Steichen's Legacy is a masterfully produced and richly detailed exploration of seven decades of photography by one of the foremost legends of the field. The narrative written by Joanna Steichen is personal, anecdotal and deeply enchanting.
We travel through Steichen's career from his decision as a young man to give up painting, his experiences in two world wars, the influence of the years he spent in Paris, his former marriages, his homes, gardens, horticultural virtuosity and, most of all, his all-consuming passion and dedication to the art of photography.
Joanna Steichen worked closely and constantly with her husband and as such she is an invaluable guide to the to the art and commerce and life and inspirations of the man whom she tells us Rodin loved as a son and called "The greatest photographer of his time." Steichen's time ran from the end of the nineteenth century to the early 1970s. He began his career as a painter and switched to photography fairly early on as he saw the extraordinary potential that lay there. He was an early experimenter with color and abstraction. His portraits are the iconic representations of his sitters, his abstractions are precise and voluptuous, and his landscapes and flower photographs are palpably physical.
Steichen seemed always to be working and pushing his craft further but when he saw another generation rise he "stepped aside" to bring their work to the fore. He had forged friendships with a great many Modernist geniuses in the years he was in Paris and many of them found there way to Alfred Steiglitz's 291 Gallery through his curatorial prowess. He was particularly instrumental in convincing Picasso to show in America. When he became the Director of Photography at MoMA, he not only strove to institutionalize the notion of photography as museum-worthy art, he was also unfailingly generous in the consideration he gave to the multitude of portfolios brought to him by young photographers.
In this issue of Bold Type, Joanna Steichen has written an essay describing the preparation required to create a book of this magnitude. There are numerous portraits to view as well as an excerpt from Steichen's Legacy called "Powerful People."
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