Käsebier was the most recognized women photographer around 1900 in both pictorialism and professional portraiture. She excelled at portraying aspects of womanhood, often picturing mothers and daughters together. As a founding member of the Photo-Secession, she was closely associated with Alfred Stieglitz and was the featured photographer in the first issue of Camera Work.
She was born Gertrude Stanton in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 18, 1852. After her father’s death when she was twelve years old, her family moved east, where she lived with her grandmother in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, while her mother ran a boarding house in New York. Ten years later, she married Eduard Käsebier, with whom she had three children. At age thirty-seven, she began studying portrait painting at Pratt Institute and in the summer of 1894 chaperoned an art class to France. While there, she learned the technical aspects of photography from a chemist in Germany. Back in the States, she apprenticed herself to a professional photographer in Brooklyn to get a grasp on business practices and in 1897 opened her own portrait studio in Manhattan. She met with quick success and was soon praised by both amateurs and professionals as this country’s leading female practitioner.
Käsebier’s husband died in 1910, after which she combined her portrait studio and living space. At this time, she also started to involve herself with different photographic groups.
In 1925, Käsebier’s eyesight began to fail, and two years later she retired, though her daughter, Hermaine Turner, continued operating the studio. The last retrospective during her lifetime occurred in 1929, at the Brooklyn Institute. Gertrude Käsebier died at Hermaine’s home in New York, on October 13, 1934.