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Matinee: 'Masters of Photography: Edward Steichen' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

2 November 2013

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the sixth in our series of Saturday matinees today: a half-hour documentary featuring the work of Edward Steichen. But today's matinee is a special treat: a double feature.

Tom Johnston's portrait of Steichen, which was made in 1963 and runs 26 minutes, is rich with the photographer's own words in his own voice. And those words will give you plenty to chew on.

Steichen spent a lot of time thinking about things before he opened his mouth. But that didn't prevent him from speaking plainly.

His quotes are nearly as engaging as his images.

His creativity, a word he eschewed, ranged from designing typefaces to breeding plants.

But he started his career as a painter. Alfred Stieglitz, previously featured in a matinee, admired his painterly photographs enough to buy three of them. Shortly after, in 1904, he began experimenting with color photography.

He served in the Army in World War I, commanding a photographic division, and in the Navy in World War II. In between he shot one of the more unforgettable photos of Greta Garbo.

At one time the highest paid photographer in the world, he is credited with having shot the first modern fashion photographs. He co-directed today's second feature, The Fighting Lady, a World War II documentary which won the Academy Award in 1945 for Best Documentary.

He subsequently became Director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art where he curated the seminal photographic exhibition The Family of Man.

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