View Full Version : Edward Steichen

Nathan Potter
26-Jul-2009, 09:32
A heads up here for New England photographers. I visited an exhibition of Steichens work at the Williams College of Art in Williamstown MA on Friday. By far the best display of his work I've ever seen. About 178 original prints done for Conde Naste from 1923 to 1937 mostly all of famous personalities of the time. Great one of Carl Sandburg, his brother in law that one sees reproduced often. The images of Bessie Love, in five images, doing the Charlston and the famous one of Richard Strauss stand out for me.

Another series of 58 works (from the Hollander family trust) dating from about 1902 to 1935 many in Pt/Pd but a number printed on silver gelatin in the 60's were shown in the same gallery area.

Finally a single wall of 25 silver gelatin originals used to illustrate the Walden Pond book published in 1936 was displayed with a copy of the book. The Walden Pond works were very insightful for me since I used to swim there as a kid when I lived in Concord.

The prints were all darker than I remembered but possibly some of that impression was due to the relatively dim lighting used in order to preserve the integrity of the prints. A very interesting video reproduction is there showing Steichen at work with his assistant in a rapid fire session using a 5X7 and 8X10 studio setup.

A helluva day considering I followed it with a Tanglewood concert with James Levine and the BSO complete with - what else - thunder, lightning and rain.

Nate Potter, Boston MA.

Merg Ross
26-Jul-2009, 10:15
Although I have seen much of his work, never in an exhibition as comprehensive as the one you describe. Perhaps it will travel, do you happen to know?

I had the pleasure of meeting Steichen in 1960, and an opportunity to show my work. He was a dynamic person, and encouraging as well. Two years later he selected Szarkowski to be his successor.

Sounds like you had a full day of sights and sounds.

26-Jul-2009, 10:54
When I was a lad first learning about photography, the Great Gurus of the photo magazines were Steichen and Stieglitz. I grew up assuming that their work was the ultimate imagery -- always shown were Steichen's Garbo and Swanson portraits, and Stiglitz's O'keefe's hands.
Then I actually began to see Steichen's other work, and I thought it was extremely dated and often ugly -- everything so artifical and posed. And Mein Gott, shadows and lighting which would nearly make me throw up.
It wasn't until a very few years ago that with reluctance I finally read Steichen's bio by his last wife and his autobiography. The man was a human dynamo -- compared to him Adedon was a slacker! Stiglitz was always a lazy slacker, and essentially gave up photography (he knew when to quit, except for the O'Keefe association).
I am now convinced that up until approximately World War One the work both of these men did was unique and among the most interesting I've ever encountered. After that, however, IMO their contributions to The Art was definitely negative (except for Steichen's tour of duty at MOMA).
I'd love to see a good show of their work, with enough light to illuminate what the prints actually look like. I really hate galleries and museums who only show photographs in dungeon-like illumination!

Nathan Potter
26-Jul-2009, 15:00
Merg, I don't honestly know if that exhibit will travel and have not been able to find out.

Bill, some the early work I found much more interesting and imaginative than the stuff for Conde Naste. But the images when published in Vogue was increased in luminosity and tonal range greatly to be more appealing to the public. Viewing the whole I got the sense that the Conde Naste commercial work killed the creativity he found in his youth.

Nate Potter, Boston MA.

Sylvester Graham
26-Jul-2009, 15:47
Yes! I'm totally there.

There was some sort of photo exhibit there last year. It was really a dissapointment. Something like 14 prints... although it could have been I just read the advert wrong.

Ron Bose
23-Nov-2009, 10:47
This exhibit is at the Art Gallery of Ontario for those who don't know already. The wife and I enjoyed the exhibit yesterday along with the ho-hum King Tut exhibit.