StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups
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StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups features stories you’ll love to hear – fiction, memoir, poetry, film, song, oral storytelling, and more. Listen as master storyteller Linda Tate talks about literature and other stories each week – and be sure to catch those special weeks when Linda reads the stories to you. Visit TheStoryWeb.com to learn more, share your thoughts about this week’s story, and subscribe to a free weekly email highlighting the featured story.
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136: Alfred Stieglitz: "The Terminal" and "Winter, Fifth Avenue"
1 day ago
This week on StoryWeb: Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs The Terminal and Winter, Fifth Avenue. In the 1890s, as Alfred Stieglitz was beginning his career, photographers were fighting for artistic recognition. Photographers who wanted to go beyond “mere” journalism or documentary photography had to show their critics the value of their “mechanistic” art. Photographers like Stieglitz were trying to prove to skeptics that the camera could be used not only as a journalistic tool (as Jacob Riis used it in How the Other Half Lives) but that photographs could also have value as art. Stieglitz was unquestionably the leader of the movement to gain artistic recognition for photography. A pioneer in subject matter, technique, and treatment, Stieglitz shot many “firsts,” among them the first snow photograph, Winter, Fifth Avenue (shot in 1893), the first rain photo, A Wet Day on the Boulevard [Paris] (taken in 1894), and the first night shot, Reflections – Night [New York] (created in 1896). In 1897, Stieglitz published Picturesque Bits of New York, a volume of his New York scenes; it sold for the then-whopping price of $15. Stieglitz was concerned with both seeing life as it was and interpreting it morally. Scholar Doris Bry says of him: “To define and fix a moment of reality, to realize the potential of black and white, through photography, fascinated Stieglitz.” But objectivity to Stieglitz was not enough. In a 1908 article in the New York Herald, Stieglitz stressed the importance of the “personal touch” and the “individual expression” of the artist. He said, “I saw what others were doing was to make hard, cold copies of hard, cold subjects in hard, cold light. . . . I did not see why a photograph should not be a work of art, and I studied to make it one.” Though Stieglitz hailed from Hoboken, New Jersey, New York was his adopted city. As Bry says, “he came to love [the city], it became home to him.” Art critic Neil Leonard says, “Stieglitz’s photographs of these years held strong emotional meaning for him, yet they realistically captured . . . the sights, rhythms, and moods of the city.” Two of Stieglitz’s New York photos are particularly compelling to me, both shot in 1893: The Terminal and Winter, Fifth Avenue. Stieglitz said, “From 1893 to 1895 I often walked the streets of N