Camera Work XXVI

Cover Camera Work XXVIWidely regarded as the publication that changed the perception of photography from one of purely mechanical reproduction to a fine art, Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work is an exquisite magazine. Demanding the utmost quality in photographic reproduction, Stieglitz illustrated the magazine with some of the finest photogravure work seen at the time. Published between 1903 and 1917, Camera Work changed how people viewed photography, and the photographic book.

Camera Work IntroductionThe excellent web site has the entire set of images from all issues of Camera Work on-line. Number XXVI contained an article by and the work of Alice Boughton, a photographer and assistant to Gertrude Käsebier. I found her work quite attractive, but never saw any prints by her at shows and museums. I idly searched over time on for a copy. As luck would have it one appeared earlier this month.

The Seasons - Alice BoughtonIt’s hard to describe my feelings when it arrived. The packaging seemed larger than necessary for the magazine. I was happily surprised to see that Ursus Rare Books sold me a copy in a inscribed custom portfolio clamshell case. I have to be honest, when I opened the portfolio box, and withdrew this gorgeous magazine, so steeped in history I exclaimed “Oh my god!” Or something close to that (maybe a few inappropriate adjectives thrown in). I was seeing for the first time – and holding in my hands – an actual issue of Camera Work magazine. Did Stieglitz touch this copy?

Sand and Wild Roses - by Alice BoughtonThe description of the magazine on said the cover was chipped as is normal for the work – and the chips I saw later were included inside the magazine. I had opened the box outside, so I viewed the photogravures in open shade, and leant over the work to prevent anything from falling on it from the tree above me.

What a magazine. The texture of the paper – unmarred by age –  is exquisite. Bearing a watermark “ENFIELD S.CO+1887”, the paper was printed letterpress and then folded and sewn in. The articles cannot have been read, as the paper fold lines were not entirely cut, essentially making this a pristine unread copy.

Dawn - by Alice BoughtonI’ve seen many of the photogravures from Camera Work for sale for sale individually – separated from the original magazine. Ranging from $200 to several thousand dollars, the key photogravures from Stieglitz, Steichen, Käsebier and others fetch more individually as fine prints than bound and sold as a magazine – seemingly making intact issues of Camera Work increasingly rare. The photogravures in this issue are done on tissue, and tipped in nearly full sheet to the heavier stock paper. I color balanced the captures you see here – the base heavy stock paper has a creamy color, the photogravures on tissue are warm toned, but not unpleasantly sepia.

Boughton became a celebrated portrait photographer, capturing the famous, literary or powerful of her day. She also did nude studies in an allegorical vein – sensitive, delicate images.

Eastman Kodak AdvertisementIt is a little surprising, but not unexpected, that there are advertisements discreetly left to the rear of the magazine. Women in photography were not only accepted at this time but targeted with advertisements. Or perhaps they were employed at lower wages in the dark room?

In 1931, Boughton closed her studio and discarded thousands of her prints. She died in 1943 of pneumonia. Andrew Roth states in his The Book of 101 Books, that in 1930, after making sure that all institutions he favored had complete sets of Camera Work, Stieglitz burned the remaining 1,000 unsold copies.

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