When Alfred Stieglitz began publishing Camera Work in 1903, he already had five years of experience editing Camera Notes, the house journal of the Camera Club of New York. Desiring even greater control over the publication than the club members would give him, Stieglitz started his own journal to advance his vision of photography as a fine art and “medium of individual expression” (CW 1: 15). As indicated by the new word in its title, Stieglitz’s magazine would feature the artistic work performed by pictorial photographers, who sought to project feeling and meaning into a photograph by using a soft focus and other devices that show the photographer’s hand. Pictorialism not only asked more of photography than the mechanical processes emphasized by camera club technicians, it also elevated the photographer’s work above the growing mass of amateur photographs made possible by the new Kodak cameras (which enabled anyone to become a photographer, according to Kodak’s slogan: “you press the button, we do the rest”). Stieglitz conceived of Camera Work as “the mouthpiece of the Photo-Secession” (16), the circle of like-minded American photographers that he drew about him. For the first ten years, the magazine mostly published the work of a dozen Photo-Secession photographers, including Alvin Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Clarence White, often in conjunction with exhibitions of their photographs that Stieglitz organized at his gallery, the “Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession,” at 291 Fifth Avenue, which he later renamed “291.” Over time, Stieglitz widened the focus of the magazine to include more international photographers and more photographic representations of paintings, drawings, and other modes of modern art, as he did in the July 1912 special number (39s), which features works by Matisse and Picasso in conjunction with Gertrude Stein’s verbal portraits of both artists. Towards the magazine’s end, Stieglitz pushed its vision of modern photography beyond even pictorialism, most notably by publishing the abstract and documentary work of Paul Strand.
The Modernist Journals Project would like to thank Princeton University library for allowing us to scan its hard copies of Camera Work. Unfortunately, our digital edition not does include the following six images, which were torn out of the Princeton volumes and not available to us in reprint form: Gertrude Käsebier’s “Portrait (Miss N)” and “Red Man” (CW 1: 11, 13), A. Radclyffe Dugmore’s “Study in Natural History” (CW 1: 55), Eduard Steichen’s “Solitude” and “Poster Lady” (CW 14s: 33, 35), and Steichen’s “The Photographer’s Best Model: G. Bernard Shaw” (CW 42-43: 39).