Judy Dater

(b. 1941)

 

Born in 1941 in Hollywood, Dater has been a photographer since the early 1960s. Known for her sensitive portraits of women and intense photographs of the nude in general, Dater has built up an international reputation for her unique work that has influenced many. She has won numerous photography awards, has had exhibitions globally and has published a number of books.

 

Dater's early work, which was created as the Feminist Movement was gaining momentum, focused on the liberation of (and the perception of) the female form. At this time, when female frontal nudity was still considered risqué in American fine art photography, Dater was pushing the boundaries, creating images that challenged this moral code. In an attempt to liberate people from the complicated social confines that limited the ideal of beauty in the female figure, she took pictures that celebrated women in a wider sense. By these uninhibited portrayals of the female form, she broke down the restricted thinking of beauty.

 

Dater was influenced by the formal compositions of Edward Weston and August Sander. But her foremost inspiration was Imogen Cunningham, the woman photographer who had paved the way for younger female artists like Dater in the field. Despite being separated in age by almost sixty years, Dater and Cunningham formed a close friendship for 13 years until Cunningham passed in 1976. In her 1974 photograph Imogen and Twinka, Dater photographs the fully dressed aging photographer peering around a tree in the forest at a young nude model. Perhaps her most famous work, this image is not only beautiful for its composition, content, and form, but it is also challenges the idea of clothed men looking at nude girls.

Dater was not only at the forefront of challenging perceptions of the nude female figure, but she was also crucial in igniting discussions about women's roles in society. Dater did this by photographing staged scenes of herself in assumed female roles. Believing that, “pictures of other people are always sort of a self-portrait,” Dater decided to turn the camera on herself. In these powerful photographs, where she is dressed in different guises, acting out different personalities, Dater examines the stereotypical female character.

 

Dater currently lives and works in the Berkeley, California. Her most recent works are simple photographs of people against a black backdrop – a minimal approach that creates raw and unmasked portraiture.