Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum which features the greatest photographic treasures of these three giants of black and white photography. Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand are all American photographers whose work is included in this three person show and is considered some of the most ground breaking, diverse and the best photographic works of the last one hundred years. The show has over 115 photographs that are featured from the collections of these three great artists of the twentieth century. The show features a vast variety of types of photography from silver gelatin prints, gum bicrombate, platinum, palladium, and other alternative black and white processes.

Alfred Stieglitz whose sumptuous black and white images are know the world over for their beauty and supreme aura that they posses. He was considered an advocate for photography during his time and helped to create the foundation for the Metropolitan’s fine art photography collection. He himself donated some of his own works to start the Met’s collection and those works are featured in this show. Stieglitz work with Camera Work journal helped to lay the foundation for modern photography. Some of the works featured are portraits, cityscapes, and Stieglitz well know cloud studies and additionally many of his portraits of Georgia O’Keefe are shown as well.

One of the works featured is a gelatin silver Print entitled, Georgia O’Keefe–Hand and Wheel 1933. The rich black and white photograph simply features Georgia O’Keefe’s hand caressing a car wheel. O’Keefe’s hand is delicately splayed across the rich black rubber and metal of the wheel well of the car creating an interesting contrast between the femininity of the O’Keefe’s human hand and the masculine in organic lines of the car wheel. Here Stieglitz’s contrast of the delicate nature of the female figure with that of the masculine hard lines of car shows the difference between nature and man-made objects–the organic and in organic. This contrast is further shown buy the emphasis Stieglitz puts in the richness of the tones of black and white in the image. You can see how he sought to show a wide range of value and tone in the image because a vast array of most dense blacks, warmest grays, and brightest whites are featured giving the image a glow off of the page further enhancing the difference and beauty of the organic and geometric qualities of his subject matter. Because of this attention to detail to the tones of the imagery the viewer is able to see the differences in the subject matter of the still life. The ranges of values in the image enhance the subject matter. The masculine parts of the car wheel are rich black tones while the O’Keefe’s hand is delicate tones of grey with subtle shade variations. Even the way Stieglitz framed the photo shows the contrast of the dichotomy of the subject matter. Here Stieglitz shows how a simple framed still life can speak volumes when properly cropped, framed, and printed with the right range of tones and values one can enhance the subject matter and speak more of the underlining meaning of the work.

Dancing Trees–1921-1922, a palladium print features the sumptuous imagery of a trees twisted branches that appear to be dancing. The warm tones of black in this photography enhance the mood and romanticism of the imagery. Because the imagery is in such warm shades of black one is automatically put into a romantic dance with the imagery. The tones and shades of black and white enhance the curvature of the trees spine and cause the viewers eye to dance around the page. Stieglitz was considered a pioneer of photography during his time and perfected the art of printing in these various black and white processes. This perfection is seen in this work. Here again Stieglitz gets a wide variety of tones and shades making the imagery glow off of the page causing the viewer to believe that they are literally seeing reality reproduced right in front of their eyes. Stieglitz is know for doing this with his imagery and this is shown over and over again through out the winding rooms of imagery featured in this show.

Music No. 1–1922 is platinum print of a rich moody landscape that has a small white A-framed house in its foreground. Again here Stieglitz sets the mood of the imagery with his luxurious rich tones that enhance the feeling of the imagery creating an emotive reaction where one is transported to a surreal escape into the mind of Stieglitz. You feel as if you are seeing the world as he did winding through as you navigate the rooms of his body of work. You transported into another time back to when photography was new and misunderstood. It is through this journey that you see that Alfred Stieglitz was trying to elevate the world of the capture image into that of the fine art to show the world the beauty, craftsmanship, and creativity it takes to create a striking image.

As one is taking the journey through the life’s work of the father of modern photography, with each image you are taken deeper and deeper into the rich world of Alfred Stieglitz and the romanticism of his metaphors and masterful printing. Whether featuring his lover, Georgia O’Keefe or a landscape as one glides through the photographic memories of Mr. Stieglitz one cannot help but find the beauty he sought to capture in his lifetime and how he nurtured photography in to the fine art form that it is today. You can see from the show that Stieglitz was a pioneer and the mentor of Edward Steichen and Paul Strand. Even though the show features all three artist’s work. The work of Stieglitz comes to the forefront because he is the father of modern photography. You can see his influence in every photographers work today including that of the Steichen and Strand whose work is featured in the galleries beside his.


  1. As a reader I’m skeptical of the terms “great” and “best,” particularly when used in the opening paragraph of a critical piece. It is more helpful when the author describes the photos as ground-breaking and diverse, and I’d like to hear more about this aspect of the work. The author gives a clear description of the pieces discussed, though it seems somewhat uneven to only write about the Stieglitz photos. If the author makes this choice, the significance of including two additional photographers in the exhibit should be noted. Recommend double-checking sentence structure, spelling, and use of commas. (O’Keeffe is misspelled.)

  2. The descriptions of Stieglitz's use of tone to create striking images are nicely done. However, the review does not comment very thoroughly on the other two artists included in the show. In this regard, it would have been helpful to the reader if the author had expanded on Stieglitz's influence on Steichen and Strand, an idea that is touched upon towards the end of the review. Also, there are some spelling errors and missing words throughout the text that made it slightly difficult to read.

  3. The opening is a little awkward, maybe include the artists names in the first sentence. Your connection between Stieglitz and the Met I though was an interesting bit of information. Revise punctuation (commas seem to be missing), Stieglitz as a possessive needs to be added in paragraph 2. Incorrect capitalization in some areas (example, paragraph 3). Do not italicize dates of a work, inorganic not “in organic,” but I’m not sure if that description is best suited for what you are trying to say. Try to avoid subjective terms when describing the work.