Alfred Stieglitz – The Father of Modern Photography

Day 67 of Colourisation Project – July 13

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Sixty eight years ago on this day, July 13, in 1946  Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, editor, impresario and publisher passed away. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Stieglitz made unparalleled contributions to the modern art movement as a promoter and was instrumental in elevating photography’s status as a legitimate medium of fine art to the same level of painting and sculpture. 

Stieglitz’s contribution to the history of photography and influence over the medium extends far beyond American borders. He promoted and introduced many avaunt-garde European artists to the American market through his famous art galleries that he ran in New York. 

As an early pioneer in the advancement of Pictorial photography, Stieglitz established the Photo-Secessionist and Pictorialist photography movements in the United States.  In 1905, along with the photographer and painter, Edward Steichen, he founded the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York, which later became known simply as 291. Originally a channel for promoting the work of Photo-Secessionist photographers, it developed into a renowned center for the exhibiting modern European and American artists. 

Although he showed and published soft-focus pictorial photographs by others, his own body of work had always been unmanipulated imagery straight out of camera. When he first began to photograph New York in 1892, he went to the extent of working in fog or rain to achieve atmospheric effects similar to that of other pictorialists who would have shot with soft-focus lenses or employed handwork on prints.

Alfred Steiglitz

Photographer: Gertrude Käsebier –  Gum Platinum Print – Alfred Stieglitz 1902 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

In 1897 he became the editor of Camera Notes, the journal of the Camera Club of New York—an association of amateur photography enthusiasts. In this role he was able to publish work by photographers who shared his belief in the aesthetic potential of the medium. Stieglitz developed Camera Notes into one of the most revered photo magazines in the world.

In 1903 Stieglitz introduced another influential journal, Camera Work, which was a quarterly publication with extraordinary production values. Many of its gravure reproductions—often made directly from a photographer’s negative—are still highly sought after and valued by collectors. With a total of 50 issues being produced up until 1917, the magazine set the trend for amateur photographers in the first quarter of the 20th century and became a forum for the introduction of new aesthetic theories within the American and European art scene.

During what was to become the most prolific period of his life, Stieglitz photographed painter, Georgia O’Keeffe obsessively between 1918 and 1925. In O’Keeffe, Stieglitz had found his muse. During this period he produced more than 350 mounted prints of O’Keeffe. They fell in love and in 1924, despite an age gap of 24 years, Stieglitz married  his muse. He became her guide and mentor and O’Keeffe went on to become famous in her own right.

Stieglitz opened several galleries in his time; the Intimate Gallery in 1925 and An American Place, in 1929 which he operated up until his death in 1946 at the age of 82.

Although Stieglitz was forced to retire in 1937, due to a heart condition, his relentless push of American art created a new and dynamic market in the art world that embraced photography as a new medium of fine art and that legacy continues today as his significant collection of works by American and European artists and photographers can be found in major Museums and Art Galleries throughout the United States.

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“My photographs are a picture of the chaos in the world, and of my relationship to that chaos. My prints show the world’s constant upsetting of man’s equilibrium, and his eternal battle to reestablish it.” – Alfred Stieglitz

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7 Responses to Alfred Stieglitz – The Father of Modern Photography

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