Edward Steichen: Pola Negri, 1925 (excerpt)
Edward SteichenLast update: 02-22-2013 04:20 PM 12 October 2012 - 9 February 2013 The National Museum of Photography
This fall the National Museum of Photography presents a multi-facetted portrait of one of photography’s early front runners – the famous and controversial photographer Edward Steichen. The exhibition shows Steichen’s works in light of his impact on both his contemporaries and on later generations of photographers.
When speaking of Edward Steichen (1879-1973) there is no way around the most flattering superlatives. He is without doubt one of the most productive, multi-facetted and influential figures in the history of photography – but one of the most controversial as well.
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Edward Steichen: Self portrait, ca. 1901
No other photographer before or after has been able to fill as many roles as did Steichen during his seventy year long career. He stands out in his generation by his ability to change directions and renew himself when an artistic method was exhausted or proved insufficient. And no one was like Steichen able to take the lead in the development of photography both as an art form and as craft.
Steichen’s career can, as critic Colin Westerbeck has done, be summarized in three chapters: the Artist, the Professional and the Curator.
The Artist Edward Steichen was one of the front runners in the struggle for recognition of photography as an art form. As pioneer in the photographic style called pictorialism, he experimented with painterly techniques to make photography resemble other art forms and by that achieve the wished recognition – and with his background as a painter this strategy seemed obvious.
The Professional Steichen was the innovator, who almost singlehandedly defined many of the commercial genres we know today, especially fashion photography, glamour portraiture and advertising photography. In 1923 Steichen became chief photographer of Condé Nast’s magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair and it is difficult to find a celebrity from that period who did not visit Steichen’s studio to be portrayed.
The Curator Edward Steichen was highly influential as director of the Department of Photography at Museum of Modern Art in New York (1945-1967). Here he curated a great number of diverse exhibitions, where one, Family of Man, was no less than sensational. Family of Man was shown all over the world including Denmark in 1957 and proved highly influential on the development of photography.
The future exhibition aims at showing all the different sides of Edward Steichen’s work. The exhibition is based on works from the National Museum of Photography’s collection and works on loan from the Musée National d’Historie et d’Art, Luxembourg. Steichen’s own photographs are complemented by other photographers’ – Danish as well as international – that demonstrate Steichen’s wide-ranging influence.