“I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for truth my obsession.” No succession of statements in the history of photography appears so simple or resounds with such significance. In it Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) conveyed an origin, a nationality, a means of expression, an ability to love, and a mission. The first sentence begs for biography. The second demands a look at the circle of American artists around Stieglitz who were trying to articulate and demonstrate a uniquely American sensibility—the painters Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe, the writers William Carlos Williams, Sherwood Anderson, Hart Crane, Paul Rosenfeld, and Waldo Frank, the photographers Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, and Eliot Porter. The third sentence calls to mind not only Stieglitz’s photography but also his efforts to bring about the recognition of...


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