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Edward Steichen
American, Paris, 1901
Gum bichromate print
8 1/4 x 6 1/4 in.

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Holding a painter's palette in his left hand and a paintbrush in his right and wearing a smock that belonged to the photographer Fred Holland Day, Edward Steichen created a boldly assertive self-portrait. Although Steichen was still active as a painter when he made the photograph, the image also implies that the photographer's craft is equal to that of the traditional artist.Using a gum bichromate process served to heighten the painterly effect of this photograph, creating a soft-focus, grainy image that did not resemble the sharp-focus prints that were more popularly favored. The overall darkness of the print heightens the picture's drama, while the contrasting highlight areas of shirt collar and brush tip create a tonal balance within the composition. Standing in three-quarter pose, the young photographer appears poised for certain artistic ascendancy, his taut grip on the paintbrush reinforcing the sense of purpose.