Critic Robert Hughes
career spanned two cultural worlds in America: in it all manner
of strands, both nineteenth- and twentieth-century, twined together,
producing a uniquely vigorous . . . temperament. He was courageous,
obdurately persistent, impatient with fools, and sometimes an arrogant
prig. He could change his opinions but was incapable of compromise.
A twentieth-century American, but with the bark still on him.
As Stieglitz tells it
he had returned from Europe in 1890 and found New York to be a culturally
barren place, and wondered how he was ever going to live in this desolation.
He was out tromping around New York photographing, and came upon the streetcar
driver patiently watering his horses at the end of the line. When he saw
the streetcar driver nourishing his horses so they could continue their
journey, Stieglitz decided that he should assume the same role and nourish
the arts in this country. (Sarah Greenough, In Focus: Alfred
When Stieglitz took this picture in 1892 he was interested in pictorial
photography, a style of picture-making that was meant to put photography
on the same level as other art forms, such as painting and sculpture.
For Pictorialist photographers, the everyday scenes in front of their
cameras were not by themselves subjects for great art; the photographers
needed to shape the picture to express their own artistry. Photographers
used many devices to shape a photograph, and there were a few elements
that applied to most turn-of-the-century pictorial photographs, including
this one. Click on the diagram bar above to find out what makes this photo