Main Street, Bar Harbor
View from Inside Ellsworth, Maine Library
Flowers with Schooner
Opera House – Belfast, Maine
You can read a bit of history at this link.
Bar Harbor Inn
A few photographs from a recent trip to one of my favorite states.
Arcadia National Park
Bar Harbor Reflection
Bar Harbor Sunset
Colburn Shoe Store (Oldest Shoe Store in America) – Belfast, Maine
Arcadia National Park
This is my fourth in a series on real life photographers as portrayed in the movies. Here we take a look at Alfred Stieglitz.
Today, photography is recognized as an art form. Photographs hang in museums and galleries right next to paintings, sculptures and other works of art. It wasn’t always like that. The change in perception was primarily due to one man: Alfred Stieglitz. As a photographer, as a cultivator of taste, an entrepreneur and as a publisher of a magazine (Camera Work) dedicated to photographic art, Alfred Stieglitz changed photography taking it away from the pictorialism style that mimicked painting and dominated photography in the early 20th century. It was a break from the past of photographers like David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron. Stieglitz was inspired by them but did not want to emulate them.
Alfred Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1864 to a monetarily well off family. His father, Edward, was in the clothing business and made a financial fortune, enough so that in 1871 he moved his family to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Edward would soon retire and devote himself to overseas travel and the arts. The Stieglitz family was living in Europe with young Alfred studying engineering at Berlin’s Technische Hochschule first became interested in photography. He spent his out of class time at the racetrack, local cafes and the opera. Most of the time there was a woman by his side. Stieglitz soon dropped the engineering education as his interest turned toward photography. In 1884, with his family now back in the States, Alfred remained in Europe to further his much self-taught education in photography. By 1887, Stieglitz was an expert enough photographer to win both first and second prizes in the English journal Amateur Photographer.
In 1890, Alfred returned to America. He discovered that Kodak with the release of their first point and shoot camera along with the slogan “you press the button and let us do the rest” amateur photographers were flooding the market. Stieglitz’s goal was to prove photography, like painting, was a form of artistic expression. As a member of the Camera Club of New York, he became editor of the journal, Camera Notes. As the editor, he promoted his personal beliefs on what were the artistic qualities of photography, publishing photos of other photographers who held similar creative points of view.
As time went by Stieglitz began to come into editorial conflict with the majority of the membership. He and other like-minded photographers eventually decided to break away from the staid Club members and form their own group known as the Photo-Secessionist. They believed photography was not just a mechanical thing but like painting and sculpture involved craftsmanship. In 1905, with the financial help of Edward Steichen, Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries, commonly known and called 291 (the 5th Avenue street address). It was at the Little Galleries where Stieglitz exhibited works by photographers and artists, both American and European.
The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz
In 1907, Stieglitz made what remains today his most famous work. The Steerage was shot during a family trip to Europe. His wife, Emmy, insisted on first-class accommodations. Their passage was on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, then considered one of the largest passenger ships. Strolling on the deck one day his eye caught the view dividing the upper first class passengers from the lower class, aka steerage. The photographer raced back to his cabin and grabbed his camera, a 4×5 Auto-Graflex. The camera used glass plate negatives. He only had one plate prepared. With that one plate, he made the photograph.
It was another week until the ship landed in Paris that Stieglitz would be able to use an Eastman Kodak darkroom and print the picture. The photographer claimed he knew he had a masterpiece right away, yet he did not publish the photo until four years later in the October 1911 issue of Camera Work.
Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz
“Finally, a woman on paper!”
Those were the words Alfred Stieglitz uttered after seeing the charcoal drawings twenty-two year Anita Pollitzer, Georgia O’Keeffe’s closest friend, and six years her junior, presented to the photographer at his 291 Gallery late New Year’s Day, January 1916. Later that year in May, Stieglitz included O’Keeffe’s drawings in a group exhibition. O’Keeffe was unaware of the exhibit and only found out through a fellow student about the work of a “Virginia” O’Keeffe on display at 291. Georgia made her way to the gallery and quickly rebuked Stieglitz for exhibiting her work without permission. Alfred was unapologetic; he was too enthused. He went on to rave about her work; how it moved his soul.
From this point on, their personal and artistic lives were entwined. Georgia took a teaching job in Texas, but they corresponded regularly. In 1918, he convinced her to move to New York, promising her a place to live and studio space where she could work. Soon after, Stieglitz began taking a series of nude photographs. When his wife Emmy found out, she gave him an ultimatum, stop seeing O’Keeffe or get out. The photographer quickly moved out and into the same apartment as O’Keeffe. At this point, they still had not been sexually intimate, but that would soon change.
Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz
Stieglitz was obsessed with O’Keeffe. Over the next five years, he photographed her more than 300 times creating in the process a brilliant catalog of work and portraits of an emerging artist. He was the teacher; she was his muse. Though over the years that would change.
He was a quarter of a century older than her and married to a staid, dull woman. Alfred and Georgia came from different backgrounds. Stieglitz, an old-fashioned, European, steadfast traditionalist while O’Keeffe was a poster child for the modern liberated woman. Naturally, their relationship was both passionate and unorthodox.
The Terminal and the Flatiron Building by Alfred Stieglitz
They married in 1924. Stieglitz continued to exhibit O’Keeffe and other artists including Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Paul Strand. As O’Keeffe became more confident and independent, they would disagree on many fronts. One major impediment was Dorothy Norman. Stieglitz met Dorothy Norman in 1927. Like him, she was married. Beautiful, financially well off and a patron of the arts, she began spending a lot of time at Stieglitz’s gallery. The photographer, always a man with a roving eye started an affair with Dorothy Norman which lasted until his death.
In 1929, O’Keeffe, with Rebecca Strand (Paul Strand’s wife), went to Taos, New Mexico and the art colony of heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan. It was the beginning of a love affair with the New Mexico landscape that would influence her life and art for the remainder of her life. To the dislike of Stieglitz, O’Keeffe began spending a portion of her time every year in Southwest. Part of her reason for getting away from New York was Alfred’s continuing affair with Dorothy Norman.
Dorothy Norman by Alfred Stieglitz
During the final years of his life, Stieglitz had a series of heart attacks. With O’Keeffe spending her time in New Mexico, Dorothy Norman managed the gallery during these times. In 1946, Stieglitz suffered a stroke. O’Keeffe came back to New York. She found Norman in his hospital room. Norman left, and O’Keeffe was at his bedside when he died.
O’Keeffe remained in New York for an extended period arranging Stieglitz affairs. In 1949 she donated over 1,300 of Stieglitz’s prints to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Later, in 1980 she would give another 325 photographs including many nudes. The total collection, aka The Key Set, is the largest collection of Stieglitz work in the world. (1)
Alfred Stieglitz on Screen
Alfred Stieglitz has yet to make it to the big screen, but made for television productions have been a bit kinder. In 1991, American Playhouse, a PBS produced series presented A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The production starred Jane Alexander as O’Keeffe and Christopher Plummer as Stieglitz. It was written by Julian Barry (Lenny) and directed by Ed Sherin. There are few, if any, artistic couples who loom as significant in the history of culture and art as Stieglitz and O’Keeffe. Alfred Stieglitz did not consider himself a photographer, but an artist and through his galleries and his highbrow magazine, Camera Work he almost single-handedly made photography a recognized art form. Additionally, he was a pioneer in introducing the Modern Art movement to America.
To date, two films have featured Alfred Stieglitz, and as one would expect, Georgia O’Keeffe. In July 1991 PBS’ American Playhouse premiered a 90-minute film called A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stiglitz with Christopher Plummer as Stiglitz and Jane Alexander as O’Keeffe. The film was the brainchild of Alexander, a passionate admirer of O’Keeffe. She wanted to do a feature film but was unable to raise the financial backing needed. According to a New York Times article Alexander’s husband, Ed Sherin whose credits include Valdez is Coming and TV shows Homicide in the Streets and Law & Order, suggested she try the PBS route. It would be a lower cost production but doable.
Plummer was not the first choice to play the photographer. Initially, the excellent Scandinavian actor Max Von Sydow was set to play Stieglitz, but he dropped out before production began because of a conflict in schedules. Martin Landau was next, but he too dropped out. Finally, Christopher Plummer came on board. He loved the script and quickly agreed. He became Alfred Stieglitz and is as sublime in the role as Jane Alexander is as Georgia O’Keeffe. Written by Julian Barry, the film illuminates the financially strapped art world of that period as well as two of its most gifted artists. It reflects how Stieglitz was not just a superb photographer but a wheeler and dealer in the art world of their time.
Stieglitz was a bigger than life character: mischievous, loyal, and generous, yet he could be domineering, sexist, brooding and demanding. He was a father figure to many upcoming artists of his time. Plummer captures all of this in his portrayal. Jane Alexander’s take on O’Keeffe is as compelling as Plummer’s. Stieglitz was already married when he left his wife for O’Keeffe, twenty-four years younger. The two were opposites in just about every way except for artistic talent. Their life together was a constant battle of tug and pull. However, this film does not only focus on their personal relationship. Unlike most biopics, much of the time is spent on their respective arts. We see the Stieglitz photographing O’Keeffe, and how the photographer fought for and supported her work.
Creative partnerships are a rocky road; Stieglitz and O’Keeffe were no different. Her allegiance to Stieglitz forced her at times to submit to his demanding nature, including when he demanded she abort his baby she was carrying and wanted to keep. He also was a philanderer, cheating on his first wife with O’Keeffe and then later cheating on O’Keeffe after they married. Eventually, she would make her way out to Santa Fe, coming back to New York and Stieglitz on occasion. She was always uncomfortable living in New York, and even more so during their summers spent at the Stieglitz compound in Lake George, upstate New York. Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946. O’Keeffe would spend the rest of her life at her Ghost Ranch just outside of Santa Fe.
In 2009, Georgia O’Keeffe, another made of TV film arrived on Lifetime. Directed by Bob Balaban, the film stars Jeremy Irons as Stieglitz and Joan Allen as O’Keeffe. Like the earlier film, Georgia O’Keeffe had an extended gestation period. It was in development at HBO for four years before they decided to pass on it. Lifetime decided to pick it up. Unlike the stage-bound A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz it was shot on location in New Mexico including O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch just outside of Abiquiú, New Mexico. It was the first time filmmakers were allowed to film there.
Unlike the 1991 film, Georgia O’Keeffe focuses more on the complicated relationship, between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz and not as much on her art and what made her so unique. People who know little about O’Keeffe’s art will not learn much about what made her so extraordinary. The same can be said about Stieglitz, if you do not know who Stieglitz is and his importance, not just to Georgia, but to the evolution of photography as an art form, well the viewer will still be clueless after watching this film. For me, that the film’s central weakness. That said, it’s entertaining, a primer into the world of these two artists. Hopefully, making you thirst for more. Visually, it is beautiful to look at; the New Mexico locations as photographed by cinematographer Paul Elliot make you want to go there.
 New York Times, Drawn From Life, July 23, 1991, Michael Kilian
 Reuters, Kimberly Nordyke, Lifetime Paints O’Keeffe Portrait, Nov. 5, 2008
There has been a meme going around on Facebook where you are “challenged” to post a black and white photograph, one each day for seven days. No explanation, no details required. Just the photograph.
Now that I finished FB challenge, I thought I would share all 7 photos here beginning with my day one entry at the top and working my way down.
At the age of twenty-one, Catherine Leroy became the first news photographer, male or female, to parachute into combat with American troops in Vietnam. During the 1968 Tet offensive, Leroy and her camera were captured by the Viet Cong. Before managing to convince her captures to release her, she would became the first photographer to shoot images of the enemy in their own back yard. Her story is both amazing and inspiring.
Leroy was born in Paris in 1944 (some accounts say 1945). She grew up in a Catholic convent where she discovered copies of Paris Match magazine filled with images of war. The photos were powerful and made a lasting impression on the petite young girl; she stood barely five feet and weighted less than 100 pounds. With the images of war etched in her head, she recognized both the physical and emotional toll war took on the human condition. Early on she was set on becoming a war photojournalist. At the age of twenty-one with approximately one hundred dollars in her pocket and a Leica M2 in her camera bag, Leroy purchased a ticket for Laos and then on to Vietnam. She did have the name of a contact, Horst Faas, the celebrated photographer who at the time was the Associated Press bureau chief. The year was 1966.
Faas promised Leroy a small fee of $15 for each photo she came back with, if she came back, and the AP used it. To Faas, Leroy was just another in a long line of wannabe war photographers, some who made it, some who could not and went home and some who died before going home. Leroy went out into the boonies with the grunts and soon began coming back with one successful photo after another, many of which would appear in magazines around the world, among them Life, Look and Paris Match.
A year after her arrival in Vietnam, Leroy became the first accredited photojournalist to parachute into combat. She was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Operation Junction City. In 1968, during the Tet offensive, Leroy was captured by the North Vietnamese for a short period. During that time, she managed to convinced the enemy to allow her to photograph them. This resulted in an amazing photo-essay called, A Remarkable Day in Hue: the Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture. It was published in Life magazine and included a cover photo. Soon after, Leroy somehow persuaded her captives into freeing her.
Leroy traveled back and forth to Vietnam for a few years. In 1972, she co-directed, with Frank Cavestani, the documentary, Operation Last Patrol, which follows Vietnam vet Ron Kovic and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War as they traveled to Miami on their way to protest at the 1972 Republican Convention. Four years later, Kovic would write his own version of the events in Born on the Fourth of July, later to be made into a film by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Cruise.
Though barely five feet tall and feather weight, Leroy earned the respect of the tough hard core combat soldiers she followed into combat. She was as tough as the men she photographed and never asked for any special favors because she was a woman. She always carried her own weight.
Catherine Leroy in the Vietnam fields with troops
After Vietnam, Leroy, continued to photograph the pain of war around the world including the conflicts in Iran, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Beirut and Afghanistan. Later in her life, she settled in California. She did some fashion work along with selling prints of her Vietnam War work donating profits to U.S. Veteran’s groups.
Leroy was a pioneer and she became somewhat of a legend for both the photographs she captured and the danger she was willing to place herself in including being seriously wounded during one battle. Long after she left Vietnam, Leroy admits that the war and its brutality haunted her for the rest of her life.
In photography, sometimes the reaction shot is the most powerful to capture. For example, in sports, photographing the reactions of the losing team’s players after a big a game would reveal more human emotion than shooting the joy of the victors. If you are a war photographer, the typical shot is the one that shows a solider, or a civilian, bleeding profusely or dead. The real genius though is when the exceptional war photographer captures the nearby surviving soldier, the guy’s buddy, reading the pain, the suffering and human agony of war written on his face. Catherine Leroy showed us war close and personal. It was these kind of photographs that first inspired Leroy as a child looking through those Paris Match magazines. It was all about the human condition.
Corpsman in Anguish
The above photographs are her most famous. They show a Marine looking after a fellow soldier. In the series of three shots the Marine applies a bandage and checks for a heartbeat. Realizing his comrade is dead, he looks up to the sky as if in anguish asking why? There was also a fourth photo showing the Marine jumping up and charging toward the direction the bullets that killed his buddy came from. Leroy recalled, “It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, I was maybe 3 or 3 1/2 meters away. Of course I was as close to the ground as I could be.” She heard the Marine scream as he ran, ” ‘I’m going to kill them all, I’m going to kill them all.’ “
In 2005, Leroy published a book called Under Fire: Great Photographers and Writers in Vietnam. Along with her own work, the book included works by photographers Larry Burrows, Dana Stone and Tim Page along with writers Philip Caputo, Tim O’Brien and Neil Sheehan among others. Among her many honors, Leroy was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa award for her work in Lebanon in 1976 during the civil war. She also was the recipient of the George Polk Award for her work in Vietnam.
Catherine Leroy passed away in 2006 from lung cancer.
There is a 72 minute documentary called, Cathy at War, directed by Jacques Menasche, that chronicles the photographer’s life thru letters, interviews and her work. I have been unable to find out anything else about it other than back in 2015, there was a one time showing at the International Center of Photography in New York. If anyone know more about it, I would surely be interested to hear.
Australian Photographer/Filmmaker Lucas Scheffel made a short 7 minute film about Leroy focusing on the period of her short capture by North Vietnam. The film has won various film festival awards and is now available on youtube. Take a look by clicking on the link below. That said, the short is very loosely based on Leroy’s experience, as the director admits. It’s more a reimagining than what actually happened.
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