Alfred Stieglitz' The Steerage to lead November 17 sale

A print of Alfred Stieglitz' extraordinary photograph The Steerage (1907) is expected to make $30,000-40,000 at PBA Galleries on November 17.

The lot is one of 291 printed in 1915.

It's regarded as one of the most important photographs of all time.

Stieglitz Steerage PBA
The composition of the photograph was radical at the time  

It shows a group aboard a ship bound for German from the US.

It's also the first photograph that displays modernist principles in its execution.

At the time photographers created either pictorialist works (in the style of paintings) or straight documentary shots.

In The Steerage Stieglitz combines his role as a documentarian with an interest in abstraction.  

Today this is commonplace, both news and art photographers walk this line, but at the time it was a radical idea.  

Stieglitz later explained the moment he took the shot in an interview: "A round straw hat, the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right, the white drawbridge with its railing made of circular chains - white suspenders crossing on the back of a man in the steerage below, round shapes of iron machinery, a mast cutting into the sky, making a triangular shape…

"I saw shapes related to each other. I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life."

Stieglitz would only publish the work a couple of years later, after he was exposed to the work of the first wave of American modernists.

Another print from this 1915 edition of the work sold for $110,500 in 2008.

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