This is a monograph that was almost never published, as Bernhards initial proposal was declined by several publishers with comments such as that “only Ansel Adams could sell black-and-white photography books.”
Despite this adversity Bernhard raised the necessary funding through the sale of five limited edition prints, and The Eternal Body became a celebrated body of work that greatly furthered her photographic career.
Bernards considerable lifetime of 101 years was largely devoted to an appreciation of the female body, and it’s as part of her view of a unified humanity that her nudes show spirit, energy, and harmony.
“It is so basic. A human being is an innocent part of nature. Our civilization has distorted this universal quality that allows us to feel at home in our skin. Other animals have coats that they accept, but the human race has yet to come to terms with being nude”
“My aim is to transform the complexities of the figure into harmonies of simplified forms revealing the innate reality, the life force, the spirit, the inherent symbolism and the underlying remarkable structure – to isolate and give emphasis to form with the greatest clarity.”
The 50 images selected for this monograph begin in 1934 with “In the Circle” and continue chronologically until closing with “Knees and Arm” in 1976 (both left). Other notable images include “Perspective II” from 1967 as shown on the cover (top), and the delightful “In the Box, Horizontal” from 1962, complete with arm extending beyond the frame (left bottom).
The monograph concludes with an overview of Bernhards work by photographer Margaretta Mitchell.
The Eternal Body: A Collection of Fifty Nudes by Ruth Bernhard
Published by Photography West Graphics 1986, and reissued by Chronicle Books 1994
All images © Ruth Bernhard