Edward Steichen, American, Self-Portrait, 1917, Coated platinum print; 27.9 x 20.3 cm (11 x 8 inches), Anonymous gift 83.168.1
Steichen was influential not just as a photographer but also as one who brought European modernism to this country beginning around 1908. He became the first photography curator (1947 - 1962) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Steichen’s early works, such as this one, demonstrate a pictorialist approach to the medium. The pictorialists were eager to distinguish themselves from amateurs working with small, easy-to-use cameras that had begun to appear on the market during the 1880s. They modeled their aesthetic after fine-art “pictures” and gave their images a soft-focus quality that suppressed detail in favor of an expressive reading. A famed portraitist, Steichen periodically turned the camera on himself, as in this Self-Portrait.