Edward Steichen. Renaissance man of darkness.

April 13, 2009

 

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Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen

“Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created.”

Edward Steichen (1879–1973) is one of the most important figures in the history of photography. During his active career, which lasted over half the life span of photography, he was renowned as an artist, fashion photographer, curator, writer, and technical innovator. He was also a passionate advocate for photography as an art form, and led, along with Alfred Stieglitz, an aesthetic revolution that enabled photography to be considered as a medium capable of interpretation and expression, and not as a mere documentary record of visual facts.

In February 2006, a copy of Steichen’s early pictorialist photograph, The Pond-Moonlight (1904), sold for what was then the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction, U.S. $2.9 million.

Steichen took the photograph in Mamaroneck, New York near the home of his friend, art critic Charles Caffin. The photo features a wooded area and pond, with moonlight appearing between the trees and reflecting on the pond. While the print appears to be a color photograph, the first true color photographic process, the autochrome process, was not available until 1907. Steichen created the impression of color by manually applying layers of light-sensitive gums to the paper. In 1904, only a few photographers were using this experimental approach. Only three known versions of the Pond-Moonlight are still in existence and, as a result of the hand-layering of the gums, each is unique. In addition to the auctioned print, the other two versions are held in museum collections. The extraordinary sale price of the print is, in part, attributable to its one-of-a-kind character and to its rarity

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