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Alfred Steiglitz Essay, Research Paper

?Alfred Stieglitz?

Alfred Stieglitz, was born in January 1st, 1864, in Hoboken, New Jersey, and died in July 13th, 1946, in New York City. In 1902 Stieglitz founded the Photo-Secession Group, as a protest against the conventional photography of the time. He took pictures in a time when photography was considered a only scientific curiosity and not art. The controversy over the art value of photography became widespread. Stieglitz began to fight for the recognition of his chosen medium. Alfred Stieglitz, one of the most important modernist photographers from 1864-1946, had strong influence on aesthetic photography. He wanted to make a point to show that photos were photos and nothing but that.? my photographs look like photographs and therefore can?t be considered art?(Alfred Stieglitz, 1923). He never changed his thinking by trying to cover up as other photographers did. His work that he so passionately supported and exhibited was promoted at his New York Gallery. Being completely remembered for his greatness as a photographer it was said that “Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, esthete, propagandist, and art dealer, was without doubt the most important single figure in the development of modernism in America…291 became the symbol of perfection in a vacuum, an oasis in the desert of crass commercialism where the creation of beauty was the sole objective and beauty itself was enshrined”(LAAS,6).

One of his very well known photographs which marked a turning point for Stieglitz was The Steerage. In this black and white photograph you are able to depict certain qualities that you normally are unable to see in a colored photograph. For example in this photograph you are able to see the brightness of the light and the shadows that fall across the immigrants faces and the white gangplank to the ship. More specific details that are evident to the eye are the objects such as the railing of white chain, the white suspenders on the man below boarding the ship and the black entrance to the region below.

People who looked at this photograph became mesmerized with it?s form and composition that it held. By a particular individual it was stated ? I stood spell bound for a while. I saw shapes related to one another- a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me: simple people: the feeling of ship, ocean, sky…?(Weston Naef, 1995).

While taking a momentary look at this photo the first thing I see in it is the separation that is being made by a white gangplank. As I look longer I see this separation is a separation of class. The poor being located at the lower half of the ship and the wealthier ones at the top. This picture really does depict a sense of reality to those on the outside looking in. The photograph The Steerage really does grasp your attention along with your emotions on how this trip to Europe really was to the People onboard. It is amazing how one photographers graphic vision of shapes and balance and the social setting of the day are all combined in one picture.

While Stieglitz was out tromping around New York photographing, he came upon the streetcar driver patiently watering his horses at the end of the line. In which he took the opportunity to make art out of this sight he saw before him. This photograph became what now known as The terminal, New York. This photograph was taken in New York on a cold winter day. This was back then what Grand Central Station is to us now.

This picture is black and white but far from being plain. There are different tones and shapes to be found in each and every area of this picture. There are dark tones, light tones and gray tones making up the entirety of this picture. The shapes that you see in this photograph are in one way or another intertwined together in the photograph. All of these fine are what make a great piece photograph so brilliant.

When looking at this photo you are first drawn to the dark black area in the middle. This black area in the middle entails a man and his horse. The horse is in the front of two other horses that seem to be pulling a trolley of some sort. The horses are standing in a trail of black bud on the ground, which is surrounded by white snow. And when you look past the man with his trolley and horse you can see a building standing tall in the background. This gray building had an arched shape in the front which seem to match the same arches shape of that on the top of the trolley. The window sills on the building have white snow which ties it together with the white snow that is on the ground near the horses. Just like I had said before each shape and shade has a reason for it?s being, and that is to make this picture brilliant to the eye.

A building in New York having the name of Flat-iron building because of its shape, was a symbol of a new, modern America. People either loved it or hated it. With the shape of the tree and the ground being completely submerged in snow, with evening light, the building is an element of beauty in a photograph of soft tones and simple shapes. This picture was soon to be known as a symbol of power and culture.

This photo having a certain softness to it, gives it a sense of being filtered. When looking directly at the picture you are first faced with a close up of a tree which seems to be so much darker and superior to the images behind it. The building and the tree?s form silhouettes overlapping one another. On the trees lies white snow giving the trees a soft look along with the building. The Flat Iron Building is being shadowed on the left hand side by the lack of light. Being able to see the windows slightly because of their darker color they seem to have, seems to tie the shades in the photograph all together. In the very far back on the bottom you are able to see a row of benches that seem to surrounding an area of the park, which are completely immersed in snow. Allowing only a tad bit of their own color to be see. The filtering image of the photograph so much more appealing got be looked at.

All three of the photograph all have the one thing in common and that is that they where are taken by a brilliant photographer by the name of Stieglitz. He really has created some really remarkable photographs that have been left here for us to marvel over. The shapes, the shades, contrasting of object is all what make his work absolutely brilliant.


Lynes, Barbera Buhler, O?Keeffe, Stieglitz and the Critics, 1916-1929. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,1989

Thomas, F. Richard, Literary Admirers of Alfred Stieglitz. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press,1983

Whelan, Richard, Alfred Stieglitz, A Biography. Canada: Little, Brown and Company, 1995

RosenBlum, Naomi, A World History of Photography, New York: Abbeville Press, 1984,1989,1997

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