An essay for History and Survey of Photography
Edward Jean Steichen was born March 27, 1879 in Bivange, Luxembourg. Shortly after, his family moved to the United States settling in the Midwest. He became a naturalized citizen in 1900. As a teen Steichen began an apprenticeship in Milwaukee at the American Fine Art Company. Originally a painter, he took up photography in 1895, but continued to paint in the twenty years following. Steichen enjoyed a long career excelling in several different genres. In 1899 he befriended Alfred Stieglitz. In 1902, Steichen and Stieglitz started the Photo-Secession, a group dedicated to advancing photography in the world of fine art. During the early1900’s Steichen started to experiment with color photography. Steichen was in command of a division of the US Army during World War I (1914-1918) that was responsible for taking photographs. During the 1920’s and 1930’s he became known as a celebrity and fashion photographer working for Vogue and Vanity Fair. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City hired him to be their director of photography in 1947. By 1962, he retired from the Museum of Modern Art. In 1964 he opened the Edward Steichen Photography Center at the Museum of Modern Art. At the age of 94, in March 1973, Steichen died, leaving behind a wonderful legacy. Steichen’s early tonalist works were some of his greatest achievements. These works were critical in advancing photography into a fine art form. Steichen, himself, considered his 1955 exhibition The Family of Man to be his greatest achievement. The Family of Man was a collection of 503 photographs from various parts of the world. During the years at the Museum of Modern Art Steichen was not dedicated to his photography. However, after 1955 he recommitted himself using only color film. The first image that I chose by Steichen is The Pond – Moonlight (Figure 1) taken in 1904 in Mamaronek, NY near the home of...
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