Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz was an influential photographer who spent his life fighting forthe recognition of photography as a valid art form. He was a pioneeringphotographer, editor and gallery owner who played pivotal role in definingand shaping modernism in the United States. (Lowe 23). He took picturesin a time when photography was considered as only a scientific curiosity andnot an art. As the controversy over the art value of photography becamewidespread, Stieglitz began to fight for the recognition of his chosenmedium. This battle would last his whole life. Edward Stieglitz, father of Alfred, was born in Germany in 1833. He grewup on a farm, loved nature, and was an artist at heart. Legend has it that,independent and strong willed, Edward Stieglitz ran away from home at theage of sixteen because his mother insisted on upon starching his shirt afterhe had begged her not to (Lowe 23). Edward would later meet HedwigWarner and they would have their first son, Alfred. Alfred was the first ofsix born to his dad Edward and mom Hedwig. As a child Alfred wasremembered as a boy with thick black hair, large dark eyes, pale fine skin,a delicately modeled mouth with a strong chin (Peterson 34). In 1871 theStieglitz family lived at 14 East 60th street in Manhattan. No buildings stoodbetween Central Park and the Stieglitz family home. As Stieglitz got olderhe started to show interest in photography, posting every photo he couldfind on his bedroom wall. It wasn’t until he got older that his photographycuriosity begin to take charge of his life.
Stieglitz formally started photography at the age of nineteen, during his firstyears at the Berlin Polytechnic School. At this time photography was in itsinfancy as an art form. Alfred learned the fine arts of photography bywatching a local photographer in Berlin working in the store’s dark room.
After making a few pictures of his room and himself, he enrolled in aphotochemistry course. This is where his photography career would begin.
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His earliest public recognition came from England and Germany. It began in1887 when Stieglitz won the first of his many first prizes in a competition.
The judge who gave him the award was Dr. P.H. Emerson, then the mostwidely known English advocate of photography as an art (Doty 23). Dr.
Emerson later wrote to Stieglitz about his work sent in to the competition:It is perhaps late for me to express my admiration of the work you sent intothe holiday competition. It was the spontaneous work in the exhibition and Iwas delighted with much of it, (Bry 11). The first photographerorganization Alfred joined while still in Berlin, was the German Society ofthe Friends of Photography. After returning to the United States 1890,Stieglitz joined the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York. Theseexperiences would later help him in years to come.
By 1902 Stieglitz had become the authority in his chosen field. Stieglitzfound that his achievements were not enough to win recognition forphotography. Finally in 1902 he founded an entirely new photographygroup of his own, the Photo Secession. The focus of the Photo Secessionwas the advancement of pictorial photography. Stieglitz being the leadergathered a talented group of American photographers headed toward thesame common goal, to demonstrate photography as an art form( Lowe 54).
This was the first of many Photo Secession shows through which Stieglitzset out and demonstrated photography as an art. Their first Photo Secessionexhibition was held at the National Arts Club in New York. PhotoSecession shows were supported by galleries all over the world as well asStieglitz’s own gallery. All these events were reported in Stieglitz’s weeklymagazine Camera Work, which Stieglitz founded, edited, and published infifty volumes from its beginning in 1903 until its end in 1917. Although thePhoto Secession group never dissolved, it gradually diminished as anorganized group. Stieglitz continued to show new photographic work whenhe believed it was important. It was all part of his fight for photography, butthe battleground and the participants had changed. In 1917 when Stieglitz was 54 years old Georgia O’Keeffe arrived in NewYork (see pict.1). This event would change Stieglitz’s life forever. Stieglitz atfirst didn’t know Georgia personally but showed her pictures at his gallery291. They would later meet during one of Georgia’s shows. Soon afterthey meet, Alfred took Georgia up to the Stieglitz home at
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