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Alfred Stieglitz: Camera Work. The Complete Photographs 1903 - 1917 (German) Paperback – 15 Aug 2008
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"This has to be the 'must buy' book of the decade - no photographic library will be complete without it." - mono, UK"
About the Author
Pam Roberts was Curator at the British Royal Photographic Society from 1982-2001. She lives in Bath.
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The different issues would typically include images by a number of photographers. Stylistically, many of the images will now be seen as pretentious and sometimes individually closely copied paintings or etchings. Many photographers sometimes tried not to represent reality but they were explorers probing into the unknown. They did not know their boundaries and they were attempting to set them. Many of the images showed evidence of out-of-camera manipulation which might include scratching the original to give an appearance of an etching, pencilling in detail and similar techniques. All was acceptable and all was art.
Like Steiglitz, himself a German emigré, many of the photographers were European immigrants although there were some native Americans. Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank Eugene, Fredick H Evans and David Octavius Hill are some, but by no means all.
Although many of its images may appear strange to the modern eye, they did not cause that reaction when they appeared. The magazine was intended to introduce the concept of photography as an art and not as a craft, and it succeeded. It, and the photographers who contributed, inspired such as Edward Weston, Ansell Adams and Dorothea Lange into modernising art photography for the mid- and late-20s and into the 30s.
The magazines were certainly an icon of their time and the vast majority of the photographers whose images were used to fill its copies are still considered 'Icons of Photography', about a century on. The importance of the magazine is such that books, whether on the history of photography or on the veteran photographers the magazine used, continue to reproduce its images. Those who are critical of the books that reflect back on the magazine may not fully understand its purpose and the historical importance it holds and probably not the relevance of its images in their day.
There is not a single magazine today, in the USA or elsewhere, that is as influential now as 'Camera Work' then was. That was, and remains, its unstated bottom line!
We may not want to use similar styles as those images then used, but there are some valid lessons to be learned from many. Long may they reign!
The book was good when introduced, 1900? , but is a curio now.
Save your money to visit photographic exhibitions instead,
My only quibble is that Pam Roberts' interesting introduction is in three different languages in three different parts of the book.
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