Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Stieglitz’

Profiles in Black & White: Alfred Stieglitz

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on September 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm

“Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today.”

-Alfred Stieglitz

Self-Portrait, Alfred Stieglitz, 1907

Self-Portrait, Alfred Stieglitz, 1907

Alfred Stieglitz, born in Hoboken, NJ in 1864, was raised in privilege. But he was not the only one to benefit from said upbringing; the art and photography worlds should be grateful as well. As a talented yet unchallenged student in America, Stieglitz’s father’s fortune allowed them to move back to Germany, where Edward (Alfred’s father) thought his son would be more rigorously educated. This eventually led Alfred to Technische Hochschule in Berlin, where Stieglitz would be provided the challenge he craved by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, a chemistry professor. Through Vogel, a noted early scientist in the research of photography, Stieglitz discovered his preferred artistic outlet. With the purchase of his first camera – along with a monthly allowance greater than some made in a year – he took to the European countryside, photographing the lands and their peasants. He also began what would be a very large collection of books on photographers and photography technique. In 1887, Stieglitz would have his first article published. That same year, he would win his first award in a contest held by Amateur Photographer. When he was finally compelled to return to America in 1890 by his parents, Stieglitz set out on a mission to prove that photography would become the next great art form.

Over the course of his career, Stieglitz produced over 3,000 pictures inspired by many muses. One of the first was capturing the art found within nature, an ideal planted within him by German artists Adolf von Menzel and Wilhelm Hasselman. The urban landscape would fascinate him as well, producing such photos as The Terminal (1892) and Winter-Fifth Avenue (1893). At a time of great upheaval and transition, Stieglitz was able to capture his surroundings as they departed their simpler roots and boomed into modern cityscapes and industry.

The Terminal, 1892

The Terminal, 1892

The transition of his surroundings would be paralleled in Stieglitz’s work. Originally a pictorialist, like many of his era’s counterparts, he would move towards modernism as his career matured, along with a greater fascination with people as his main subject. This included experiments with subjects both clothed and nude. His second wife, painter Georgia O’Keefe, inspired many photos in both manners. Another frequent curiosity would be human hands, contorted against a plethora of different settings. Sometimes they were the singular focus of the photo, while in others their distinctive pose within a photo stole focus from the main subject. As his career waned, the final photos seemed to combine everything he had learned into a well-refined work of art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art highlights this in his Looking Northwest from the Shelton (1932): “His photographs seem not to celebrate the astonishing growth of new buildings but rather almost geological permanence and stability,” they state on their website.

Looking Northwest from the Shelton, 1932

Looking Northwest from the Shelton, 1932

While Stieglitz left quite the impact on the art world through his own work, it can be argued that he had as much in not more of an impact as a patron. He was frequently published in photography and art magazines – along with heading Camera Notes and the influential Camera Work – and spoke in numerous venues across the country. He would provide inspiration and advice to numerous upcoming photographers, such as – previously covered here – Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Harry Callahan. As he got older, less of his time was spent on photographing and more overseeing his art galleries (Anderson Galleries, 1921-1925; The Intimate Gallery, 1925-29; An American Place, 1929-46). These, along with his earlier organized exhibitions co-opted with Edward Steichen at 291, provided an intrinsically important outlet for artists of all sorts, be it the avant-garde European works of Rodin and Picasso or Americans such as Strand, his wife O’Keefe and western landscape stalwart Ansel Adams. These factors, combined with his own works and personal collection of other’s works, have led some to label Stieglitz as a Renaissance Man and the most important figure to rise out of American visual arts history.

Stieglitz died in 1946 at the age of 82. Examples of his work can be found: here.

Profiles in Black&White: Harry Callahan

In Black and White Photography, Photo Print Collector, Photographer on September 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters.”  

Harry Callahan    


Harry Callahan was a product of the Motor City, Detroit, MI, in 1912. Like many of his neighbors, he initially sought work in an auto plant for Chrysler. After a brief foray into the world of engineering at Michigan State University, he would drop out and return to Chrysler once more. This time, he joined the company’s camera club. It was about 1938 when Callahan started to teach himself how to photograph. After attending an Ansel Adams lecture in 1941, he was inspired to pursue a career in art.

Callahan is a bit of a mystery in comparison to many of his contemporaries. Their pictures might carry numerous messages or explanations to tag along to their work. Less is known about Callahan. He was prone roaming the streets of his city and take numerous photos of whatever caught his eye; this trended through his life in Detroit, then Chicago –he was asked to join the faculty at the Institute of Design in 1946 – and through to Providence, where he established the photography department at Rhode Island School of design. Of the few that he produced final images of, he rarely, if ever, explicated them. Callahan was often experimenting with new ways to produce a photo. A photo might be double or triple exposed, blurred, or use either large or small format film. He also dabbled in the use of color film. Many of his photos would experiment with abstraction as well, reflecting upon life’s experiences.

One thing that was unequivocal was who his muse was. Eleanor Callahan met on Harry on a blind date in 1933 and three years later they were married. After the Ansel Adams lecture, Harry would photograph Eleanor for decades.

             “He just liked to take pictures of me,” she told an interviewer in 2008, according to the New York Times. “In every pose. Rain or shine. And whatever I was doing. If I was doing the dishes or if I was half asleep. And he knew that I never, never said no. I was always there for him. Because I knew that Harry would only do the right thing.”

When their lone child, Barbara, was born, she became a second subject for Callahan. Many of the images would symbolize a familial tenderness.

Callahan would be awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1996. He would die three years later in Atlanta, Georgia.

Examples of Callahan’s work can be found: Harry Callahan

Notable: The Pictorial Nostalgia of Irina Dakhnovskaia-Lawton, Verve, Online

In Black and White Photography, Exhibits, Gallery, Photographer on December 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm


Irina Dakhnovskaia-Lawton,”Winter Icon”

In a very sensual portfolio “Wondering About Pictorialism”, Irina Dakhnovskaia-Lawton adopts the turn of the century lens view of the romantic photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The mood of each image is enhanced with a hazy sepia veil achieving the look and feel of a Victorian era photo collection.

Looking at earlier copies of the "Camera Work", that encyclopedia of pictorial aesthetic, took me on a long journey reflecting on concepts such as approaching a story in one image and the significance of narrative within a small intimate space. Both are rather uncommon ideas in the visual vocabulary of modern photography. Disconnected from political or social subjects, inspired by the narrative poetry of nature and human existence, these images strive to convey a lyrical story within one frame.

Since then I have been exploring the Pictorial style in my own work looking for timeless, nostalgic subjects. In this project, by emphasizing the small image scale along with a pictorial language and the particular printing techniques, I was trying to create intimate connections between an image and a viewer. I am striving to let the viewer experience the reality, as recorded by the meniscus lens, that becomes for me a meditative refuge, a way to communicate the subtle poetic qualities of everyday being.

To view the exhibit: Verve Online Emerging Artist


Preview: How Alfred Stieglitz Framed Our Contemporary New York

In Black and White Photography, Books, Photographer on October 9, 2010 at 6:26 am


© Alfred Stieglitz New York, by Bonnie Yochelson, Skira Rizzoli, 2010

We admire the early last century work of Alfred Stieglitz. His New York photos are among his most famous and they are revisited in a new book by Bonnie Yochelson.

Today’s New Yorkers will recognize in Steiglitz’s images of snow-covered streets (“An Icy Night,” 1898, and “Reflections Night –  New York”, 1897) the magic of being seemingly alone in a city of millions. In part, Steiglitz was trying to convey his own personal isolation. But there was also some larger myth-making at work.

In 1896, Steiglitz was the editor of Camera Notes, which published an October 1900 essay by an art critic that entreated photographers to “teach New Yorkers to love their own city… and be proud of its beauties as the Parisians are of their city.”

In the 1930s, Steigliz focused his attention on Manhattan’s changing skyline and the interplay of geometries that emerge each day from shadows on skyscrapers. But even these images suggest a glinting coldness and isolation. Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keefe, famously said that her husband “was always photographing himself.”

To read more on the book : WSJ Review