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Alfred Stieglitz Analysis Essay

Alfred Stieglitz was an iconic photographer and gallery owner, who creates abstract art or symbolism in high-quality fashion. He was born on January 1, 1864 at Hoboken, New Jersey in a German-Jewish family. He spent most of his life in New York City, molding his photographs and leading a group of artists, called the Photo-Secessionist movement. They were a group, who looked for as much skillful and creative potential as possible of what a photographer can do. Because he was a gallery owner, he stored artwork such as Picasso’s paintings and his own abstract art of clouds, called the Equivalent series, in his gallery called, 291.

To recognize his accomplishments, he was the editor of The American Amateur Photographer. He also led the publishing of Camera Work, photographic journals made from 1903 to 1907. These journals displayed high-quality pictures produced by the Photo-Secession group as its purpose was to define photography as an art. With so much accomplishments in his resume, Stieglitz wished he could have done more despite his health issues. This led to a fatal stroke ending his life in his home in New York City at July 13, 1946. But his legacy will always remain forever for finding the full potential of photography as a fine art.

Description Stieglitz was famous for his use of intense shapes and patterns in his photos. Most of the pictures showing this description were made during his early years in New York City. Specifically, they were geometric shapes. For example, he took a photo of a bridge somewhere around a ferry boat. This photo was called The Steerage. In this picture, viewers would notice a bridge lining up towards a crowded place, which is people filling the inside of a boat. The flooring of the bridge has that wooden rectangular shape, which comes with the flimsy looking chained fences of the bridge.

Notice that in modern composition, this is using a sense of perspective and lines that lead the audience to the people crowded in the boat, which depicts the migration of Old World to New World. But most of all, the main method to making his unique photographs is his use of time. Stieglitz called these “composite portraits”. This term means a series of photos spanning for about many years. This can be found in his portraits of his wife, Georgia O’Keefe. In his portraits of Georgia O’Keefe, he wanted to express how people and all things were always constantly changing.

To do that, he spanned those photographs of O’Keefe in a matter of 20 years – 1917 to 1937. Stieglitz made an astounding 329 photographs of O’Keefe, which 45 of them were nudes. To make this photo have that abstract and symbolizing quality, he wanted to synthesize his understanding of his wife by revealing the underlying qualities of her. With different positions of her portraits, he came to realize that significance of O’Keefe can be expressed emotionally through her use of torso, feet and hands. Therefore, he began to focus his camera on each part of her body.

Stieglitz wanted to show the individuality of O’Keefe. The figurative result of this series of photos shows the physical and emotional transformation of O’Keefe, which displays the many different versions or “selves” of her. In his images of New York City, Stieglitz used the same concept of abstraction. In his photo, called The Hand of Man, it shows a train with the burning coal smoking out of it. There are also train tracks that accompany the vehicle, and the picture shows a bunch of the tracks converging to change the direction of the train.

On the left of the picture, electrical lines are somewhat parallel to the train tracks. Based from these details, the picture symbolized the relationship of man to nature, and explained how New York City has urbanized or even industrialized. Through all this hard work, Stieglitz’s life was all about him wanting that definition of “idea photography”. This meant patience and a lot of time to get closer to that truth by making use of figurative qualities and symbolism in his photographs. This was such a lifetime performance that we can be inspired about.

Analysis Stieglitz’s legacy was full of his leadership of the Pictorialist movement. He advocates to create the artistic element of photography, mainly focusing on abstraction. He really created a great example to others especially with his publications of Camera Work. Before Stieglitz was even known by others in 291, photographs were essentially used as historical records, not art. And because he was a gallery owner in the 291, he introduced not his work, but a lot of artwork made by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Paul Cezanne to give Americans a taste of European Modernism.

Even though their art can be less satisfying, it was something new that the viewers can really engage upon. Through the inspiration of the paintings mainly influenced by Picasso, he was looking for a different approach than what his colleagues were doing. Stieglitz wanted to look for compositional elements such as clouds, snow and steam in his photos. Stieglitz had an abundance passion for using natural effects. He used simple features from nature to balance out features symbolizing the American industry. This was so he could soften the brutal force of America’s rising power during World War I through his photographs.

The 1910s were filled with war and sickness that made Stieglitz troubled and fascinated about this atmosphere. Later in his life, his effects of high contrast, sharp focus, geometric features and continued use of abstraction made photography more appealing and meaningful to the modern age of America. Stieglitz has inspired a few iconic photographers a generation ahead of him. These included artists such as Ansel Adams and of course his wife, Georgia O’Keefe. He was deeply impressed by Adam’s portfolios, considering it as “one of the finest photographs I have ever seen”.

Adams was known for his iconic photographs of landscapes and defining so much beauty in nature. He photographs nature to emphasize how much respect it needs to be preserved. Stieglitz had set a privileged exhibit for Adam’s set of photographs. About his wife, O’Keefe was the st endeared person to him. She must have known Stieglitz so much about his artistic development through working with him. Because of the portraits he made for O’Keefe, she became famous not only for her husband’s display of the portraits, but for symbolizing the art of womanhood. Stieglitz has inspired so much for me just reading through his articles and letters.

Even though some of his articles and letters can be unclear, he always provides that spirit of individualism inside everyone’s minds. Stieglitz had an intense motivating drive to define “idea photography”. Even before his death, he expressed his failure to find that definition. But because of that mindset he had from beginning, it was this that helped him to continuously experiment and try new things. Though, he did not aim for advancing his own techniques and progress. Through his own original progressions, he did this so he could find the full potential of photography so that everyone else can benefit from that potential.

As he was learning more about that, he wanted everyone to consider each of his photographs as a living thing. For him, there is nothing to be creative about photography because all he wanted was a simple picture. There is nothing re-touched or polished in editing of his photographs. He wanted something straight and direct. And at the same time, it had to be more real than realistic. This is why he wanted everyone of his prints to be considered still but figuratively living. . For Stieglitz, it was also important to engage everyone’s minds.

He wanted to hypnotize the viewers and “see what they don’t see”. He said that “it is what they don’t see that they won’t forget”. It is confusing at first to think about, but the more you think about it, the more you realize the importance of abstract art. That is how he wanted to use the concept of abstraction or incorporating his subjective state of mind in heart. He wanted to have expressions working towards his thinking, not going towards any objective thought. Stieglitz deserves a lot of credit to deepening the concept of abstraction in his simple and clear photos.

Interpretation Going back to the example of the O’Keefe portraits, Stieglitz as always wanted to create that sense of living in our mind. Through the constant change of O’Keefe’s psychological and physiological traits, Stieglitz puts audiences closer to reality Based from the meaning of the series of photographs, it is very significant that not just O’Keefe but everyone changes over time It could also mean that every person is different than the other Of course, Stieglitz wants his viewers to feel the expressions he is creating through his portraits of O’Keefe.

With the use of torso, feet and hands of O’Keefe, these are certain parts of the body that can express her gestures that can be communicated to us. This showed love, passion and respect for O’Keefe’s original individuality. Stieglitz not only expresses his wife’s distinctiveness, but everyone’s original individualism. Some of the portraits may signal nudity. Stieglitz even displays it dramatically by getting closer and closer to his subject, O’Keefe. In this case, Stieglitz moves the camera closer to her body even though it cuts off the top or bottom of it.

But this only xpresses in a more artistic matter as it symbolizes O’Keefe’s closeness and bond to Stieglitz. Stieglitz may have loved her so much. In Stieglitz’s exhibition of Equivalents, these are really total abstractions of his subjective state of mind. In an article he made for Amateur Photography, he explained how he made these cloud pictures. He wanted to create the a flow of “music” inside of those photographs. This would create an effect in viewers to have that hypnotizing through their minds. This was originally meant to impress a great music composer back then, named Ernest Bloch.

But he made these pictures seem heavenly that some viewers called it taking “pictures of God”. But this mostly symbolized having that freedom and ripping away from circumstances that is holding Stieglitz back. In Stieglitz’s later life, he took pictures of skyscrapers around New York City. The 1930s defined an age of poverty that Americans had to go through. His photos depicts that time of chaos. Materialism and living standards have put forth the first priority of these Americans over their freedom of speech and individuality.

New York City would have a different vibe for Stieglitz. He was feeling that solidarity in life not wanting to go out of his apartment a lot. Because these moments changed Stieglitz’s own subjective mind, Stieglitz felt that every American has lost their self-expression because of these hard times. Evaluation At the start, Steiglitz always wanted to figure something new in his work. He kept doing technical experiments. He did so much experiments on using lantern slides, ortho plates, and testing contrast values.

He gained so much knowledge from his experimenting, which expressed his amateuristic spirit. He also believed that that experimenting helped him explore the whole entirety of the photography medium. He always goes to the main concept to add expressions, feelings and thoughts of the photographer. This is so that he further defines the concept of “idea photography”. His searching led to Picasso’s artwork. Picasso wanted his viewers to think, analyze and be able to relate to the abstract art he created.

Even though there are no concrete objects to what viewers can refer to, there should be an emotion blossoming from those viewers, who are interpreting the picture. To further support this idea, a friend of Stieglitz and caricature artist, named Marius de Zayas, helped him define the “new role of photography”. He explains in an issue of Camera Work in 1913 that art has taught us to feel the artist’s emotions. But for photography, because it presents reality in a more alert manner, it allows us to realize our own emotions based from the scene presented.

De Zayas believed that abstract objects conveyed their own spirit and revealed their own intrinsic nature. Both Picasso and de Zayas were great role models that inspired Stieglitz to become an iconic photographer for abstractiveness. Stieglitz even wrote that abstract art “was a new medium of expression- the true medium”. Conclusion Stieglitz must have gone through a complicated lifestyle. In order for him to be different from other photographers, he had to be a little critical to get to where he was going.

The deliberate practice and experimentations throughout his 40 year career may have also been a burden to him. Yet, he was one of those that had to take a lot of photos and only a few of them were really good. Though, he gained so much insight throughout that time span. As he practiced and practiced, he learned more about the potential of photography that at first were thought impossible. Though he had to stop at 1937 due to his health, his legacy has helped to inspire others, who can create their own path to match Stieglitz’s definition of “idea photography”.

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