Alfred Stieglitz’s was born in 1864 in Hoboken, U.S.A and died in 1946. Alfred was of American origin, and studied in Germany, but returned to the U.S. He was actively involved in photography work and promoting it to be accepted as a modern form of art. He strongly believed that photography was a form of art that could be used to express people’s feelings on social, political, economic and cultural aspects of their community or state. Alfred contributions in the field of photography extended beyond his photographic work as it influenced many people in the society to accept art as a way of expressing feelings and communicating in the society (Robertson et al. 123). Alfred influenced many generations of painters, photographers, as well as sculptors either indirectly or directly. He founded in 1905 together with Edward Steichen the Little Galleries, in the New York a photo session carried out in the 291 Fifth Avenue of the New York City. Alfred is known to have contributed in making photography to the same status as sculpture and painting, through his numerous pieces of photographs. The main goal of this paper will be to analyze the major pieces of photographs done by Alfred within their political and historical context. This will help in understanding how he promoted the use of photography as a form of art, which people would use to communicate about various issues touching on humankind as it was the case with sculptures and paintings.
One of the most important pieces of work by Alfred was the ‘Steerage (1907)’. This was a photograph taken by Alfred in 1907. Alfred considered this piece of the photograph as very importance as it mainly relied on human feelings and shapes. This piece of art was taken by Alfred on when traveling to Europe. The photo presented the concept of social classes in the society, as the steerage section was when the poor people had to travel in, unlike the rich who traveled using first class compartment (Naef 40). The steerage photography is one of the major pieces of art completed by Alfred that clearly shows the political as well as historical context of 1907. The work historically shows that the majorities of the people during the time were very poor and could not afford good things, such as good traveling means from one region to another. However, there were also people who were extremely rich. This piece of art clearly shows the concept of inequality economically has not started today, as it existed in 1907 in the Western countries. Thus, the society has always had people who are extremely rich, while others are extremely poor. The work brings out the human feelings of pity for those people who cannot afford a decent life, due to lack of economic means.
On the other hand, the political context of this picture shows the existence of classes of people in the society. The class of rich and poor people is clearly demonstrated in the photograph. The rich can easily afford what they need in life, but the poor have to struggle for the small resources left to them by the rich. This clearly shows that Alfred lived in society, where the majority of did not have adequate resources, as most of them were controlled by a few rich individuals. Thus, this piece of art brings out the human feeling of being discontent due to the existence of inequality in the distribution of resources in the society.
The second piece of art by Alfred was known as the ‘winter, Fifth Avenue (1892)’. The work demonstrates the busy streets of the New York City during a snowstorm period (Naef 34). The photography shows the trails of snow, carriage as well as a dark horse swallowed in the stormy atmosphere; this one of the pieces of work that depicts the struggle of man against the violence of nature (Stieglitz 60). The man has to work in difficult weather condition so as to make the end meets. This artistic work expresses the struggles of a man in life. The man throughout the history has had to survive through violent moments brought by nature. For instance, the man has had to survive in snowstorm environment as indicated by Alfred in this photography and at times during extremely dry conditions. Given the setting of this photography is within an urban area and the image of the city is buried in the snow, then this can be interpreted as a struggle of the people during Alfred's time as they tried to have a good political environment, where all of them were accepted and could engage in various economic activities for survival despite sex or race. Thus, the photography is a clear indication of the struggle that individuals had to go through in urban areas in the 18th century for survival by fighting against forces of nature, such as storm and difficult working conditions in the snow to make ends meet.
Another important piece of work by Stieglitz was ‘Paris (1913)’. This piece of photography was taken by Alfred during his visit to Paris in 1913. The photography demonstrates the love that Alfred had for natural scenes. The photography shows the urban landscape. It also demonstrates the way people, as well as buildings, interacted with one another on a daily basis (Eversole 20). A deeper analysis of this piece of work can help understand the historical as well as the political contexts of the people during the 20th century in Europe. This piece of art clearly demonstrates the period in which Europe was experiencing huge urbanization developments, especially expansion of infrastructures, such as buildings and roads. The presence of the buildings in the picture shows the important role that they play in the civilization of man, especially as they provided as a source of shelter and officer to work in. Therefore, the huge developments of in the area of urbanization, particularly in Europe are captured in this piece of work by Alfred. The work also demonstrates that Europe in the early 20th century was undergoing huge transformation politically, as political class focused more on the development of urban centers, by ensuring that they had adequate infrastructure to accommodate huge influx of people from rural areas who were seeking for jobs in industries, most of which they were located in urban centers. This work shows how man historically has tried to improve the natural environment, through various technological and infrastructural developments to make life better. The presence of natural scenes and buildings in the photograph clearly shows the way man have tried to make improvements in the natural environment by developing structures aimed at making the quality of life better. Thus, these photograph work shows that the man has been struggling to make the surrounding environment better through building infrastructures that help in making life better.
Finally, ‘city of ambitions (1910)' is another important piece of work completed by Alfred. In this photograph, an outstanding urban scene is provided. It is contrasted with the industrialization, which is shown in the form of the skyscrapers, while the natural scenes are shown through water (Robertson et al. 89). This artistic work by Alfred is a representation of the things that were happing in 1910 in the Western world, especially the concept of industrialization. The concept of skyscrapers in the artistic work is aimed at showing development in the man's life as a result of industrialization as well as urbanization. The industrialization concept results in the change of the way of life of man, but the natural beauty does not change; however, it is enhanced by the presence of the buildings and other infrastructures developed by man. This concept shows the efforts of man to become a better being. The photograph, in this case, shows the interaction of human activities, such as urbanization and industrialization with the natural environment. This piece of work if look in a deeper way gives the meaning of life, whereby, one struggles to survive in life, using the natural environment. It is the natural environment, such as land and water that give rise to urbanization and industrialization. Thus, the piece of work gives a reflection of the way man interact with the environment and through creativity and innovation can come up with new concepts aimed at making life better, such as skyscrapers.
The pieces of work discussed in this paper clear shows that Alfred transformed the concept of photography into a form of art. Traditionally, art has been used as a way of communication or expressing feelings towards various things in life. The paintings and scripture have over the years being used to capture different aspects of man life, such as women right movements, sexuality, violence, beauty of nature and others. A close look at the work of Alfred qualifies it as a form of art as different forms of meanings and reflections about human life can be obtained from it (Robertson et al. 112).
One of the ways in which the photographs taken by Alfred act qualifies as a form of art is that they express human feelings towards certain aspects of life. For example, the photograph expresses feelings toward poverty and inequality in the society. Traditionally, artists would create various forms of art with an objective of expressing their feelings toward social issues affecting the society. Therefore, the use of Alfred's ability to make use of photographs in expressing human feelings contributed in a great way in making them acceptable as a form of modern art (Robertson et al. 121). Furthermore, the use of photographs as a means of communication also contributed in a big way the work of Alfred to pioneer the use of photographs as a form art in human life. Most of his pieces of work tried to communicate about different aspects of human life, such as urbanization, the interaction of nature and man, beauty and industrialization. In most cases, art is used as a mean of communication among generations. A close look at the photographs of Alfred one can be able to clearly know the way of life during the time in which they were taken.
In conclusion, it is evident from this analysis of the work of Stieglitz that it transformed the way people viewed photography. The work played an instrumental role in bringing out the artistic nature of photography, especially expressing various aspects of human life. The photographs analyzed in this paper help in understanding the political as well as the historical context during which they were taken. The same case applies to various forms of arts, such as painting and sculpture, whereby, if analyzed deeply one can understand the major events that used to take place during the time of their creation. For example, the photograph of Paris taken by Stieglitz helps in reflecting the concept of industrialization and urbanization in Europe during the 20th century. Taking a look at it today, one can be able to understand the historical context of urbanization and how it was during the early 20th century in Europe. Hence, looking at the work of Stieglitz one clearly sees how photographs can be used as means of expressing political, economic and social feelings toward certain concepts in the society. Therefore, Alfred's work is strongly influential in making photography another form of art; it terms of how he used it to capture events of his time.