Alfred Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on New Year's Day 1864. The first-born son of affluent German-Jewish immigrants, he spent his childhood in New York City before accompanying his parents to Germany in the 1880s. There, Mr. Stieglitz attended Technische Hochschule in Berlin where he majored in mechanical engineering.
His interest in photography began around 1883 when Mr. Stieglitz collected any books he could find on the subject. He also read extensively about European and American photographers, learning about their techniques and aesthetic philosophies. In 1887, The Amateur Photographer published what would be the first of many articles Mr. Stieglitz would write, "A Word or Two About Amateur Photography in Germany."
Shortly after returning to New York, Mr. Stieglitz purchased his first hand-held camera, and he found its ease of mobility extremely liberating. Using this camera, Mr. Stieglitz captured two of his most famous images, "The Terminal" and "Winter, Fifth Avenue."
After the failure of his photoengraving business, Mr. Stieglitz redirected his attention to photographic experimentation by capturing soft-focus images of the New York landscape. He also wrote several important articles on the aesthetic significance of photographic art.
In 1893, Mr. Stieglitz became a co-editor of The American Amateur Photographer, and soon became internationally known and respected for his technical knowledge and his product reviews. Three years' later, Mr. Stieglitz founded the Camera Club of New York. Then, in 1902, Mr. Stieglitz organized the Photo-Secession, which was an invitation-only group that held exhibitions of avant-garde works by both American and European photographers, and published Camera Work, a quarterly professional journal on the art of photography.
During the early twentieth century, Mr. Stieglitz operated several prominent New York City art galleries, which introduced Americans to unknown European artists. He sought to explore the emotional power of photograph and believed his own images served as metaphors for his life experiences. As a result, Mr. Stieglitz was an unapologetic photography purist, maintaining that photographs were most powerful in their natural and unaltered state.
From 1905 to 1917, Mr. Stieglitz was manager of the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, which came to be known as the 291 because of its elite address of 291 Fifth Avenue. When Mr. Stieglitz began photographing American painter Georgia O'Keefe, their professional relationship quickly turned into a personal one. In 1924, they were married, and for the next 20 years, they were partners in both life and art.
By 1938, however, Mr. Stieglitz's energetic pace began taking a toll on his health. He suffered a serious heart attack, and his body would be considerably weakened by additional heart-related episodes over the next few years. However, his mind remained sharp and he continued to collaborate with other artists and to manage his gallery.
On July 13, 1946, Mr. Stieglitz suffered a massive stroke that would take his life at the age of eighty-two.
Alfred Stieglitz believed that photography was the most important form of artistic expression in the twentieth century. His writings and his galleries elevated the avant-garde photography movement and transported it from the social periphery into the artistic mainstream.
Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera