You have been invited to this forum today to exchange ideas and examine the relationship between work in the literary and artistic fields and revolutionary work in general. Our aim is to ensure that revolutionary literature and art follow the correct path of development and provide better help to other revolutionary work in facilitating the overthrow of our national enemy and the accomplishment of the task of national liberation.
Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage,photogravure, Although Emmeline looked forward to shopping in Paris and to visiting her relatives in Germany, Stieglitz was anything but enthusiastic about the trip.
In addition, Stieglitz felt out of place in the company of his fellow upper-class passengers. But it was precisely this discomfort among his peers that prompted him to take a photograph that would become one of the most important in the history of photography.
I had to get away from that company. I went as far forward on the deck as I could [ 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 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 whole scene fascinated me. I longed to escape from my surroundings and join these people. I stood spellbound for a while, looking and looking.
Could I photograph what I felt, looking and looking and still looking? I saw shapes related to each other. I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life. If he had, the picture I had seen would no longer be. The relationship of shapes as I wanted them would have been disturbed and the picture lost.
But there was the man with the straw hat. Seemingly, no one had changed position. Indeed, later photographers Minor White and Aaron Siskind would engage this project further in direct dialogue with the Abstract Expressionist painting. Stieglitz is often criticized for overlooking the subjects of his photograph in this essay, which has become the account by which the photograph is discussed in our histories.
But in his account for The Steerage, Stieglitz also calls attention to one of the contradictions of photography: Ghastly conditions As a reader of mass-marketed magazines, Stieglitz would have been familiar with the debates about immigration reform and the ghastly conditions to which passengers in steerage were subjected.
His father became a wool trader and was so successful that he retired by age Moreover, investigative reporter Kellogg Durland traveled undercover as steerage in and wrote of it: While he was sympathetic to the plight of aspiring new arrivals, Stieglitz was opposed to admitting the uneducated and marginal to the United States of America—despite his claims of sentiment for the downtrodden.
Perhaps this may explain his preference to avoid addressing the subject of The Steerage, and to see in this photograph not a political statement, but a place for arguing the value of photography as a fine art.
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