Christa Zinner was born in Germany and traveled to the U.S. in the summer of 1936 as a 16 year old student. She stayed for more than a year before returning to her family in Germany. Two years later and newly married, she returned to the U.S. with her husband and settled in Oregon. Unsatisfied with the limited opportunities in rural Oregon, she divorced and moved to San Francisco where she worked as a fashion model. Christa developed a keen interest in photography and began to explore the other side of the camera lens. She took a second job as a photographer of distinguished clientele at a posh nightclub, the beginning of a highly successful career as a photographer that would span more than three decades.
Christa remained in San Francisco during WWII, where she was subjected to curfews and restrictions due to her German origin. She managed a studio and developed her skills taking portraits of war brides and sweethearts of soldiers overseas. A few years later she relocated to Los Angeles, where she attended classes and later became an instructor at the prestigious Art Center School. Ahead of her time, Christa opened a commercial studio for fashion photography and became a sought after talent for editorial assignments. As an iconic 1960’s photographer, she worked with such visionaries as fashion pioneer Rudy Gernreich, and captured the images of an array of prominent figures that include Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Thomas Mann and Cher. Christa’s photographs have graced the covers of Life Magazine, Look, Vogue, Ebony, Glamour, Town & Country, Sports Illustrated, and various international publications. Many of Christa Zinner’s photographs, covers, and editorial spreads are archived at the USC Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection in Los Angeles.
In the early 1970’s, Christa Zinner’s focus began to shift from capturing to creating images. She studied live drawing in Rome, Italy and at the age of 70, fulfilled a lifelong dream and blossomed into a talented sculptor. “After years of seeing the height of fashion through a camera lens,” says Christa, “I am still fascinated by the human form. Sculpting fulfills my artistic visions in a new and very palpable way.” Her classic busts of unique personalities and lifelike bronze nudes capture moments of human pondering, consternation and bliss. Christa Zinner’s sculptures are showcased in prominent homes throughout the world.
Widow to Academy Award Winning film editor, director & producer Peter Zinner
Son: Nicholas Nelken , MD., vascular surgeon
Daughter: Katina Zinner, film editor, producer & painter