Alfred Stieglitz: The First Modern Photographer
Photo: “The Terminal” (1893) by Alfred Stieglitz
By Alec Cunningham
Alfred Stieglitz is considered by many to be the first “modern” photographer. Initially, though, he carefully arranged his photographs in a way similar to paintings.
He soon realized that photography was an art form in its own right and began treating it as such and promoting “straight” photography, in which he created his prints with very minimal retouching and cropping.
Stieglitz was a founding member of a group called the Photo-Secession. The group’s primary focus was their drive to break off from the conventions of photography and to create something entirely new for photography’s future. Camera Work, the group’s journal, which was edited and published by Stieglitz, was the first publication to ever approach photography from the viewpoint that it was an independent art form.
Stieglitz collaborated with Edward Steichen, (see Jan. 31 blog post), to create New York City’s Gallery 291, which held the first-ever modern art exhibit in 1908. The gallery exhibited the work of many photographers and painters, including Picasso, Rodin, Matisse and Georgia O’Keefe, whom Stieglitz later married.
Born in 1864 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Stieglitz had originally planned on becoming a mechanical engineer. But after seeing a camera in a store window, he decided to refocus his future. For more than 50 years, he was dedicated to increasing photography’s influence. As a result, Stieglitz generated some of the most celebrated photographs that the world has ever seen.
And in the process, became the first modern photographer.