Photographer Profile ~ Edward Steichen


    Edward Steichen (1879-1973) is unquestionably one of the most prolific, versatile and influential photographers in history. Steichen casts a long shadow in 20th-century photography. He was admired by many for his achievements as a fine art photographer, but he also experimented and excelled in every other genre of photography.
    Even his most commercial work shows more aesthetic consideration than product placement.
    Portraiture, the nude, fashion, landscape, cityscape, dance, theatre, war, advertising, still life and flower photography – no genre of photography, it seems, went unexplored by this innovative image maker.
    Graphic design, typography, and art direction – these areas too, proved fertile grounds for Steichen’s creativity.

    Steichen was also famous because of his outstanding curatorial efforts, most notable his widely acclaimed exhibition The Family Man, which began touring internationally in 1955 and attracted well over nine million visitors worldwide and sold two and a half million copies of a companion book.
    He was the most frequently featured photographer in Alfred Stieglitz' groundbreaking magazine Camera Work during its run from 1903 to 1917.
    Steichen later became a photographer for the Condé Nast magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair from 1923–1938 and concurrently worked for many advertising agencies including J. Walter Thompson. During these years Steichen was regarded as the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. Steichen being the overachiever he was also directed the war documentary The Fighting Lady, which won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
    After World War II he was Director of the Department of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art until 1962.

    Critics and curators place Steichen as one of the most influential and controversial artists of his time, and he has been called the Leonardo da Vinci of photography.

    "Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man."
    Edward Steichen
    Steichen self-portrait in studio, New York, 1929
    Steichen at the beach, Hollywood, 1931
    *click on images for larger view
    Actress Gloria Swanson, 1924
    The Flatiron Building, NYC, 1905
    Steichen added color to the platinum print that forms the foundation of this photograph by using layers of pigment suspended in a light-sensitive solution of gum arabic and potassium bichromate. Together with two variant prints in other colours, also in the Museum's collection,The Flatiron is the quintessential chromatic study of twilight
    Actor Gary Cooper, 1930
    Actress Greta Garbo

    Cary Grant
    Charlie Chaplin
    Princess Yusupov, 1924
    Princess Irina Alexandrovna Yusupov (1895–1970) was the daughter of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna and the niece of Emperor Nicholas II. In 1914, she married Prince Felix Yusupov, best remembered as the murderer of Rasputin, the controversial monk whose association with the Russian imperial family discredited the monarchy in its last years
    (via The Met)



    Actress Pola Negri, 1925

    Wind Fire: Therese Duncan on the Acropolis, 1921

    The renowned ballroom dancing team Antonio de Marco and Renée de Marco, 1935

    Princess Nathalie Paley, 1934

    Actress Joan Crawford, 1932

    Actor Paul Robeson as "Emperor Jones", 1933

    Photographer Alfred Stieglitz at Studio 291, 1915

    Sculptor Rodin with his masterpiece The Thinker, 1902
    When Steichen arrived in Paris in 1900, the Rodin Pavilion outside the Exposition Universelle was his first stop, and he saw not only the master's work but the master himself—"a stocky man with a massive head . . . and I made up my mind I was going to photograph him someday." Only after visiting the revered sculptor's studio, nearly every Saturday for a year, did Steichen finally dare to photograph him. Steichen described Rodin's studio as being so crowded with marble blocks and works in clay, plaster, and bronze that he had to compose his portrait from two exposures, one of Rodin and theMonument to Victor Hugo and another of The Thinker. He first printed each image separately and, having mastered the difficulties of combining the two negatives, joined them together in a single picture. The result is among the most ambitious efforts of any Pictorialist photographer to emulate art in the grand tradition. Suppressing the texture of the marble and bronze and thus emphasizing the presence of the sculptures as living entities, Steichen was able to assimilate the artist into the heroic world of his creations. Posed in relief against his work, Rodin seems to contemplate his own alter ego inThe Thinker, while the luminous figure of Victor Hugo suggests poetic inspiration as the source of his creativity.
    (Via The MET)

    Brancusi's Studio, ca. 1920


    Drizzle On Fortieth Street, New York, 1925
    Nude study, 1901
    Steichen visited Rodin for the first time in 1900. He brought a portfolio of his photographs with him and, after looking through the portfolio, Rodin allowed the American to photograph him in his studio. The results have been justly termed "among the best ever made." In this exquisite autochrome, an early type of color transparency, signed and dated 1907, Steichen recorded the aging sculptor clothed in timeless drapery and sitting at the feet of the plaster model of hisEve, a soft-focus image that appears almost as the sculptor's dream.
    (via MoMA)


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    Edward Steichen


    American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973

    When in 1963 Edward Steichen prepared his autobiography A Life in Photography, he selected 241 of his own pictures to be reproduced. The earliest had been made in 1895, the most recent in 1959. The span of time that they bridged represented over half of the total history of photography.




    For over half a century Steichen was repeatedly an innovator and prime mover on not one but many of photography's frontiers.





    The lyrical impressionist landscapes of his youth, the bold formal experiments and brilliant portraits on his middle years, and the heroic documentary projects and thematic exhibitions that he directed in his maturity constitute in sum a staggering individual contribution to photography's achievement.

    Edward Steichen



    No period in his long career was artistically more rewarding than the decade of 1920's. During the War Steichen's experience in aerial reconnaissance photography had given him a new appreciation of the beauty and force of factual, unmanipulated photography, with its psychologically compelling detail and its rich and brilliant range of tones.




    When he returned to his personal work after the War, he revised his photographic style radically, to make full and frank use of these distinctive qualities of the medium.




    The surprisingly abstract quality of aerial photographs (they deal basically with only two dimensions) may have also contributed to the more rigorous, muscular sense of form that appears in Steichen's subsequent work.

    Edward SteichenIn the previous decade, photographers-most especially Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler ---had begun consciously to explore the expressive potential of the photographic detail; the part that would represent the whole.


    This approach produced a new breadth and simplicity in photographic design, and equally important, a new poetic ellipsis in photography's approach to significant content. This new intuition allowed photographers to use the camera directly and realistically, and at the same time abandon the kind of leisurely, discursive literalness that had characterized most earlier straight photography.

    Edward Steichen

    From a typical nineteenth-century photograph of the Parthenon, one might have built a rough imitation of the original---and in fact thousands of rough imitations were built largely on the basis of photographic evidence. Steichen's picture, on the other hand, would not be of much use to an architectural plagiarist, but it conveys a tangible and immediate sense of the space and scale and drama of the great construction.


    It deals not with the concept of architectural styles, but with the adventure of building grandly---and with confidence, heroism, eternity, and time.

    from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski


    Edward Steichen wasn’t as black and white as one would think.

    He just took those kinds of photographs.

    Actress Joan Crawford in a dress by Schiaparelli, 1932 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1932 Condé Nast Publications

    Well, that was the medium, anyway – black and white photography – but his subjects, the artist and his inspiration were dense layers of greys.

    I’ve been meaning to write about him for ages, having attended a first-ever joint launch by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for two photo exhibits that have been giving Torontonians a glimpse of celebrity in recent months.

    The first is an exhibit of Steichen’s photos, entitled Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923-37 at the Gehry-fied AGO.

    Princess Nathalie Paley wearing sandals by Shoecraft, 1934 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1934 Condé Nast Publications

    On George Baher’s yacht: June Cox wearing unidentified fashion; E. Vogt wearing fashion by Chanel and a hat by Reboux; Lee Miller wearing a dress by Mae and Hattie Green and a scarf by Chanel; Hanna-Lee Sherman wearing unidentified fashion, 1928 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1928 Condé Nast Publications

    The second is Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008 at the ROM, which I will feature in an upcoming post.

    The Steichen ex was put on by a few great Museum minds – the Foundation for Exhibition Photography in Minneapolis and the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, France collaborated with the AGO.

    The international flavour was fitting for Steichen’s worldly photographs of other-worldly subjects. His photos are credited as the birth of modern 20th century portraiture as we know it and they still resonate today.

    Poet William Butler Yeats, 1932 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1932 Condé Nast Publications

    I had the opportunity to chat with William Ewing, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée, who provided a wealth of information about Steichen off the top of his head, while strolling through the exhibit with me…

    Steichen was the most famous, most reproduced, highest paid photographer of the 20th Centry, but he didn’t start off that way.

    He was a real Renaissance man – a writer and educator, an industrial designer, a glassware artist and he also worked at the photo department at the Museum of Modern Art. While there, he worked on a photo exhibit called The Family of Man, which is still on display in Europe today.

    However, Steichen’s first love was painting, so he gave up photography altogether.

    Ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards for him. Frustrated that he wasn’t as good as Renoir, Cezanne and Picasso – the reigning painters at the time – he burned his paintings.

    He was actually the first person to bring the works of Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and other painters to New York.

    While in New York, he read an article in Vanity Fair that called him the greatest living portrait photographer (quite the dilemma since he had originally given up photography for painting).

    So he called the magazine and was offered the role of Chief Photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair.

    The rest is photographic history.

    Actress Pola Negri, 1925 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1925 Condé Nast Publications

    The renowned ballroom dancing team Antonio de Marco and Renée de Marco, 1935 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1935 Condé Nast Publications

    He snapped the couture collections of every major designer of the time; he shot actors, musicians, writers, artists, dancers and politicians.

    Actor Adolphe Menjou, 1925 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1927 Condé Nast Publications

    Actress Joan Bennett, 1928 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1928 Condé Nast Publications

    Actress Joan Bennett, 1928 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1928 Condé Nast Publications

    Actor Gary Cooper, 1930 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Matthieu Humery Collection/Philippe Machecourt © 1930 Condé Nast Publications

    His photos were always inventive; the light was always controlled, as any of the 212 prints in the ex will attest.

    There was always a story behind the artistry.

    Steichen invited you in to listen to it, with your eyes.

    Self-portrait with photographic paraphernalia, New York, 1929 Gelatin silver print Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © 1929 Condé Nast Publications

    The exhibit runs through January 3, 2010 – not to be missed by photo or fashion lovers.

    All photos © Condé Nast Publications, courtesy of the AGO.







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    An was a type of female warrior belonging to the Japanese upper class. Many wives, widows, daughters, and rebels answered the call of duty by engaging in battle, commonly alongside samurai men. They were members of the bushi (samurai) class in feudal Japan and were trained in the use of weapons to protect their household, family, and honor in times of war. They also represented a divergence from the traditional "housewife" role of the Japanese woman. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as female samurai, although this is an oversimplification. Onna bugeisha were very important people in ancient Japan. Significant icons such as Empress Jingu, Tomoe Gozen, Nakano Takeko, and Hōjō Masako were all onna bugeisha who came to have a significant impact on Japan.






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  • Vintage Child 1911




    Vintage Child 1911









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    Marlene Dietrich by James N. Doolittle c.1931



    Marlene Dietrich by James N. Doolittle c.1931






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    Frank Eugene (19 September 1865 – 16 December 1936)





    was an American-born photographer who was a founding member of the Photo-Secession and one of the first university-level professors of photography in the world.


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    Frank Eugene photographer ( 1865 - 1936 )




    frank eugene fine art photography 





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    Wilhelm Tobien 1930




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    Maude Ewing Kiskadden

    (November 1, 1872 – July 17, 1953), known professionally as Maude Adams, was an American actress who achieved her greatest success as the character Peter Pan, first playing the role in the 1905 Broadway production of Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. Adams's personality appealed to a large audience and helped her become the most successful and highest-paid performer of her day, with a yearly income of more than one million dollars during her peak.









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