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“In an unprecedented show for the National Arts Club [New York] in 1902, Stieglitz brought together photographs by pictorialists…. He titled the exhibition “The Photo-Secession,” to indicate a revolt from hackneyed style and technique as well as from lax artistic standards.”

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Avant-garde Modernist photography Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession

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avant garde modernist photography alfred stieglitz and the photo secession
“In an unprecedented show for the National Arts Club [New York] in 1902, Stieglitz brought together photographs by pictorialists…. He titled the exhibition “The Photo-Secession,” to indicate a revolt from hackneyed style and technique as well as from lax artistic standards.”

Alan Trachtenberg, notes to

“Pictorial Photography” by Alfred Stieglitz

Avant-garde Modernist photographyAlfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession

1902 publication

clarence white american 1871 1925 portrait of alfred stieglitz 1908 gum platinum print
Clarence White (American, 1871-1925) Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz, 1908gum platinum print

Stieglitz, photograph of

Fountain, by Marcel Duchamp,1917


(left) Alfred Stieglitz, 291--Picasso-Braque Exhibition, 1915, platinum print(right) Stieglitz at the Little Galleries of Photo-Secession ('291')291 Fifth Avenue, New York, opened in 1905

291 gallery was in the apartment vacated by Edward Steichen, who designed and decorated

the exhibition space.

Cubist collages exhibited with African sculpture

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946), Watching for the Return, 1894, photogravure for Camera Notes, quarterly publicationof the New York Camera Club
stieglitz fifth avenue winter 1892 gelatin dry plate
“My picture, Fifth Avenue, Winter, is the result of a three hours stand during a fierce snow-storm on February 22nd, 1893, awaiting the proper moment.… I remember how upon having developed the negative of the picture I showed it to some of my colleagues. They smiled and advised me to throw away such rot…. Such were the remarks made about what I knew was a piece of work quite out of the ordinary, in that it was the first attempt at picture making with the hand camera in such adverse and trying circumstances from a photographic point of view.

Stieglitz, “The Hand Camera – Its Present Importance,” 1897

Stieglitz, Fifth Avenue, Winter, 1892, gelatin dry plate
Alfred Stieglitz, A Bit of Venice, 1894, photogravure

for Camera Notes, quarterly publicationof the New York Camera Club


Invented by Karel Klí in 1879, photogravure is a photomechanical process (heliogravure in French) using an etching method to reproduce the appearance of a continuous range of tones in a photograph.

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British working in the US and Britain,1882-1966)

Self-Portrait, ca. 1908, photgravure

Stieglitz, Flatiron Building, 1902, photogravure.

Hiroshige Ando, Plum Estate,

Kameido, 1857, woodblock print


Alfred Stieglitz, The Hand of Man, photogravure From Camera Work No. 1. February 1903(right) Claude Monet, Saint-Lazare Station, 1877Pictorialism and Impressionism

In 1903 Stieglitz launched, edited and published Camera

Work - a magazine which became world famous and

continued publication until 1917 (50 issues). Cover by

Edward Steichen is in the Arts & Crafts aesthetic of

William Morris.

Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907, photogravure

"There were men and women and children on the lower deck of the steerage.... I longed to escape from my surroundings and join them.... A round straw hat, the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right.... round shapes of iron machinery... I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that, the feeling I had about life..."



“As analytic cubism emerged, Alfred Stieglitz, who was still championing pre-modernist Phot-Secession Pictorialism, underwent a transformation in his aesthetic thinking.” Hirsch

Picasso, Ma Jolie, 1911

Analytic Cubism

Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907, photogravure

“There were two stages in his life: at first he produced somewhat romanticized pictures of an Impressionistic style, then later moving over to realism of a high order.”

Robert Leggett

A History of Photography

Edward Steichen (Luxembourgeois-born American Photographer, 1879-1973), Flatiron Building, 1907, cyanotype - gum bichromate - platinum print

Pictorialism / Photo-Secession

“The Pictorialists played on photography's ability to recall memories and associations, yet they also recognized that such memories are rarely sharply defined but more often dreamlike and indistinct, composed of nothing more than a small incident or passing glance.”

Edward Steichen, Self-Portrait with Brush and Palette, 1902, gum bichromate

Reinforcing the idea of a singular masterpiece, the pictorialists manipulated their images so extensively in the darkroom that, often, the result was a unique image that could not be duplicated.

Edward Steichen (1879–1973): Moonrise – Mamaroneck, New York, 1904, New York, Museum of Modern Art, platinum, cyanotype, and ferroprussiate print, 15¼ × 19". Gift of the photographer.

Edward Steichen, The Pond – Moonlight, 1904, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; multiple gum bichromate over platinum, 15¼ × 19". This print was auctioned in New York in February 2006 and sold for the highest price to date for an art photograph.

steichen made three prints of this image of a pond on long island
Steichen made three prints of this image of a pond on Long Island.

Steichen and Stieglitz were ardent advocates of photography-as-art, but it wasn't until 1910 that the first photography collection was bought by a respected American museum, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. The New York Museum of Modern Art didn't mount an exhibition of photography until 1937.

Edward Steichen, The Big White Cloud, Lake George, 1903. Carbon print

Pictorialism / Photo-Secession

“For practically the first time in photography, the specificity and individuality of the objects in front of the camera were of no importance, but were only a vehicle for the expression of an idea. By divorcing photography from its scientific heritage, pictorial photographers also divorced it from reality.”

Gertrude Käsebier (American Photographer, 1852-1934)

Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899. Platinotype

Pictorialism / Photo-Secession

Gertrude Käsebier, Manger, ca. 1905, platinotype

Pictorialism / Photo-Secession

“To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the enjoyment to be found in the poem .. . suggestion, that is the dream.” Stéphane Mallarmé French Symbolist poet

J.M. Cameron, 1865

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925), Untitled (Nude Study), 1906-09 platinotype

Pictorialism / Photo-Secession

Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918. Platinotype, one of the series of 300 taken between 1917 and 1933 that comprise Stieglitz’s portrait of O’Keefe

Stieglitz's “Portrait” of Georgia O'Keeffe (American painter 1887 - 1986) whom he exhibited and met in 1917, married in 1924.(right) O’Keefe, Drawing XIII, 1915, charcoal on paper; 24 3/8 x 18 1/2 in. Stieglitz exhibited this series of drawings and paintings by O’Keefe at 291 in 1917

Alfred Stieglitz,Georgia O’Keeffe, 1920, Gelatin Silver Print

Georgia O'Keeffe, Large Dark Red

Leaf on White, 1925

(left) Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe - Hands, 1919. Palladiotype

(right) Auguste Rodin (French sculptor,1840-1917, Hand, bronze, 1886

Stieglitz’s aesthetic of fragmentation, his composite portrait (300 parts) of O’Keefe is influenced by Rodin, Brancusi, Picasso, and other modern artists he exhibited in 291 gallery.


In 1922, Stieglitz turned to nature and back to Symbolist theory, isolating the sky as a “surrogate heart.”

Alfred Stieglitz, Clouds, Music No. 1, Lake George, palladium print. 1922.

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1931. Gsp.

Stieglitz believed that his Equivalents were the pure expression of his inner state of being.

He rarely, if ever, explained in words what actual feelings or emotions were present when particular pictures were made, however. He expected that his audience would have an intuitive perception of their meaning that was parallel to the instinct that caused them to be created.

- The Getty Museum

jacob riis american born denmark 1849 1914 five cents lodging bayard street c 1889
Jacob Riis (American, born Denmark 1849 – 1914) Five Cents Lodging, Bayard Street, c. 1889

“We cannot get rid of the tenements that shelter two million souls in New York today,

but we can set about making them at least as nearly fit to harbor human souls as

might be." 

Jacob Riis, The Making of an American


“[Jacob Riis] was one of my truest and closest friends. I have ever prized the fact that once, in speaking of me, he said, ‘since I met him he has been my brother.’ I have not only admired and respected him beyond measure, but I have loved him dearly…and I mourn him as if he were one of my own family." -Theodore Roosevelt Introduction to Making of An American

Jacob Riis, Theodore Roosevelt, the Citizen; 1904


Ellis Island Series:

Hine had to set up his 5 x 7 view camera on its tripod, focus the camera, pull the slide, dust his flash pan with powder, and, because of the language barrier, indicate through his own look and gesture the desired pose and expression. The flash pan exploded and an exposure was made, producing a blinding cloud of smoke. Hine would then pack up and leave; one shot was all he had.

Lewis Hine, Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage - Ellis Island , 1905. Gsp.

Lewis Hine, East European Jewish immigrant, Ellis Island series, 1905

“Ever – the Human Document to keep the

present and future in touch with the past.”

- Lewis Hine


Lewis Hine, Handicapped - Crippled Steelworker, Pittsburgh, ca 1908-1909. Gsp.From ThePittsburg Survey commissioned by Charities and the Commons(See Trachtenberg, “Lewis Hine: The World of His Art”)

“The dictum, then, of the social worker is ‘Let there be light;” and in this campaign for light we have for our advance agent the light writer – the photograph.”

Lewis Hine, “Social Photography”

Lewis Hine, Italian immigrant, East Side, New York City. 1910. Gsp.

Honoré Daumier, Laundress on the Quai d'Anjou, c.1860, oil on wood panel, 11 x 8”


Hine’s “best known and most effective pictures …were of child laborers in many industries across the country. As staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee [beginning in 1908], Hine traveled thousands of miles, gathering visual evidence of violations of child labor laws.” Alan Trachtenberg, notes for Hines’ essay, “Social Photography”

(left) Lewis Hine, Boy carrying home work from New York sweatshop, 1912. Gsp.

(right) Gustave Courbet, Stonebreakers, oil on canvas, 1849-50, destroyed WWII


(left) John Sloan [American Ashcan School Painter, 1871-1951], Red Kimono on the Roof, oil on canvas, 1912, New York City(right top) Robert Henri [American Ashcan School Painter 1865-1929] Romany Girl, oil on canvas, c.1909, New York City (Crocker Museum, Sacramento)The Ashcan School

Hine, Lunchtime, 1915

Lewis Hine, Street Child, ca 1910

montage poster from child labor bulletin 3
Montage poster from Child Labor Bulletin 3

“There is work which profits the children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers…”

Lewis Hine

“The High Cost of Child Labor”

Child Labor Bulletin 3 (1914-15)

Lewis Hine, Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge, 1906. Gsp.

“Now, let us take a glance under Brooklyn Bridge at 3 a.m. on a cold, snowy night. While these boys we see there wait, huddled, yet alert, for a customer, we might pause to ask where lies the power in a picture. Whether it be a painting or a photograph, the picture is a symbol that brings one immediately into close touch with reality.” Lewis Hine, “Social Photography”


Hine, Self-Portrait with Newsboy, 1908, New York City

  • Most effective when non-essentials are eliminated.
  • Straight forward portraiture.
  • Subject aware of process and collaborating with Hine.
  • Not exploitive.
  • Subjects always maintain their dignity.
  • Sophisticated spatial constructions.
  • Selective focus.
  • Telling details.
  • Strong use of light and tonality.
  • Expressive subjects.
They were bent over 14-16 hours a day, 6 days a week

separating coal from slag for 75 cents a day.

- Lewis Hine

Then the pieces rattled down through long chutes at which the breaker boys sat. These boys picked out the pieces of slate and stone that cannot burn. It's like sitting in a coal bin all day long, except that the coal is always moving and clattering and cuts their fingers.

- Lewis Hine

Hundreds and hundreds of boys work in the mines and in the

breakers early morning until evening, instead of going to school

and playing outdoors.

Lewis Hine, “Mr. Coal's Story,”Child Labor Bulletin, August, 1913

Lewis Hine, Boy Running "Trip Rope" in a Mine, Welch, WV, 1908.

“All along I had to be doubly sure that my photo-data was 100% pure – not retouching or fakery of any kind. This had its influence on my continued use of straight photography.” - Lewis Hine“To be ‘straight’ for Hine meant more than purity of photographic means; it meant also a responsibility to the truth of vision.” - Alan Trachtenberg

Lewis Hine, Manuel the young shrimp picker, age 5, and a mountain of child labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. Biloxi, Miss. Gsp.
Lewis Hine, The overseer said apologetically, "She just happened in." She was working steadily. The mills seem full of youngsters who "just happened in" or "are helping sister." Newberry, S.C. Gsp.
Lewis Hine, Jo Bodeon, a back-roper in the mule room at

Chace Cotton Mill. Burlington, Vt. Gsp.

Lewis Hine. Boy, Hull House, Chicago. n.d. Gsp.

Hull-House founded by education reformer Jane Addams

Lewis Hine, Candy Worker, New York, 1925. Gsp.

“In the 1920's and early 1930's, Hine turned to the American working class, seeking in their faces, their hands and their activity his paean of praise for the dignity of labor.” - Walter Rosenblum, America & Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine, Icarus, Empire State Building, 1930

Hine produced more than a thousand pictures of the Empire State Building in construction and used several of these, along with other work portraits made during the nineteen twenties, for Men at Work (1932).

This project should give us light on the kinds of strength we have to build upon as a nation. Much emphasis is being put upon the dangers inherent in our alien groups, our unassimilated or even partly Americanized citizens - criticism based upon insufficient knowledge. A corrective for this would be better facilities for seeing, and so understanding, what the facts are....”
  • Lewis Hine, Our Strength Is Our People
Paul Strand (American,1890-1976), Blind, 1916, platinotype

This seminal image of a street beggar was published in 1917 as a gravure in Stieglitz's magazine "Camera Work" and immediately became an icon of the new American photography, which integrated the objectivity of social documentation with the boldly simplified forms of Modernism.

Paul Strand (American,1890-1976)

Porch Shadows, 1916, satista print

Porch Shadowsis among the first photographic abstractions to be made intentionally. Stieglitz published it in Camera Work, praising it as "the direct expression of today“ because it does not depend upon recognizable imagery for its effect, but on the relations of forms within the frame.


(left) Paul Strand (American 1890-1976) Porch Shadows, 1916, satista print(right) Theo van Doesburg (Dutch 1883-1931) Counter-composition XIII, oil on canvas, 1926, De Stijl


(left) Paul Strand, Porch Shadows, 1916, satista print(right) Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1929. GSPAbstract photography – “found” form

Strand wrote that he ”knew nothing about cartels, etc." but "was trying to photograph the rushing to work... physical movement expressed by the abstract spotting of people and shapes... [and] no doubt the black shapes of the windows have helped this quality of a great maw into which people rush."’

Naomi Rosenblum, Paul Strand, The Early Years.

(left) Lewis Hine, Riveters working on mooring mast, Empire State building , 1930. Gsp

(right) Paul Strand, People, Streets of New York, 83rd and West End Avenue, 1916, platinotype


Charles Sheeler (American painter & photographer, 1883-1965), American Landscape (Ford River Rouge Plant),1930, oil on canvas, 24 x 31” (Note solitary figure on the track to the left of the yellow railcar.) PRECISIONISM (right) Strand, Wall Street, 1916 American modern alienation. Both picture the mechanisms of American power dwarfing isolated individual workers.


(left) Charles Sheeler, Church Street El, 1920, Oil on canvas,16 x 19” (right) Still from 6-minute film, Manhatta, by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, 1920

  • Walt Whitman, Manhatta, 1855
    • "High growths of iron
    • slender, strong,
    • splendidly uprising
    • toward clear skies."


paul strand wall street 1917 with still right from manhatta by sheeler and strand 1920
Paul Strand, Wall Street, 1917 with still (right) from Manhatta by Sheeler and Strand,1920


(left) Paul Strand, Lathe, Akeley Shop, New York, 1922, gelatin silver print

(right) Lewis Hine, Power house mechanic working on steam pump, 1920, gsp

The photographer’s problem, therefore, is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty, no less than intensity of vision, is the prerequisite of a living expression. This means a real respect for the thing in front of him, expressed in terms of chiaroscuro through a range of almost infinite tonal values, which lie beyond the skill of the human hand.

- Strand


(left) Paul Strand, Ranchos de Taos Church, New Mexico, 1931, Platinotype(right) Georgia O’Keefe, Ranchos Church, No. II, NM, 1929, oil on canvas