Photographer, writer, publisher, gallery owner, leader of the Photo-Secession, and mentor to numerous other photographers, Alfred Stieglitz was a pivotal force during the late 19th and 20th centuries in promoting photography in America and gaining its acceptance as an art form. He also pioneered in bringing modern art to this country through the avant-garde European and American work presented in the pages of his well-known journal, Camera Work, and at his gallery, "291." Stieglitz (born in Hoboken, New Jersey) first became interested in photography in the early 1880s while studying mechanical engineering in Germany at the polytechnic institute in Charlottenburg (now a suburb of Berlin). Following a class with the great photochemist Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, Stieglitz turned his attention to photography and soon began writing technical articles on the subject for European journals. In 1887 he won a prize for a photograph submitted to the Holiday Work Competition sponsored by Amateur Photographer magazine. When he returned to the United States three years later, Stieglitz became a partner in the Photochrome Engraving Company; running a business did not interest him, however, and his association with the company lasted only five years. In addition to pursuing his own photographic work and writing articles on pictorial photography for various American journals during the 1890s, Stieglitz became editor of the American Amateur Photographer in 1893. Four years later he took on the editorship of Camera Notes, the journal of the newly formed Camera Club of New York. In 1902 Stieglitz organized the first Photo-Secession exhibition at the National Arts Club in New York, launching an organization that was to play a major role in the fight for recognition of photography as an art form. At the end of the year he began publishing Camera Work, the journal of the Photo-Secession, which soon became one of the premier photographic publications of the day (the first issue, dated January 1903, was published in December 1902). In 1905, with the assistance of painter and photographer Edward Steichen, Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue. The gallery, which soon became known as "291," provided Stieglitz with a center from which to promote art photography and exhibit the work of its finest practitioners. In addition to presenting work by the most advanced American and European pictorial photographers, Stieglitz began showing the work of modern European artists, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne. He also organized numerous exhibitions of art photography for museums and expositions in this country and in Europe, including the famous 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo. After closing "291" in 1917, Stieglitz focused on his own work, beginning a series of portraits of artist Georgia O'Keeffe (whom he married in 1924) and a series of cloud pictures called Equivalents, which he exhibited in the 1920s at the Anderson Gallery in New York. During these years he also produced a group of photographs of New York City skyscrapers, as well as images of Lake George, New York. Stieglitz continued to photograph into the 1930s. He also ran two galleries from the mid-1920s until his death: the Intimate Gallery (1925-29) and An American Place (1929-46). Both galleries presented the work of a small group of American modernists, including O'Keeffe, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Paul Strand, as well as Stieglitz's photographs. M.M.
Anne W. Brigman
Anne W. Brigman American, b. Hawaii, 1869-1950 Anne W. Brigman was born in Honolulu, where she lived until her family moved to California in the 1880s. Around 1900 she became interested in photography and in 1902 exhibited five of her prints in the Second San Francisco Photographic Salon. The following year Brigman joined Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession, becoming one of the few West Coast members of this elite New York-based group. Her images were reproduced in three issues of Camera Work (1909, 1912, 1913), and her photographs were included in many of the Photo-Secession exhibitions organized by Stieglitz in this country and abroad. Brigman also exhibited her work in numerous salons of pictorial photography and in 1909 was elected to membership in the Linked Ring. Active in the Bay Area, Brigman made one trip east in 1910 to meet Stieglitz and other Photo-Secession members associated with the gallery "291." While on the East Coast she took part in Clarence White's first summer school of photography in Maine. During the first two decades of the 20th century Brigman became known for her allegorical images of nude or classically robed female figures frequently posed in trees in the California Sierra. Following her move from Oakland to Long Beach in 1929, Brigman turned to photographic studies of the seaside. During the 1930s she began writing poetry and in 1949 published Songs of a Pagan, a book combining her photographs and poems. She died in 1950 while working on a second book, Child of Hawaii. M.M.
Edward Steichen American, b. Luxembourg, 1879-1973
His long and illustrious career places Edward Steichen among the major figures of 20th-century photography. Born Eduard Jean Steichen in Luxembourg, Steichen moved with his family to the United States in 1881, was naturalized a citizen in 1900, and changed the spelling of his first name in 1918. Educated in Wisconsin, he showed an early interest in art. He studied at the Milwaukee Art Students League and was an apprentice lithographer; later he studied painting at the Académie Julian in Paris.
Steichen took his first photograph in 1896. Early recognition came in the Second Philadelphia Salon of 1899, and he was encouraged by Clarence H. White. Shortly thereafter, while on his way to Europe, he met Alfred Stieglitz, who bought three of his prints. In 1900 he participated in the New School of American Photography exhibition in London. Steichen's first one-person show, which included paintings as well as photographs, was held in Paris in 1902. He helped to found the Photo-Secession and played an important role in the life and design of its galleries, programs, and publications, including the decision to exhibit international works in a variety of media.
Steichen was the commander of aerial photography for the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. After the war, he became chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and a well-known portraitist. During World War II he was in charge of all navy combat photography and was also responsible for the exhibitions Road to Victory (1942) and Power in the Pacific (1945) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. These, along with his 1955 show, The Family of Man, established a new, more popular form of photographic exhibition. In 1947 he was made director of the museum's department of photography, a position he held until 1962.
In 1961 the Museum of Modern Art mounted a retrospective of Steichen's work. The following year he received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy. His photographs have been represented in many exhibitions and publications, including the book Steichen the Photographer, with a text by his brother-in-law, Carl Sandburg. T.W.F.