To put it bluntly: Ruth was a badass.
She was born in Berlin in 1905 to a stay-at-home mother and a father that had already made a name for himself as a graphic designer. In-fact many of the typefaces he created in the early 1900s are still used today.
It was only when Ruth moved to New York City in 1927 that she began pursuing her interest in photography. She initially moved there to live with her father, and worked as an assistant to Ralph Steiner for Delineator Magazine. But it was after she was fired from that position that she used her severance pay to invest in the necessary equipment to start her photography career.
It was also during this time in the late 1920s that she became involved in the lesbian subculture of Manhattan, and I emphasize the importance of the subculture element. During these times, as we are all aware of, the LGBTQ community was still forced to live secretively in society, and despite this, Ruth boldly and unapologetically lived her life bisexually.
In 1934 Bernhard began photographing women in the nude, and it was during this time that she discovered her calling, working almost exclusively in black-and-white from then on.
Another reason why Ruth is a confident badass? She actually produced the photography for the very first catalog that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City ever published. If that’s not the definition of a trailblazer, I don’t know what is.
Through the mid-1900s she continued to develop her skill and, as a result, her international fame and artistic recognition blossomed. In 1967 she began her teaching career and, during that same year, she met the man she would live with until his death in 1999.
She was inducted into the National Women’s Caucus for Art in 1981, and she was even declared as “the greatest photographer of the nude” by the one and only Ansel Adams.
So what can we learn from Ruth? Setbacks happen for a reason. If you’re not where you want to be, if you just got fired, use that time to your advantage and pursue your passion. Make your own path. Be true to yourself, even if society deems it unusual. Be confident in your ability, and continuously pursue your love and your art.