Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Remembering a Veteran: Edward Steichen, Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service

Edward Steichen (1879–1973) was a photographic innovator renowned for his painterly photography before the Great War. He is credited with being one the individuals most responsible for turning photography into an art form. He also became one of the greatest innovators of military, specifically aerial, photography. Below are some works from the war credited to Steichen personally during his service as chief of the photographic section of the U.S. Air Service.

During the Second World War Steichen returned to the colors, but with the U.S. Navy, when he directed the Navy's combat photographers.  

Bombs Falling on Montmedy Citadel and Nearby Rail Yard

Burned-out French Breuget-14 Bomber

Village of Vaux, Captured by U.S. 2nd Division

Allied Aircraft #732 Over France

Village of Cantigny, Captured by U.S. 1st Division

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Let me recommend the novel The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell (2007) which looks at Steichen's life in France, including military service, family life, and artistic connections. Publishers' Weekly starred review: "First-time novelist Mitchell pulls off the dazzling trick of allowing readers to see through the eyes of art-photography pioneer Edward Steichen in her excellent reconsideration of his life and art. This would be merely impressive if the book confined itself to the stormy end of Steichen's first marriage, a subtheme that gets its due and packs a psychological punch. Instead, Mitchell follows Steichen through his airborne reconnaissance work during WWI, providing a devastating portrait of the insanity of war in general and the Great War in particular. Throughout, individual photographs are described in detail, along with surprisingly rich narratives—some reconstructed, some imagined—filling in the stories behind the pictures. Most powerful are the descriptions of what Steichen saw from the air, such as his view of Americans chasing a group of Germans and killing them all, including one who tried to escape. The book offers up glimpses of Paris and the French countryside, including memorable scenes of Steichen's visit to his good friend and mentor, sculptor August Rodin, but in the end, this commanding novel is about the images one can never quite burn from memory."