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Photographer Ilka Hartmann was born in Hamburg, Germany during World War II and came to the Bay Area as a young woman in 1964.
Initially a student of Theology, a class in Photography (in which she was introduced to the work of Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and most notably, W. Eugene Smith) re-mapped Ilka's dedicated and life-long path as a photographer.
Soon she began to photograph most of the great social movements of the second part of the twentieth century in the United States, from the Anti-War Movement, to the Black Panther Party, the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island, the United Farm Workers, the Anti-Nuclear Movement and Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Marches in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.
Ilka was more than a passive observer of activists and their causes, rather she was warmly embraced by and invited into these communities, thus giving her rare access to a side of their lives and activities not represented in the general media.
In 1969 she began to focus her camera lens on the people and events of her small alternative community on the Northern California Coast; documenting its history and the people whom she knows well and has seen grow up, mature and age. Some of the most notable early photos from this work illustrated the 1976 book The Town That Fought to Save Itself.
In 1970, moved by the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island, she began to chronicle Native Americans' lives in the cities of the Bay Area and on reservations around the country. She cares deeply for these communities and they have become the main focus of her work.
Ilka continues her work today documenting moments which reflect her heartfelt and unique perspective of people and their efforts toward recognition and social justice.
At the heart of Ilka's photography is the individual often unnoticed, but affected by a complex and painful history while always retaining an inherent grace and dignity. In the eyes of those most tend to overlook or shun, Ilka sees magnificence.
"I am drawn to the beauty of the human face - the character, the expressions, the humanity."
- Ilka Hartmann
Ilka's work has been exhibited, used in films and published in numerous books, newspapers & publications around the world.
Currently, Ilka is seeking funding for the proper archival of her life's work, to complete the construction of her home darkroom in order to develop and print 20 years of unseen work, to publish a monograph of her finest photos and to establish a workshop apprenticeship program in which she may share her love for, experience in and expert knowledge of Humanistic Photography and the Photo Essay to young photographers.
A selected archive of Ilka's photographs can be found here:
Support Ilka's projects by purchasing a print.