Alfred Stieglitz collected photographs with an ardor shared by few of his contemporaries, frequently boldly disregarding the work of professionals with established reputations while acquiring that of little-known photographers. His selections were highly personal, but his was an informed eye, and the pictures he began to collect in 1894, so diverse in style and subject, stand today as tangible evidence of the strides made during an era when, largely because of Stieglitz's influence, photography emerged from its status as a conjurer's trick to recognition as an art form.
Between 1894 and 1910 Steiglitz acquired some 650 prints, of which 580 came to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist himself made a gift of 400 in 1933. The Museum received the balance as a bequest in 1949. Among the highlights of the collection are photographs by Edward Steichen, Gertrude Kasebier, Baron de Meyer, Ansel Adams, and Eliot Porter. One of the very few collections of photographs formed by an artist of stature, it is a touchstone for the history of the formative years of modern photography. Two hundred of these prints were selected for the exhibition held at the Museum, May–July 1978; this volume reproduces every subject in the collection, along with portraits and signatures of the photographers. Each photographer's work is documented with biographical and bibliographical information, and there are details of titles, techniques, exhibition records, and other vital data for each print.
As a collector and through his activities as an editor and publisher of pioneering photography journals and founder of the Photo-Secession group, Alfred Stieglitz came into intimate contact with the artists whose work he collected and with major photographers throughout the world. Weston J. Naef's text is a fascinating account of the circumstances under which Stieglitz came to know them, and the ways in which his relationship with them influenced their work and his own. The book brings together information available in no other single publication, serving as the most comprehensive narrative to date of the evolution of modern photography, from European pictorialism to the American Photo-Secession.