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HomeContentsVisual indexesAlfred Stieglitz

 
  
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Alfred Stieglitz 
The Steerage 
1907 
  
Photogravure 
Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Accession Number: 33.43.419 
  
 
LL/59226 
  
Alfred Stieglitz recalled taking this photograph twenty-five years later:
 
"As I came to the end of the deck I stood alone, looking down. There were men and women and children on the lower deck of the steerage. There was a narrow stairway leading up to the upper deck of the steerage, a small deck right at the bow of the steamer.
 
To the left was an inclining funnel and from the upper steerage deck there was fastened a gangway bridge which was glistening in its freshly painted state. It was rather long, white, and during the trip remained untouched by anyone.
 
On the upper deck, looking over the railing, there was a young man with a straw hat. The shape of the hat was round. He was watching the men and women and children on the lower steerage deck. Only men were on the upper deck. The scene fascinated me: A round hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railing made of chain; white suspenders crossed on the back of a man below; circular iron machinery; a mast that cut into the sky, completing a triangle. I stood spellbound. I saw shapes related to one another--a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me: simple people; the feeling of ship, ocean, sky; a sense of release that I was away from the mob called rich. Rembrandt came into my mind and I wondered would he have felt as I did... I had only one plate holder with one unexposed plate. Could I catch what I saw and felt? I released the shutter. If I had captured what I wanted, the photograph would go far beyond any of my previous prints. It would be a picture based on related shapes and deepest human feeling - a step in my own evolution, a spontaneous discovery."
 
Further readings
 
Weston Naef, ed., 1995, In Focus: Alfred Stieglitz : Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, (J. Paul Getty Museum)
 
Richard Whelan & Sarah Greenough, 2000, Stieglitz on Photography, (Aperture), pp. 19495
 
Juliet Hacking (ed.), 2012, Photography: The Whole Story, (Prestel), pp. 182-183 
 

 
  
 
  
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