CAMERA WORK

This is the title given to an influential quarterly journal which appeared in 1903 in the wake of the Photo-Secession movement. It was edited by Alfred Stieglitz, and among the many contributors were Frank Eugene, Clarence White and Edward Jean Steichen.

The first edition reads:

"Only examples of such work as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, or such as exemplifies some treatment worthy of consideration, will find recognition in these pages."

This magazine was beautifully produced. Some of the pictures were printed on fine Japanese tissue, and pasted in by hand. Many of the articles were written by leading authors.

The reception by British photographers to the publication was immediately favourable. That same year "Photography" reported:

"There can be no other verdict but that Camera Work beats all previous records for dignity, good taste, and...value."

"Amateur Photographer" for 1st January 1903 also was full of praise. (See Stieglitz). There were in total fifty editions. The last publication was in June 1917, when the Photo-Secession movement had begun to lose its way. The script clearly shows that further editions were at the planning stage. The June edition contains a letter (17 November 1916), addressed to Stieglitz, from Frank Eugene, which reads as follows:

"I have not received Camera Work for a very long time, probably due to the war, censorship, etc. etc....

The older I grow the more I appreciate what you have accomplished with your very wonderful publication. When I see you I shall be delighted to tell you how largely the possession of Camera Work has helped me in my work as a teacher, and what an incentive it has always been to my pupils towards a higher standard. It does...for the man with the camera, what the Bible has...for centuries, tried to do for the man with the conscience...."

Sadly this, the fiftieth edition, turned out to be the last of this remarkable series, of which few copies now remain.

Since this was written, Camera Work has been republished by Taschen Publications (ISBN 3-8228-8072-8) The book contains all the illustrations, and a masterly introduction by Pam Roberts, formerly curator at the Royal Photographic Society. It comes in paperback, and if one were only allowed to recommend one book, it must surely be this one, as it contains a simply excellent collection of outstanding photographs. A "must" for any serious photographic historian.

For further study of Camera Work please click here.

© Robert Leggat, 1999.