Birthday: March 27, 1879
Died At Age: 93
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Éduard Jean Steichen, Edward J. Steichen, Eduard
Born in: Bivange
Famous as: Photographer
Spouse/Ex-: Clara Smith, Dana Desboro Glover., Joanna Taub Steichen
father: Jean-Pierre Steichen
mother: Marie Steichen
siblings: Lilian Steichen
children: Katherine Steichen, Mary Calderone
Died on: March 25, 1973
place of death: Redding
education: Académie Julian
awards: Academy Award for Best Documentary (1945)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963)
Edward Steichen was a Luxembourgian-American photographer and painter. Ever since he came to the United States as a young boy he loved art and photography. He got his start in the art world at the age of 15 when he got a job at the American Fine Art Company. In his spare time he would work diligently to teach himself how to draw and paint. This continued for about a year until a nice secondhand camera in the camera shop across the street from his workplace caught his eye. He bought the camera and began the journey to the top of the photography industry. He is known for revolutionizing technique when it came to the color photography, most notably with the autochrome process. He worked at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art for 17 years. He served America in both the World Wars as a war photographer, and also won an Academy Award for his 1944 documentary ‘The Fighting Lady’, which depicted the life of a Navy officer during wartime. One of his photographs was sold for $2.9 million dollars, which is officially the most expensive photograph ever sold.
Early Life & Childhood
Edward Steichen was born on March 27, 1879. He was born in Bivange, Luxembourg, to Jean-Pierre Steichen and Marie Steichen. He had a younger sister Lilian.
The family emigrated to the United States in 1880. They settled in 1881 in the city of Chicago. When Steichen was 10, the family relocated to Milwaukee in 1889.
In 1894, Steichen started a lithography apprenticeship with the American Fine Art Company of Milwaukee. This lasted for four years. He used his free time to teach himself how to paint, sketch, and draw.
In 1895 Steichen bought his first camera. He bought it from a camera shop near his workplace, and it was a second-hand Kodak.
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Edward Steichen's career took off around 1900. It was at this time he met Alfred Stieglitz, an American photographer, whom he met during a chance stop in New York City.
Stieglitz was a big fan of Steichen's work and bought three of his photographic prints. In 1902, he hired Steichen to design a custom logo for a magazine.
In 1904, Steichen began experimentation with the Autochrome Lumiere process. He was one of the first photographers in America to use this process.
Stieglitz and Steichen opened "Little Galleries of Photo-Succession" in 1905. They would later re-name it ‘291’.
In 1911, Steichen conducted what is regarded as the first modern fashion shoot. It used fashion as a form of fine art. The photos were published in the April edition of ‘Art Et Decoration’.
Steichen served in the Army during the First World War and with the Navy during the Second World War. He made significant contribution to the military photography during both the wars.
One of Steichen's most recognized photos is his 1928 photo of actress Greta Garbo. It is widely considered the best photograph of Garbo.
He served as a judge of submissions for U.S. Camera Annual in 1943. He is responsible for the publication of Ansel Adams' famous image titled ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico’.
In 1944, he was the director of Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. During his time at the position he made the documentary ‘The Fighting Lad’y
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From 1945 to 1962, Steichen held the position of Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. While there he created ‘The Family of Man’, a photography exhibition which depicted everyday life in dozens of countries.
In 1962 he retired to his farm in West Redding, Connecticut. He stayed here until he died in 1973.
One of Steichen's most famous works is ‘The Pond–Moonlight'. One of the three known prints in existence sold for $2.9 million in 2006. This 1904 photograph is famous because it looks as if it was painted with watercolor. This was before the autochrome process of color photography was invented, which make it so valuable. The hand-layering method used to create the watercolor effect means that none of the prints are exactly alike.
Steichen's other major work is his ‘The Family of Man’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. This exhibition depicts life in 68 countries, invoking a sense of unity in viewers. It is well-known for the sheer scope of the project.
Awards & Achievements
In 1945, he received an Academy Award for Best Documentary for ‘The Fighting Lady’. It received accolades for its accurate depiction of life aboard a cruise ship during war time.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon Johnson on December 6, 1963.
Personal Life & Legacy
Edward Steichen was married thrice. He married his first wife, Clara Smith, in 1903. They had two daughters together named Mary and Katherine. Steichen and Smith divorced in 1922 after Steichen was accused of having an affair.
He married Dana Desboro Glover in 1923. They remained married until she died in 1957.
He married a final time in 1960 to Joanna Taub.
He died on March 25, 1973, in West Redding, Connecticut, at the age of 93.
His photograph ‘The Pond–Moonlight’ was auctioned for $2.9 million in 2006. It was the most expensive photograph ever sold at that time.