In 1917, after the United States had entered World War I, Edward Steichen volunteered for the U.S. Army. He made this self-portrait shortly before his commission as leader of a team of aerial reconnaissance photographers and his departure for France in late November. Steichen presents himself, posed with his apparatus, as a self-confident professional. The photograph is a prelude to his modernist postwar photographs--especially the theatrical commercial portraits and product advertisements commissioned by Condé Nast beginning in 1923 (see no. 237). It also articulates the new status that studio photographers would achieve after the war. As the highest-paid photographer at "Vanity Fair," Steichen became New York's most celebrated packager of personalities--a man who wielded truly cult-like influence. Unlike Steichen's earlier Photo-Secessionist photographs, this print shows no evidence of darkroom manipulation. As a transitional work, however, it is signed and dated in the manner of his earlier prints, with his name in capital letters inscribed over the date, which appears in Roman numerals. Steichen's inclusion of the camera as his chosen attribute seems to presage his imminent decision to abandon the brush for the lens.
Inscription: Inscribed, recto: "STEICHEN, MDCCCCXVII"; stamped verso: "Property of Selma S. Schubart, N.Y."
Doris Bry; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, April 8, 1980
From Gilman record:
A gelatin silver pritn with the image reversed exists in the George Eastman House Collection (part of bequest from Joanna Steichen).