A few days ago I saw the Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand show at the Met. Some of the prints were completely unexpected, though I have lived with the memory of the images they represent and the monographs in which they were published for years. The 3 Steichen prints of the Flatiron building in Manhattan are exquisite, and so painterly that one could experience the direct lineage from the Impressionists, Degas in particular, to the early masters of photography. That these three giants established photography as an accepted artistic medium becomes clear when the prints are viewed on the museum wall from a comfortable focal point.
My photograph, above, is an homage to Steichen
Steichen did stand out as the creative star among this trio, however. Viewing the photographs of Stieglitz and reading the accompanying bios, I did come away with a diminished impression of him as an artist. It seems that Stieglitz photographed what was easy: his wife, the view from his back door. In fact, his obsession with O’Keefe was mildly discomforting. The images were less about creating art, more about holding on to the body of his retreating lover. It was stated somewhere in the galleries that Stieglitz became disinterested in photography after several years, and this is not surprising.
The Strand galleries were the weakest, not for their content, but for the ragged curatorship. Jumping from a paucity of street photographs to a wall of photographs from Mexico with very little to hold them together, this part of the exhibit seemed rushed, almost an afterthought after the depth and breadth of the first two artists.
I do recommend this show to anyone interested in the history of photography, these individual artists, or in beautiful imagery. Much of the work was stunning and held up after nearly 100 years of modern photography.