Edward Steichen BY JEMMA MItchell

Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen (March 27th 1879 - March 25th 1973) was a photographer, painter, art gallery and museum curator.

What he was known for

Edward Steichen's early life seen him begin a four-year lithography apprenticeship with the American Fine Art Company of Milwaukee at the age of 15. After hours, he would sketch draw, and teach himself to paint; due to working across a camera shop Steichen would visit often and be curious about cameras. He purchased his first camera which was a second hand Kodak box detective camera in 1895. Steichen was known for being associated with Alfred Stieglitz in 1900; they met in New York City when Stieglitz praised Steichen's background in painting and bought three of his photographic prints. In 1904 they both began experimenting with colour photography and were one of the first people to use the Autochrome Lumiere process. In 1905, Stieglitz and Steichen created the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, which eventually became known as 291 after its address; they created the gallery to help bring art photography to the same stature in America as painting and sculpting . Even though Steichen eventually abandoned the technique by 1910 this saw the production of important early examples of colour photography.

The process of Autochrome Lumiere

The Autochrome Lumiere was an early colour photography process in the 1900s. An autochrome is a transparent colour image on a glass support that must be viewed either with a transmitted light source or by projection in a specific device such as a diascope. The image is made up of a silver gelatin layer, together with a colour screen of minuscule potato starch grains that are dyed red, green and blue and filter the light during image capture, producting the colour effect. The autochrome was loaded into the camera with the bare glass side facing the lens and the emulsion side furthest away from the lens so that the light had to pass through the starch before reaching the lens. The starch would then act as a filter, recording the intensity of light in each of the three colours. The plate would then be processed in the darkroom to produce a slide with a positive image (i.e. developed, washed, bleached, exposed, re-developed, washed and fixed.

Camera and Equipment used in this process

Camera obscura used to do this process
A disacope which was used to view the final image

Above is an example of a camera obscura which would have been used to do this process; autochrome plates also required much longer exposures than black-and-white plates and films, which meant that a tripod or other stand had to be used; it was also not practical to photograph moving images. To view the final image you could use a diascope which is a viewing device; the light would strike the mirror in the diascope and reflect the image which is reflected through the autochrome.

Examples of Steichen's work using this process

Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz holding a copy of the journal camera work, 1907.
Steichen's autochrome of Charlotte Spaulding
Steichen's autochrome of George Bernard Shaw

Videos that explain the process:

How to emulate this digitally:


Above are websites which show examples of how to emulate this process on Photoshop. You can emulate this process by desaturating the saturation and adding Gaussian blur to the image.


Edinphoto.org.uk. (n.d.). Early Photographic Processes - Autochrome. [online] Available at: http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_autochrome.htm [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017]

En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Edward Steichen. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Steichen [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Autochrome Lumière. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autochrome_Lumi%C3%A8re [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (n.d.). On View January 25–30: Original Autochromes Produced Using the First Color Photographic Process. [online] Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/Features/2011/On-View-January-2530-Original-Autochromes-Produced-Using-the-First-Color-Photographic-Process [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

YouTube. (2015). Color Photographs From 1907 :: Autochrome and Pictorialism. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7eBDh5V-og&t=745s [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

YouTube. (2014). Color Photography - Photographic Processes Series - Chapter 11 of 12. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxPmQe6Lz6U&t=243s [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

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jemma mitchell

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