Betty Kuhner: The American Family Portrait

Kate Kuhner and Betty Kuhner on location at the Las Brisas hotel
in Acapulco, Mexico, 1972.

Groundbreaking photographer Betty Kuhner revolutionized the American family portrait. Dressed in her uniform of white slacks, a blue cotton shirt, hair held back with a cotton scarf, and trademark oversized glasses, Kuhner beckoned families out of their formal living rooms and into the outdoor freedom of their natural habitats. Instructing her subjects to dress casually (and oftentimes similarly), Kuhner captured families frolicking on their lawns, hanging from trees, running on the beach, or basking in the ocean. Co-written by Kate Kuhner and Steven Stoleman, Betty Kuhner: The American Family Portrait (Gibbs Smith), provides a monograph of the extraordinary photography of Betty Kuhner (1916–2014), who became the family portrait photographer of record for America’s most notable habitués of Newport, Greenwich, Southampton, Grosse Pointe, and above all, Palm Beach. Many of America’s toniest tribes passed before Kuhner’s lens, with names like Pulitzer, DuPont, Duke, Ford, Gubelmann, Kennedy, Lauder, and Phipps. Betty’s daughter, Kate Kuhner, writes of her late mom, “Guests were always enchanted by her easy informality and universally let their hair down. My mother’s unique point of view, combined with her warmth and natural ability to make everyone comfortable, were the keys to her success as a photographer, home decorator, entertainer and, most importantly, mother.”

The cover of Betty Kuhner: The American Family Portrait
by Kate Kuhner and Steven Stolman
Britty Bardes Cudlip with her daughter, Mary Brittain, in Newport, Rhode Island, 1990.