As one of the most prolific and controversial names in photography, Edward Steichen’s body of work certainly weighs heavily on the conscience of photographic history. While hailed as a Leonardo of the form, he was also reviled as a pariah in some corners for his seemingly perilous images.
But wherever your allegiance lies, Steichen’s 70-year career is indisputably difficult to ignore, especially after glancing through the lavishly produced retrospective, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, by Tom Brandow and William A. Ewing.
Those unfamiliar to Steichen’s collection should notice the airiness of his images, the delicacy of his exposures, and the starkness of his blacks and whites, which are simultaneously rich in detail and pragmatic in subject matter. He could do it all, from nudes and landscapes, to architecture and editorials that appeared in publications like Vanity Fair and Vogue.
It is no wonder many considered him a master on the same level as the great artists of the Renaissance Period. But aside from photography, Steichen was an accomplished painter and museum curator, most notably at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he oversaw the photography department.