Alfred Stieglitz Artworks
American Photographer and Publisher
Hoboken, New Jersey
New York, New York
Progression of Art
Winter, Fifth Avenue
Winter, Fifth Avenue shows the busy New York street in the midst of a snowstorm. Stieglitz stalked Fifth Avenue for three frigid hours waiting for the perfect moment. He had to wait for the ideal composition - unlike a painter, who could manufacture it. Trails in the snow lead the eye up this vertical composition to its focal point - a dark horse and carriage that is swallowed by the snowy atmosphere. The snow blurs the details of the urban surroundings, lending the photo an Impressionistic appearance. This depiction of man - crudely mechanized - and pitted against the violence of the natural world, shows Stieglitz's inheritance from 19th century Romanticism.
Photogravure - The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Taken with a handheld Folmer and Schwing 4x5 plate film camera, this photo captures hot stream rising from horses in the dead of winter. A smaller camera meant greater mobility; it also ensured that he could more easily capture short-lived moments in time. The steam makes the photo appear more like a painting than a point-and-shoot image. Atmospheric effects such as this were important to Stieglitz in both providing a means to bind the image together and to show the kind of technical mastery and lush effects that audiences approved of in painting.
Photogravure - Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Steerage depicts travelers boarding a crowded steamer going from New York to Bremen, Germany. They have attempted to immigrate to America, and have been forced to return home. While several of Stieglitz's early pictures suggest an interest in working class motifs - or, at least, scenes of labor and industrial work - he looked at these people with the somewhat distant sympathy of the patrician. For Stieglitz, the picture was far more important as a study in line and form. He regarded it as his first "modernist" picture, the image that marked his move away from the rich tonality of his earlier Pictorial phase, and it has since come to be seen as a benchmark for the beginnings of modernist photography. In part, this was due to Stieglitz's own promotion of it. He included it in a special issue of his journal Camera Work, in 1911, that was devoted to his new work. The images were accompanied by a Cubist drawing by Picasso, and Stieglitz loved to recount how Picasso had praised The Steerage for the way it transformed its conventional subject into a striking, collage-like depiction of different spaces.
Photogravure - Museum of Modern Art, New York
From the Back Window at 291
This nighttime scene was taken from the window of Stieglitz's famous avant-garde gallery. The photo is dominated by the geometric lines of New York's cityscape, using the rich range of tone the camera affords to depict the drama of the city by night. The overall darkness is leavened by intermittent beacons of artificial light. Although the picture was taken many years after Stieglitz had turned his back on the rich tonality of Pictorial photography, it could be interpreted almost as a transitional piece - the dramatic light effects recall his early work, but the geometric forms of the roofs in the foreground recall the concerns of his more recent, straight photography.
Platinum print - Museum of Modern Art, New York
Georgia O'Keeffe - Torso
Stieglitz cropped O'Keeffe's body, filling the lens with her nude torso alone. A part of a larger series of portraits of O'Keeffe, it presents an intimate view of the woman who was Stieglitz's muse for the latter part of his life. He approached O'Keeffe like he might a landscape; the viewer is encouraged to see not nakedness but flowing organic lines - a finely judged composition. In consequence, however, she is also depersonalized and reduced to her component body parts - she is hair, breasts, and arms.
Palladium Print - Museum of Modern Art
Stieglitz's cloud series - Equivalents - captured ephemeral formations in the sky. This photo is divided between dark, black clouds on the left and bright sky on the right. Without context, the subject seems difficult to pinpoint, though Stieglitz intended the series to be an exploration of his changing mental state, with each shot of the sky representing an equivalent of his mood at the time the picture was captured. One of his more revered later works, the series is also the high point of abstraction in his career.
Gelatin Silver Print - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art