A Collecting Opportunity (old)

The market for museum quality photography is gaining momentum. Each auction season brings new record prices. Important 19th and early 20th century vintage prints are finding their homes in prestigious institutions and the availability of museum quality vintage work is waning, steadily elevating prices. Camera Work provides a collecting opportunity to acquire these works at prices that are inexplicably lower than other mediums. Why so? Because the photogravure process that Stieglitz used in Camera Work is complex and understudied, so much so that many if not most of the ‘experts’ in the photography collecting space have not taken the time to fully understand it.

At the turn of the 20th century, Alfred Stieglitz was looking for a mouthpiece to popularize photography as a fine art. Stieglitz believed that publishing a lavish art journal illustrated with what he considered ‘original prints’ could mobilize the arts community through experiencing first-hand the expressive potential of photography. Stieglitz believed that once convinced that the hand of an artist was at play in the production of a photograph, critics of the medium would give up their persistent harping on the contemptible mechanical aspects of the camera. Sparing no expense, Stieglitz along with his circle, proceeded to publish Camera Work.

True to Stieglitz’s larger purpose of raising photography to the heights of the traditional fine arts, the reader of Camera Work was clearly invited to respond to the plates as original prints. Stieglitz depended on the photogravure’s ability to beautifully present the work, in the richness of printer’s ink. Each Camera Work photogravure was personally approved by Stieglitz. He was so confident of the quality of these gravures that he occasionally sent them to be displayed at international exhibitions.