Many talented Dorothy Norman, photographer, writer, editor and publisher of the Twice A Year Press, designer of exhibitions such as the recent Heroic Encounter, first became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz in 1927. She started at once to query, and take down their conversations about his philosophy of life, art, photography, artists, all of which he called "camera work”.
I happened upon Alfred Stieglitz at the Intimate Gallery in 1927, quite by chance. I knew nothing about him. Not even his name. I knew neither that he was the greatest living photographer, nor that he had waged a tireless battle to have photography respected on the same basis as other already accepted art forms.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS MY PASSION, THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH MY OBSESSION.
What meaning does the vision of Alfred Stieglitz have for the world today? Over the years we have become ever more profoundly convinced that simply to look upon Stieglitz as a great master of the camera—although he was that, to be sure—is to minimize the true nature of his total contribution.
Despite my deep feeling for America, I was sad to leave Europe in 1890, after my student days in Germany. While abroad, I had defended my country against all criticism. As a child, I had a glowing vision of America—of its promise. But then, once back in New York, I experienced an intense longing for Europe; for its vital tradition of music, theatre, art, craftsmanship.
Although it was in Europe that Stieglitz first became excited about the machine age — about the machine, when sensitively used—his early pictures nevertheless reflect an overwhelming sense of identification with the "old world"—a world, in his view, essentially lovely; a world by no means disturbingly dehumanized or "mechanized" in brutal manner; a world in which man’s "caring" still could be expressed by way of his personal, loving touch upon that which he handled and fashioned in his daily work . . .
One day during the winter season of 1902-03, there was a great snowstorm. I loved such storms. The Flat Iron Building had been erected on 23rd Street, at the junction of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. I stood spellbound as I saw that building in that storm.
Stieglitz’s "fight for photography” developed constantly new facets. He continued to make his own experiments, and to champion the work of others also breaking new ground. The magazines he edited—like the "galleries” he founded—swiftly became dynamic points of contact between artist and public; battlegrounds for new ideas.
During the period in which Stieglitz had been maturing, most already-established American art, created in media other than photography, had become academic; was, essentially, taken for granted. As a result of which, he became increasingly aware that, just because of the development of photography, painting and sculpture might now be liberated to express something totally fresh: namely the anti-photographic.
Soon after I returned to New York in 1890, I finally bought a hand-camera, which I never had had abroad, in order to do a series of the city that I had had in mind while in Europe, and that I knew could not be done with a large camera and tripod. I bought a hand-camera, despite my previous distaste for the instrument.
In 1923 Stieglitz wrote from Lake George: Thirty-five or more years ago I spent a few days in Murren (Switzerland) ... I was experimenting with ortho plates. Clouds and their relationship to the rest of the world, and clouds for themselves, interested me, and clouds which were most difficult to photograph—nearly impossible.
One evening my daughter Kitty, who was fifteen at the time, suddenly said to me, ‘Father, you have gotten me into trouble again.’ I inquired how I had done so. I was told that at school that day one of the teachers had asked the various girls in Kitty's class about their fathers’ vocations.
ALFRED STIEGLITZ: Born January 1, 1864, Hoboken, New Jersey. 1867: First foreshadowing of preoccupation with the visual: Intense interest, at age of three, in carrying about with him, in his belt, portrait of "beautiful little boy cousin”.