Published: September 9, 2003
One hundred years ago, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) introduced a publication that would forever change the way photographs were looked at. Camera Work was the prestigious journal of the Photo-Secession, an organization formed by Stieglitz to promote the idea of photography as an art form.
The James A. Michener Art Museum is presenting “Camera Work: A Centennial Celebration,” which runs September 13 through January 4 in the Fred Beans Gallery. Organized by the Michener Art Museum and curated by noted photographer and editor Stephen Perloff, this exhibition features many original gravure prints from Camera Work, as well as rare, original issues of the journal itself.
Among the leading figures in the history of photography, Stieglitz was a major influence on the arts of the early Twentieth Century, and an important interpreter of the emerging modern culture. Camera Work reflected Stieglitz’s aesthetic and passions. The quarterly journal published pictures and critical essays by major photographers and writers of the day and was the first publication in America to champion the work of many now-legendary artists, including Picasso, Matisse and Rodin. Among the important photographers featured in the pages of Camera Work were Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand.
Launched by Stieglitz in 1903, the journal quickly gained an international reputation and published 50 editions before folding in June of 1917.
Stieglitz himself studied mechanical engineering and photography at the Polytechnic of Berlin. In 1883, he came across a camera in a shop window in Berlin, a discovery that would change his life and the history of an art form. “It fascinated me, first as a passion, then as an obsession,” Stieglitz would later say. From 1892 he was becoming famous for his photographs of street scenes in New York and Paris, which reflected a distinctive, atmospheric quality.
In 1902, Stieglitz became one of the founders of the Photo-Secession, a group of talented avant-garde artists; three years later he founded the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue, New York, a gallery that came to be known as “291” and exhibited not only the work of contemporary photographers, but also works of Picasso, Rodin, Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Special related programming in conjunction with the exhibit includes a lecture series on October 14, 21 and 28, and a symposium on November 23 from 1 to 4 pm.
The James A. Michener Art Museum is at 138 South Pine Street. For information, 215-240-9800 or www.michenerart museum.org.
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