Thursday, October 25, 2007

Steichen Reconsidered in All His Exposures

By ALAN RIDING @ The New York Times

PARIS, Oct. 16 — When artists constantly reinvent themselves, they may be admired for their virtuosity, but they also risk being tagged as dilettantes. Surely, the argument goes, great artists should aspire to depth, not breadth. If they believe fervently in something one moment, how can they turn away from it the next?

It is a question that continues to haunt Edward Steichen’s reputation long after his death at 93 in 1973. He was recognized in his lifetime as one of the great photographers of the 20th century, yet with his penchant for changing directions and playing multiple roles, he bequeathed too many Steichens for easy classification.

Did he excel in all his photographic ventures — in “pure” art, fashion and advertising, portraiture, nature, combat, even as a powerful director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — or did he become a brand name, famous for being famous?


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