The Steerage and Alfred Stieglitz
When, in 1907, Alfred Stieglitz took a simple picture of passengers on a ship bound for Europe, he could not have known that The Steerage, as it was soon called, would become a modernist icon and, from today’s vantage, arguably the most famous photograph made by an American photographer. In complementary essays, a photo historian and a photographer reassess this important picture, rediscovering the complex social and aesthetic ideas that informed it and explaining how over the years it has achieved its status as a masterpiece. What aspects of Stieglitz’s ideas and sometimes-murky ambitions help us understand the picture’s achievements? How should we assess the photograph in relation to Stieglitz’s many writings about it? The authors of this book explore what The Steerage might mean in at least two senses—by itself, as a grand and self-sufficient work, and also ineluctably bound up with the many stories told about it. They make the photograph, today, what Stieglitz himself made it over the years—a photo-text work.