibit, "Patterns by Photography," at San Francisco's M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. Despite her popularity and critical success, by the early 1930s Mather all but abandoned photography. Although she continued to take occasional photographic portraits of her friends, she spent most of the last two decades of her life working in retail stores. She died of multiple sclerosis in 1952.


Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1994.

——. A World History of Photography. Paris and London: Abbeville Press, 1984.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan

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