I visited the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM) to see the work of Edward Steichen from his Condé Nast years (1923–1937). It was an expansive exhibition featuring early fashion photography and photos of celebrities. My guide advised me that Steichen started the modern fashion photography genre, but she also said that he was responsible taking all of the photos in MoMA’s 1955 Family of Man exhibition, whereas he was the curator, so I’m not sure that I should necessarily rely upon what she told me!
It was a wonderful experience to see Steichen’s prints close up – their fine tonal quality was impressive. Some of the work was pictorialist and staged with contrived backdrops, but it was interesting to observe a shift from this style to one more natural and straight. I found the fashion images a little stiff compared to more contemporary work, with very little movement in the models or the clothes. However, the portraits of the rich and famous were impressive with their strong compositions, variety, and apparent connection between Steichen and his sitters (which we also feel as viewers of the work).
I left feeling privileged to have seen the work of one of photography’s giants first-hand.
Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow [website]. Available from: http://www.mamm-mdf.ru/en/ [accessed 25.9.15]