Virna Haffer had her own photography studio in Tacoma in the 1920s and 1930s. She was pre–Hippie, pre–Beatnik, but she pursued a bohemian lifestyle and produced art work that ranged from traditional to avant–-garde with a large dose of erotica.

One of the most innovative photographers ever active in Washington State, Haffer’s work exemplifies the wide and varied range of the Pictorialist movement.

...born Virna May Hanson in Aurora, Illinois and moved with her parents to Washington State’s Home Colony in 1907. This Utopian enclave on Puget Sound near Tacoma, attracted many political and social radicals who created an environment that was suited to the personalities of her father, a labor union organizer and her mother, a teacher. While attending Stadium High School in Tacoma, she lived in her own apartment and began supporting herself financially from the age of 15. She apprenticed at a portrait studio around this time and although it is undocumented, it was likely Wayne Albee’s as he was the most noted artistic photographer in the city. A substantial collection of his photographs in her estate indicates that the two were probably acquaintances at the very least. She established her own studio at 122 N. Cedar Street in Auburn, Washington but it was unsuccessful and she returned to Tacoma.... Continued at

The 1960s found her as innovative as ever, as she explored the possibilities of the photogram: a camera-less process that captures the shadows of objects on photosensitive paper....

While Haffer had a respectable national reputation in her lifetime, for whatever whim of fashion or fate, she came to be almost forgotten.... “shocked that she had been forgotten when the work was of such high quality and so innovative.... the international reaction we are getting reinforces my belief that she was a ...
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Jaak Mortelmans


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