Art, Books October 7, 2010 By Sarah Coleman

From My Window At The Shelton, North (1931)

From My Window At The Shelton, North (1931) (Click images to enlarge)

     To see the development of New York over this crucial fifty-year period, documented by a single photographer, is fascinating. In Stieglitz’s earliest images (1892-1906), the city seems to be perpetually shrouded in layers of mist, in which workers toil, paving streets and driving carriages. In a second body of work, (1907-1917), plumes of steam rush from boats and buildings as a dynamic city moves into the modern age. The third group, (1930-1937), is much sharper, depicting planes of light and shadow on the city’s newly-built skyscrapers.
     Throughout, Stieglitz’s love for New York is obvious. So is his genius for composition — the unfailing knack he had for balancing lines, forms and tones. It’s not surprising to read, in Bonnie Yochelson’s informative essay, that in order to capture the atmospheric image Winter on Fifth Avenue, Stieglitz stood outside in a blizzard for three hours, rooted to one spot.
     Published to coincide with an exhibit at South Street Seaport, Alfred Stieglitz New York is a fitting tribute to Stieglitz’s obsession with the city. Though he may have been a difficult man (and by all accounts — including O’Keefe’s—he was), Stieglitz had an enormous, undying passion for photography and for New York City. In his best images, it’s matched by an exquisite artistry.

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