January 1 In Photo History

Stieglitz in 1902 by Gertrude Käsebier

It is always dangerous to call someone "the most" anything.  But It is a safe bet that Alfred Stieglitz is one of the most influential American Photographers of the 20th century. As an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his 50-year career in making photography an accepted art form. He is also famous for photographing painter Georgia O'Keeffe, his wife.


Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey the son of Jewish immigrants.  His father was a lieutenant in the Union Army.  His father moved to Europe to for the purpose of giving his children a better education than they could receive in America.  It was here Stieglitz was introduced to photography when enrolled in a chemistry class taught by Hermann Vogel who was a scientist and researcher in the chemical processes for developing photographers.

The Terminal (1893) by Alfred Stieglitz

In 1884, his parents returned to America, but 20-year-old Stieglitz remained in Germany and collected books on photography and photographers in Europe and the U.S. He bought his first camera, an 8 × 10 plate film camera, and traveled through the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. He took photographs of landscapes and workers in the countryside. Photography, he later wrote, "fascinated me, first as a toy, then as a passion, then as an obsession.

He saw photography as an art form. In 1887, he wrote his very first article, "A Word or Two about Amateur Photography in Germany", for the new magazine The Amateur Photographer.  He won first place for his photography, The Last Joke, Bellagio, in 1887 from Amateur Photographer. The next year he won both first and second prizes in the same competition, and his reputation began to spread as several German and British photographic magazines published his work.

The Last Joke, Bellagio, in 1887

In 1890, his sister Flora died while giving birth, and Stieglitz returned to New York.  Stieglitz considered himself an artist, but he refused to sell his photographs. His father purchased a small photography business for him so that he could earn a living in his chosen profession. Because he demanded high quality images and paid his employee high wages, the Photochrome Engraving Company rarely made a profit.  He regularly wrote for The American Amateur Photographer magazine. He won awards for his photographs at exhibitions, including the joint exhibition of the Boston Camera Club, Photographic Society of Philadelphia and the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York.


Also born on January 1st are photographers Spencer Tunick 1967, Darcy Padilla 1965, George Shiras III (1859 to 3-24-1942), Sandra Eisert 1952, Joeseph Byron 1847 to May 28, 1923, Jeff T. Alu 1966, Ben Wittick 1845 to 8-30-1903, Adomas Varnas 1879 to 7-19-1979,  Robert R. McElroy 1928 to 2-22-2012