Claude Cahun (Born Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob) was a French artist, writer and photographer.  She kept her photography mostly to herself in her day and was best known for her writing.  She did seem to participate in a few shows, but hid her identity as a woman.

She began her making self-portraits in 1912 at the age of 18.  She continued to take photos of herself for nearly 30 years. She used the pseudonym Claude Cahun as it was a sexually ambiguous name. She is best known for her highly-staged self-portraits and for incorporating elements of Surrealism.

Cahun was an active commentator on the public’s opinion of sexuality, gender, beauty, and logic.  Her portraits were often androgynous and created many visually complex scenes.  She is seen as an influencer to artists like Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Del LaGrace Volcano.

Her work came to be truly appreciated well after her death. Many see her work as an inspiration and all photographers interested in portraiture can learn from her approach to subject and composition.

The following documentary is in French (with subtitles):


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  1. […] R. (2014) Claude Cahun| A photographer you should know. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January […]


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


A Photographer You Should Know, Inspiration