Photographers You Should Know

Words by Scott Bourne - A Platypod Pro
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

Alfred Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on January 1st, 1864. He is recognized as a pioneer of art photography. He is widely regarded as the father of modern photography, and one of the first to elevate photography to an art form rather than simply a means of recording reality. Moreover, Stieglitz played a major role in shaping modernism in the United States and promoting the work of artists in other fields.

Stieglitz initially developed an interest in photography as a child, but it was not until he went to Europe in 1881 to complete his education that he was able to study the subject. He took a course in photochemistry at the Berlin Polytechnic and quickly dropped his study of mechanical engineering to focus on photography. He traveled extensively in Europe and won numerous photographic competitions, impressing judges with the spontaneity of his work.

Upon returning to the United States in 1890, Stieglitz faced technical challenges in experimenting with photography as an art form, including taking photographs in adverse weather conditions. He worked for a time in photo-engraving before joining various photographic organizations, such as the Society of Amateur Photographers, to collaborate with other photographers and learn from their experiences.

Stieglitz was eager to promote photography as an art form, and he edited several journals, including “American Amateur Photographer,” “Camera Notes,” and “Camera Work.” He took great care to ensure high-quality reproduction of photographs so they could be framed as works of art in their own right. “Camera Work” was a significant force in promoting American photography and featured the photographs of leading photographers, such as Edward Steichen and Gertrude Kasebier, as well as articles by renowned writers like George Bernard Shaw and Gertrude Stein.

In 1905, Stieglitz founded the 291 Gallery in New York, which showcased photography as fine art and promoted the work of the “Photo-Secession” group, of which he was a founder member. However, Stieglitz was also passionate about promoting other forms of modern art, including the work of artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Cezanne. American artists, including Max Weber and Georgia O’Keeffe, also benefited from his support.

Stieglitz was particularly impressed with O’Keeffe's abstract drawings and mounted her first exhibition at 291. He photographed her more than 300 times over 20 years and became her lover, marrying her in 1924. Stieglitz's collaboration with O’Keeffe, particularly from 1917 to 1925, resulted in some of his best work, as he combined his mastery of photographic technique with artistic expression, inspired by the Modernist movement in art.

In addition to 291 Gallery, Stieglitz opened the “Intimate Gallery” in 1925 and “An American Place” in 1929, which succeeded 291 Gallery and operated until his death in 1946. Stieglitz saw photography as an art form that could complement other media, such as painting, drawing, and sculpture, rather than replace them. He rejected the approach of the Kodak company, which viewed photography as a simple matter of pressing a button, and believed that the artist could feel and emote with a camera just as much as with paint and canvas. Stieglitz's legacy has been a lasting influence on the history of photography.

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