Judy Dater, Self-portrait with Stone, Badlands, South Dakota (detail), 1981. Gelatin silver print, 14 3/8 x 18 1/4 in. on 16 x 20 in. sheet. Collection of the artist. © Judy Dater

Judy Dater: Only Human

Spanning five decades of the artist’s work, Judy Dater: Only Human is the first exhibition in over twenty years to explore the career of Bay Area photographer Judy Dater. This exhibition will provide a survey of Dater’s work, celebrating her achievement as a pioneering figure in 1970s feminist art and her subsequent creative evolution.

Living most of her life in California, Judy Dater (b. 1941) grew up in Hollywood with the influence of cinema amplified by the hours she spent in her father’s movie theater. This early exposure to the realm of the visual led her to study art at the University of California, Los Angeles and later San Francisco State University (SFSU), where she earned her degrees (BA 1963, MA 1966). At SFSU, Dater committed more seriously to photography and her early talent was encouraged by several prominent members from the West Coast’s Group f.64 and its followers, including Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston.

Though the theme of feminism remains present in Dater’s work through the decades, her compositions increase in narrative depth and implication over time. Her self-portraits incorporating the landscape of the Southwest use geographic features as subtle allusions that reveal the weight of social constructs.

The nude body — women, men, and myself — became an important vehicle for me to express ideas about sexuality, gender politics, freedom, vulnerability, strength, and character. Judy Dater

In the news

  • The show allows viewers to consider Dater’s evolution as an artist from black-and-white to color photography and from blatant critiques of a male-driven society to nuanced portraits of Bay Area residents.

    Time Out, San Francisco,
  • Photographing women — of all ages, shapes and ethnicities — has always been central to Dater’s work.

    Jessica Zack, San Francisco Chronicle,


Judy Dater discusses her process and career upon the opening of her exhibition at the de Young.

Judy Dater discusses her process and career upon the opening of her exhibition at the de Young.

Currently on view