Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1864, and schooled as an engineer in Germany, Alfred Stieglitz returned to New York in 1890 determined to prove that photography was a medium as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture. As the editor of Camera Notes, the journal of the Camera Club of New York—an association of amateur photography enthusiasts—Stieglitz espoused his belief in the aesthetic potential of the medium and published work by photographers who shared his conviction. When the rank-and-file membership of the Camera Club began to agitate against his restrictive editorial policies, Stieglitz and several like-minded photographers broke away from the group in 1902 to form the Photo-Secession, which advocated an emphasis on the craftsmanship involved in photography. Most members of the group made extensive use of elaborate, labor-intensive techniques that underscored the role of the photographer’s hand in making photographic prints, but Stieglitz favored a slightly different approach in his own work. Although he took great care in producing his prints, often making platinum prints—a process renowned for yielding images with a rich, subtly varied tonal scale—he achieved the desired affiliation with painting through compositional choices and the use of natural elements like rain, snow, and steam to unify the components of a scene into a visually pleasing pictorial whole.
Alfred Stieglitz returned to New York in 1890 determined to prove that photography was a medium as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture.