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Art Thesis

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ANALYSIS OF STIEGLITZ’ WORK

Analysis of Stieglitz’ Work
Mary Chandler
Grantham University

Introduction Any piece of art work is considered a representation and reflection of inspiration and creative thoughts. Every piece of art has certain themes attached to it. Similarly, work of famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz has certain inspirational themes. The objective of this research is to explore work of Stieglitz known as Steerage and its themes.
Thesis Statement The work of Stieglitz in Steerage reflects his childhood and young adulthood and show how these works of art influenced his future works of art. Stieglitz took this photograph when he was going to visit his friends and family in 1907. While on his way to Europe Stieglitz took what is recognized not only as his signature image but also as one of the most important photographs of the 20th Century. While aiming his camera at the lower class passengers in the bow of the ship, he captured a scene he titled “The Steerage”. Once he arrived in Paris he developed the image in a friend’s darkroom and carried the glass plate around with him in Europe for many months. By the time he returned to New York he was so caught up in other business and personal matters that he did not publish it until four years later. This photograph displays people standing on steerage who were rejected by immigration officials of United States and were sent back to Europe. This photograph represents the childhood of Stieglitz. The scene of the photograph can be related to Stieglitz childhood in many ways.
Germany
Stieglitz was born the eldest of six children in Hoboken, New Jersey and raised in Manhattan's Upper East Side. His father moved with his family to Germany in 1881. The next year, Stieglitz began studying mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin and soon switched to photography. Traveling through the European countryside with his camera, he took many photographs of peasants working on the Dutch seacoast and undisturbed nature within Germany's Black Forest and won prizes and attention throughout Europe in the 1880s. The journey that was covered by Stieglitz can be related with this work in many ways. Stieglitz describes his work in the following ways: “There were men and women and children on the lower deck of the steerage. On the upper deck, looking over the railing, there was a young man with a straw hat. The shape of the hat was round. …A round straw hat, the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right, round shapes of iron machinery, a mast cutting into the sky, making a triangular shape…I saw shapes related to each other. I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life”
The Journey When intelligence level of brilliant Stieglitz found studies of American schools easy to handle and not challenging Stieglitz’ father decided to enroll him in German schools where the educational process is more challenging and studious. In 1881, Stieglitz moved with his family to Germany. This shows that just like the people who are portrayed in the photograph that was taken by Stieglitz, both covered the same journey’s in life. This photograph of Stieglitz is considered as his signature image because Stieglitz sailed across the Atlantic many times.

Emotional Empathy Work of Steerage shows passengers who were jettisoned to give immigration approval going back to Europe. This phenomenon can be related to the scenario of Stieglitz. Just like those people rejected for immigration, Stieglitz also did not find his milestone there and chose to move back to Germany. Feelings of people portrayed in the photograph resembles with the feelings of Stieglitz. People in the photograph and Stieglitz both of them were suffering from the feeling of not getting what they want from one place and then moving back to their homeland in search of their quest. At one point of his life in his adulthood in a way Stieglitz was also rejected by America and sent back to Europe but in this case the immigration official was his own father .
Similarities
Stieglitz can also relate to this photograph from a financial aspect. People who were travelling in the ship were sending back to Europe because they did not fulfill the financial and health requirement to qualify for the visa. They were sent back because they did not have enough money. Most of those people were artists. At that time Stieglitz were enjoying his artistic work but his financial condition was exactly like those people who were in the ship. The amount that Stieglitz used to earn by selling print sales was much more less than he needed to pay to the art galleries.
Conclusion
All the aspects of Stieglitz life that are discussed shows a strong relationship with Steerage. Although, Steerage is a work that came into being as a result of coincidence it was definitely not a planned work, Stieglitz did not have this theme that he followed to capture this photograph. But this captured photograph presents a picture of life of Stieglitz and many with dreams and aspirations.
References
Danzing, Rachel. (1991) “Alfred Stieglitz: photographic processes and related conservation issues”, Topics in Photographic Conservation, volume 4

Abrams, Ann U. (1975) “The Lyrical Left: Randolph Bourne, Alfred Stieglitz, and the Origins of Cultural Radicalism in America”, Emory University Press

Whelan, Richard. (1995) “Alfred Stieglitz: a Biography”, Little, Brown

Stieglitz, Alfred. (1999) “Alfred Stieglitz, Photographs & Writings”, Bulfinch Press

Kiefer, Geraldine W. (1991) “Alfred Stieglitz: Scientist, Photographer, and Avatar of Modernism, 1880-1913” Garland publication

Clarke, Graham. (2006) “Alfred Stieglitz”, Phaidon

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