Alfred Stieglitz Biography

Alfred Stieglitz, a renowned photographer, played a pivotal role in revolutionizing the perception of photography as an art form. In an era when the medium was still relatively unexplored, Stieglitz’s relentless efforts through his writings, gallery showings, and artistic endeavors propelled photography into the realm of fine art. His influence was instrumental in transforming photographs from mere images to be preserved into captivating works worthy of being displayed in art galleries. Not only was Stieglitz dedicated to his craft, but he also had a reputation for his infatuation with younger women, and even married the famous painter Georgia O’Keefe later in life. Through his own photography, Stieglitz skillfully captured the softer and more natural aspects amidst the harsh rise of American industry, using elements like snow and steam to soften the hard edges of industrial scenes. While his own photography is highly regarded as meaningful art, his lasting legacy lies in his tireless efforts to change public perception of photography and establish it as a respected form of fine art.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 82
  • Family: father: Edward Stieglitz, mother: Hedwig Ann Werner, siblings: Flora, children: Katherine
  • American Men
  • American Photographers
  • Died on: July 13, 1946
  • Place of death: New York City
  • City: Hoboken, New Jersey
  • U.S. State: New Jersey
  • More Facts
  • Education: City College of New York

Childhood & Early Life

Alfred Stieglitz was born on January 1, 1864, in Hoboken, NJ to German-Jewish immigrants. He was the first of six children, including a pair of twins. He received his early education at the finest private schools in New York. In 1882, he began studying mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, where he discovered his passion for photography. However, in 1890, he was forced to return to New York after his eldest sister Flora died in childbirth.

Career

After returning to New York, Stieglitz became a leading advocate for the pictorial school of photography. He wrote extensively about the principles of photography as a fine art for publications such as The American Amateur Photographer. In 1890, his father bought him a small photography studio in New York where he could display his own work. He also became the editor of Camera Notes, the periodical journal of the New York Camera Club in 1892. Stieglitz used his influence within the club to promote photography as a respected art form.

In 1902, Stieglitz and a group of like-minded photographers formed the Photo-Secession, stepping away from the Camera Club. They began an independent project that started with a single show of photography curated by Stieglitz. This project eventually grew into a new independent publication called Camera Work. Stieglitz edited the publication from 1902 to 1917. In 1908, he renamed his first gallery to ‘291’ and his work was featured in an exhibition by the National Arts Club, which displayed photography alongside other forms of fine art.

In 1917, Stieglitz’s work began to shift towards un-manipulated photography. He also photographed Georgia O’Keeffe, who would become one of his most famous portrait subjects and later his wife. The later part of his career was dedicated to maintaining his several galleries, which continued to promote photography as fine art.

Major Works

One of Stieglitz’s most influential and recognizable photographs is “The Steerage,” taken in 1907. This photograph showcases both upper class and lower class passengers in steerage on separate decks, representing the modern documentary style. Stieglitz’s extensive series of portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe is also well-known. He took and published over 250 portraits of her from 1917 to 1924.

Awards & Achievements

In addition to his own photography, Stieglitz was known for his galleries that celebrated various art forms alongside photographs. He organized large and diverse showings of fine art, giving famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Henri Matisse their first American exposure.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1893, Stieglitz married Emmeline Obermeyer, but the relationship was one of financial convenience and they divorced in 1924. A few months after his divorce, he married Georgia O’Keeffe. Stieglitz’s legacy includes his efforts to promote photography as fine art.

Trivia

Stieglitz had two twin siblings, which reportedly made him jealous and wish for a soul mate of his own. This desire for an intellectual twin led him to seek a passionate relationship with fellow modern artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

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