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Edward Steichen

American Photographer | Born: 1879 - Died: 1973
Edward Steichen (1879 - 1973) was born in Luxembourg, but immigrated to the United States, to Milwaukee, in 1880. In 1894, Steichen began a four-year lithography apprenticeship with the American Fine Art Company of Milwaukee. After hours, he would sketch and draw, and began to teach himself to paint. Having come across a camera shop near to his work, he bought his first camera, a secondhand Kodak box "detective" camera, in 1895.

In 1900, as Steichen headed to Paris to study painting, he stopped in New York. By that time he was an aspiring painter and an accomplished photographer in the soft-focus, Pictorial style and he made a pilgrimage to the Camera Club of New York to show his work to Alfred Stieglitz, the leading tastemaker in American photography. Stieglitz, vice-president of the Camera Club and editor of its journal Camera Notes, was impressed by the young artist from Milwaukee and bought three of his photographs-a self-portrait and two moody, atmospheric woodland scenes printed in platinum-for the impressive sum of five dollars each. Elated, Steichen then boarded the ship for Europe.

Once in France, Steichen quickly abandoned his painting studies and began to focus his energies on photography. He learned the technical intricacies of the gum bichromate process, popular among the members of the Photo-Club de Paris, and developed a reputation as a portraitist of noted artists, writers, and members of society. Arriving back in New York in 1902, Steichen rented a studio on the top floor of a brownstone at 291 Fifth Avenue and hung out his shingle; his work as a professional portrait photographer flourished.

That same year, Stieglitz announced the formation of the Photo-Secession-the name he gave to the loose-knit group of photographers he exhibited, published, and promoted during the next decade and a half-and the publication of a new, still more lavish journal, Camera Work. Over the fifteen-year, fifty-issue run of Camera Work, no other artist would be featured as prominently as Steichen, who had sixty-five photographs and three paintings reproduced in fifteen issues, including a "Special Steichen Supplement" in April 1906 and an all-Steichen double issue in 1913.

In 1906, Steichen determined "to get away from the lucrative but stultifying professional portrait business" and return to France with his family in hopes of resuscitating his idled painting career. It was a move with numerous consequences. For one, it positioned him to embrace the Autochrome, the process for making glass-plate color transparencies introduced by the Lumičre brothers in 1907. Steichen-who had experimented with various methods such as gum bichromate to introduce color into his photographs-was enthralled by the technique. Steichen also made what he called his "first attempt at serious documentary reportage" in the summer of 1907, using a borrowed hand camera.

Steichen returned to the U.S. in 1914. Serving in the US Army in World War I (and the US Navy in the Second World War), Steichen commanded significant units contributing to military photography. After World War I, during which he commanded the photographic division of the American Expeditionary Forces, he reverted to straight photography, gradually moving into editorial and fashion photography. His portraits of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, and other celebrities appeared in Vogue and Vanity Fair in the 1920s and 1930s.

From 1947-1962, Steichen served as the Director of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art.. Among other accomplishments, Steichen is appreciated for creating the 1955 exhibition, The Family of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art consisting of over 500 photographs. Steichen purchased a farm that he called Umpawaug in 1928, just outside West Redding, Connecticut, and lived there until his death.

Source: Howard Greenberg Gallery

The Bitter Years: Edward Steichen and the Farm Security Administration Photographs
Author: Jean Back, Gabriel Bauret, Antoinette Lorang, Françoise Poos
Publisher: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers
Year: 2012 - Pages: 288
The Bitter Years was the title of a seminal exhibition held in 1962 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by Edward Steichen, and 2012 marks its fiftieth anniversary. The show featured 209 images by photographers who worked under the aegis of the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1935-41, as part of Roosevelt's New Deal. The FSA, set up to combat rural poverty during the Great Depression, included an ambitious photography project that launched many photographic careers, most notably those of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. The exhibition featured their work as well as that of ten other FSA photographers, including Ben Shahn, Carl Mydans and Arthur Rothstein. Their images are among the most remarkable in documentary photography--testimonies of a people in crisis, hit by the full force of economic turmoil and the effects of drought and dust storms. This volume includes all the photographs in the original show, in a structure and sequence that reflect those devised by Steichen for the exhibition.
 
Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand
Author: Malcolm Daniel
Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Year: 2010 - Pages: 180
Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946), Edward Steichen (1879–1973), and Paul Strand (1890–1976) are among the most famous photographers of the 20th century. This handsome volume showcases for the first time the Metropolitan Museum’s extraordinarily rich holdings of works by these diverse and groundbreaking masters. A passionate advocate for photography and modern art promoted through his “Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession” (also known as “291”) and his journal Camera Work, Stieglitz was also a photographer of supreme accomplishment. Featured works by Stieglitz include portraits, landscapes, city views, and cloud studies, along with photographs from his composite portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe (selected by O’Keeffe herself for the Museum). Steichen—perhaps best known as a fashion photographer, celebrity portraitist, and MoMA curator—was Stieglitz’s man in Paris, gallery collaborator, and most talented exemplar of Photo-Secessionist photography. His three large variant prints of The Flatiron and his moonlit photographs of Rodin’s Balzac are highlighted here. Marking a pivotal moment in the course of photography, the final double issue of Camera Work (1915–17) was devoted to the young Paul Strand, whose photographs from 1915 and 1916 treated three principal themes—movement in the city, abstractions, and street portraits—and pioneered a shift from the soft-focus Pictorialist aesthetic to the straight approach and graphic power of an emerging modernism. Represented are Strand’s rare large platinum prints—most of them unique exhibition prints of images popularly known only as Camera Work photogravures. The rarely exhibited photographs gathered in Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand are among the crown jewels of the Metropolitan’s collection.
 
In High Fashion
Author: Edward Steichen
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Year: 2008 - Pages: 288
Edward Steichen was already a famous painter and photographer in America and abroad when, in early 1923, he was offered the most prestigious position in photography's commercial domain: that of chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair.Over the next fifteen years, Steichen would produce a body of work of unequaled brilliance, dramatizing and glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers in politics, literature, film, sport, dance, theater, opera, and the world of high fashion. Here are iconic images of Gloria Swanson, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin as well as numerous other celebrities drawn from an archive of more than two thousand original prints. Until now, no more than a handful have been exhibited or published in book form. The photographs of the 1920s and 1930s represent the high point in Steichen's career and are among the most striking creations of twentieth-century photography.
 
Lives in Photography
Author: Edward Steichen
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Year: 2008 - Pages: 336
Edward Steichen (1879-1973) is unquestionably one of the most prolific, influential, and indeed controversial names in the history of photography. He was admired by many for his achievements as a fine-art photographer, while impressing countless others with the force of his commercial accomplishments. The influence of his legendary exhibition, The Family of Man, is still felt. This volume traces Steichen’s career trajectory from his Pictoralist beginnings to his time with Condé Nast through his directorship of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Hundreds of his photographs are reproduced in stunning four-color to reveal the complexities and nuances of these black-and-white images. Essays from a range of scholars explore his most important subjects and weigh his legacy. Contributors include A. D. Coleman, Joanna T. Steichen, and Ronald Gedrim. With a full bibliography and chronology, this is the most complete and wide-ranging volume on Steichen ever published.
 
Edward Steichen
Author: Edward Steichen
Publisher: Whitney Museum of Art
Year: 2000 - Pages: 128
Photographically illustrated matt laminated wrappers with French folds, with title stamped in silver on cover and spine. Photographs and paintings by Edward Steichen. Text by Barbara Haskell. Includes a chronology (compiled by Anne Lampe), a list of exhibitions Steichen curated at the Museum of Modern Art, a selected bibliography and a list of works in the exhibition. Designed by Makiko Ushiba. 128 pp., with 22 color plates and numerous additional reference illustrations finely printed in Rhode Island by Meridian Printing Company. 11 x 9 inches. Published on the occasion of the 2000-2001 exhibition Edward Steichen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
 
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