Alfred Stieglitz The Steerage
March 30, 2015
1. What are the messages?
The messages behind The Steerage are the divide between the upper and lower class, the struggle of lower class people living in the steerage, over crowding in the steerage, and immigration.
2. What choices in composition has the creator made? What has been omitted?
The image conveys the architecture of the ship by describing an elaborate counterpoint of line, volume, and tone. Across the picture’s width is a heavy beam, dividing the composition in two. Against this horizontality are complementary vertical and nearly vertical elements that create trapezoids and triangles. The large mast is the most dominant of these upright diagonals. Its complement is the narrow, crescent-topped pole holding up the gangway, as well as the stanchions leaning to and fro on the gangway, the handrails of the metal staircase, and the many standing figures on both levels. The result is a formal organization that is all at once ponderous and weightless. The effect is of a massive structure suspended within the frame, attached (as it were) where the center beam touches the left and right edges. This beam becomes a kind of a pivoting axis on which the whole scene is liable to swing forward and backward into space, as if to mimic the lapping movements of the vessel.
3. What is the creator’s intention? How can you tell?
From my research of Alfred Stieglitz, his intentions behind this photograph were, as said 35 years after the photo was taken, “He was watching the men and women and children on the lower steerage deck. Only men were on the upper deck. The whole scene fascinated me. I longed to escape from my surroundings and join these people.” You can tell that Stieglitz is detached from what is happening in the photograph because of the distance he puts between himself and what is happening in the scene.
4. In what way(s) does the visual medium present the message that a...
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