The Steerage

Object Details


The Steerage


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 - 1946)








33.5 × 26.4 cm (13 3/16 × 10 3/8 in.)

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There were men, women and children on the lower level of the steerage....The scene fascinated me: A round straw hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railings made of chain; white suspenders crossed on the back of a man below; circular iron machinery; a mast that cut into the sky, completing a triangle. I stood spellbound for a while. I saw shapes related to one another -- a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me...

Twenty-five years after making this photograph, Alfred Stieglitz recalled the moment in vivid detail, no doubt aided by the information provided within the frame. He had wandered down from the first-class deck to survey the jumbled scene of teeming passengers in the steerage, or economy class, section, which contrasted sharply with "the mob called the 'rich'" that he had left behind. Stieglitz's compressed composition emphasized the closeness of space and bustling conditions in the steamer's lower-level accommodations.

The Old Order and The New P.H. Emerson and Photography 1885-1895 (October 13, 2006 to November 9, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 27 to July 8, 2007

Stieglitz, Alfred. Two Hundred Ninety-One, no. 8.

Stieglitz, Alfred. Two Hundred Ninety-One, no. 7.