ADAMWEINBERG: Curator Barbara Haskell reminds us how revolutionary this photograph of New York skyscrapers would have been in 1910, when Alfred Stieglitz took it.
BARBARAHASKELL: The subject matter up until that point had been much more genteel environments, interior scenes, people. To go out onto the streets and take these—the buildings that represented something, a new America—would have been very exhilarating for an audience.
ADAMWEINBERG: But it is not just the fact that Stieglitz made buildings his subject, it’s also that he made them beautiful.
BARBARAHASKELL: The city as this romantic, magical place filled with smoke and water. It’s a-an atmospheric vision of the — of the city. So he’s taking this essentially architectural image of modernity and is creating this natural, fog, an atmospheric, romantic vision out of it.
ADAMWEINBERG: Part of the beauty of this image is also a result of the way it’s printed. Senior Curatorial Assistant, Sasha Nicholas, explains the process and why Stieglitz used it.
SASHANICHOLAS: I think part of what makes this image aesthetically beautiful too and gives it that atmospheric quality is the printing. It’s not a gelatin print. It’s a photo gravure that Stieglitz included in the magazine he published, Camera Work, which was completely devoted to advocating photography as a real art form because, at this point people largely didn’t think of photography as something that carried the potential that painting or other fine arts did and so the way he printed it with photo gravure, it’s an ink print. And there’s this kind of luscious, velvety quality to the image that also is part of what makes it so beautiful.