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He was considered the most glamorous name in photography and his fusion of commercial and high art brought him controversy, but also redefined fashion photography. It was high-end marketing with a pop sheen to it. Cinema noir with a trace of goth and a hint of danger. His use of light and the overall impression is of a photographer who has studied Caravaggio in creating meaning out of shadows and a narrative out of obscurity.A narrative within the confines of the gesture and pose in which the subject was objectified but in a transcending and even somewhat condescending manner.Edward Steichen changed the soft-focus image of the fashionable woman from a distant romantic creature, to that of a much more direct and independent individual, but retained the idea of inaccessible and mysterious. The timing was impeccable as it coincided with “talkie” movies and a European chic that was to vanish with WWII:

...Steichen often plays with textures and surfaces, whether juxtaposing a slender arm with a brocaded skirt or playing with cigarette smoke and shadow and glowing kinds of on image for more...

Steichen became the chief photographer for Condé Nast (1923-38). He produced monthly celebrity portraits for Vanity Fair and fashion spreads for Vogue. Edward was considered the most glamorous name in photography – and the best paid. But his merger of commerce and high art made him a controversial figure. His celebrity images – e.g. of Marlene Dietrich  - are unsurpassed. By 1927, he relied on artificial illumination for dramatic oppositions of light and dark. It lent them a look of modernity and elegance, in accordance with Hollywood glamour and the streamlined art deco design aesthetic of the late 1920s and 1930s. At Vogue, Steichen redefined fashion photography and proposed a new prototype of the confident, bold and independent female beauty. He refused to distinguish between commercial and high art. Therefore, many colleagues, including Alfred Stieglitz, chastised him for forsaking the ideals of art for money. Read More:


Read More: standouts, however, are when he marries his artifice with essence of his subjects, as he does with Amelia Earhart, for example. Steichen poses her with hands tucked boyishly beneath her knees, rocking back and looking sideways at the camera, radiant and natural, a woman more of this time than her own. Steichen perfectly captured her self-sustaining nature. Alas, there are not enough of these inspired pictures. Somewhere around 1927, the distinctness of some of Steichen’s finer images dissolves alongside row after row of anonymous models and long-faded leading men and starlets. There is simply too much here, and not enough of it is memorable. ---Read More:


His portraits for Vanity Fair brought him new fame, at least in part because of the status of such celebrity subjects as Gloria Swanson (whom he draped with an evocative veil of black lace) and a formidably handsome Gary Cooper. But on his Vogue assignments Steichen produced pictures as meticulously conceived as any painting by Gainsborough or Sargent—even though he needed to fill page after page, month after month. “Condé Nast extracted every last ounce of work from him,” Squiers told me in an interview. Steichen “was a one-man industry for the magazines, so he had to work quickly. But he had a great eye for where everything should be.” Read More:

—For Vanity Fair, Steichen showcased the most prominent figures in literature, journalism, dance, sports, politics, theatre and film. With few props, which he cleverly recycled, his skilfu

e of artificial lights and his reinterpretation of ideas borrowed from art history, Steichen always found new ways to portray his subjects and magnify their presence. He became the society photographer for New York and Hollywood. In making more than 1,000 celebrity portraits for the magazine between 1923 and 1937, Steichen created a rich and unique record of the period.—click image for more….




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