Frederick Sommer

  • born Italy, 1905 - 1999
  • Artist, Photographer
  • American

The son of a city planner, Frederick Sommer was trained as an architect in Brazil. He began to exhibit his drawings in Brazil while still a teenager. His work was so accomplished that he was accepted to the architecture department at Cornell University, though he had not received an undergraduate degree and did not yet speak English.

Sommer purchased his first camera around 1931 while he was in Switzerland recovering from a bout of tuberculosis. Settling permanently in Prescott, Arizona, in 1935, he began to photograph in earnest after beginning a correspondence with Alfred Stieglitz and after seeing Edward Weston's images. His earliest pictures were still lifes of sometimes gruesome subjects, such as chicken carcasses; he later made landscapes and photographed assemblages of unlikely objects, some taken from the trash.