A rare set of every edition of Camera Work, the seminal journal that helped establish photography as fine art, has been added to the Toledo Museum of Art collection.
The periodical was edited from 1903 to 1917 by Alfred Stieglitz, an artist who worked tirelessly within the then-emerging medium of photography. It featured high-quality photogravures on Japanese rice paper by some of the most talented photographers of the day, including David Octavius Hill, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and Clarence White.
Its rare to find one complete issue that hasnt been cut up or altered, said Thomas Loeffler, the recently retired assistant curator of works on paper. To have a complete set of the magazines entire run 50 issues altogether is really quite a coup.
Camera Work has been added to the Toledo Museum of Arts collection thanks to The Apollo Society, a group of donors that generously supports TMA through an annual art acquisition. Founded in 1986, the group has since contributed more than $5 million to acquire some 46 works of art for the Museum.
Though it never had a circulation of more than 1,000, Camera Work was nonetheless highly influential in bringing what was previously seen as a purely technical process into the realm of gallery- and museum-worthy art. It has been called consummately intellectual by Andrew Roth, author of The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century. Jonathan Green, author of Camera Work: A Critical Anthology, said the magazine was "a portrait of an age [in which] the artistic sensibility of the nineteenth century was transformed into the artistic awareness of the present day.
It was a very niche, subscription-based publication, Loeffler said. But it can be credited with helping prove that photography was indeed capable of creating fine art.
Camera Work will be stored among the Museums rare book collection until it is put on view later this year.
Image: Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) (photographer), Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) (publisher), Portrait (Miss N), from Camera Work, number 1, 1903, photogravure, Gift of The Apollo Society, 2015