Edward Steichen was born in 1879 in Luxembourg.
He studied painting in Milwaukee in the late 1890s, and began photography in 1985.
In 1900 he met Auguste Rodin, and proceeded to photograph the artist and his works, therefore linking himself to one of the greatest artist of that time. By doing so he revealed his deliberate strategy to obtain for himself and photography a place in artistic hierarchy, “if only by appropriation”.
In 1901, 35 of his photographs were included in Holland Day’s “New school of American Photography” exhibition at the Photo Club de Paris where Steichen became acquainted with Demachy.
In 1902 he started his first one man show consisting of both paintings and photographs at La Maison des Artistes in Paris. To Zayas, Steichen’s pictorial work represented “artistic photography sought to give pleasure and convey emotion”.
Through a letter of introduction from Clarence White he met Alfred Stieglitz in New York just before leaving for Paris. Together they created Photo-Secession and worked on editing the revue Camera Work. Together they introduced to Americans new avant-garde artists and French photography. The same year he set up his own gallery in New York, the “Photo-Secessions Galleries” or “291”.
His work marked the evolution of photographic style by the development of misty outlines to sharp focus.
In 1911 he worked on a series of fashion shots for couturier Paul Poiret, which then appeared in the Art et Décoration magazine.
In 1928, Steichen specialized in publicity photography and became responsible for advertising photographs of Camel Cigarettes, amongst many others.
At the beginning of the 1920s, the American editor of Condé Nast offered him a job as head photographer. He worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue, in which many of his celebrity portraits were published.
He worked from 1947 to 1962 as head photographer for the Museum of Modern Art in New York where he organised in 1955 an important exhibition called “Family of a Man”. The exhibition was based on the idea that “the art of photography is a dynamic process of giving form to ideas and of explaining man to man”. 500 photographs of 273 different photographers were published illustrating life and death in 68 different countries. It was a huge success.
He died in 1973 at the age of 93 in West Redding, Connecticut.