Steichen Brooklin Bridge
Brooklin Bridge
© Edward Steichen

The one I like best of Steichen’s early years is Brooklin Bridge. Even if the print is soft and out-of-focus to follow the pure pictorialist style, the subject is already modern and the attitude is up-to-date even nowadays. Its dark and impending shape shot from below, its black bar that goes from the center to the right top, its empty mass of water at the base of the picture, its blinding lights that constellate the dark night. It’s an insolent composition, looking at it from the rules point of view, and a masterpiece on the aesthetic plan.

One of his first portraits I like the most is Gordon Craig, once again for its actuality and the astonishing composition of the image. The study for the cover of the 14th number of Camera Work has been a pleasant surprise. More than the image, I particularly adore the interaction of the subject with the golden frame, that remind me about the Vienna Secession.

The passage to modernism and commercial.

Steichen Maypole
© Edward Steichen

The exhibition goes on with Steichen’s evolution to modernism. Even if I love pictorialism, I must say that the aesthetic innovation brought by Steichen in this second phase is a full-blown breath of fresh air. He discovers the focus; after all the flou of the previous images, pictures are now sharp and neat. Even if images are interesting and often modern, the birth of mode pictures, the most abstract still lives, arouse mostly an historical interest, considered the visual revolution that Steichen operated on his work. It was sometime even an anecdotal interest, as in the case of WWII aerial photos.

Steichen George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge
© Edward Steichen

Among the pictures of the modernist period I have to talk about a couple of images, which I’ve already known, as they’re my favorite Steichen’s: Maypole and George Washington Bridge. I had seen the first one not long time before at Paris Photo, one of the most expensive of the entire exhibition. Both are genial and actual, perfectly realized and pure direct photography. Those pictures are absolutely valid, for the image and that’s that, and not for all the modifications added after the shooting. Both are famous and used, together with some mode or pictorialist pictures, for the ads that cover Paris to promote the exhibition. I’m a little bit concerned that those kinds of pictures inside the exhibition can be counted on one hand. It is possible to see some floral still life, some shells, abstractions and all of the less-known shoots of the photographers. Anyway, I think that publicize an event with a picture unique between the 450 exposed is a sort of joke. And it’s quite a shame because I would have appreciate some more similar Steichen’s works, both on palaces and on bridges.

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