The Stieglitz Mystery

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was an American photographer and a major force in helping people to see photography as an art form. He is remembered for his many portraits of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and for his extraordinary photographs of New York City. But fewer people know that he summered on Lake George, about 15 miles from Silver Bay, photographing family and friends who came to visit, and for many years, the clouds in the sky.

Stieglitz had a passion for the lake. One writer notes: “Inspired by O’Keeffe’s love of nature, Stieglitz saw the resplendent beauty of Lake George with a new and more powerful vision. ‘Lake George is in my blood,’ he wrote John Marin, ‘the trees and lake and hills and sky, and here I am hardly back more than a few hours, and Lake George seems a dream and yet I know it is part of me.’ “

One of Stieglitz’s most famous subjects was Ellen Koeniger, also known as Ellen Morton, a niece of Frank Eugene, a friend and fellow photographer. One summer day in 1916, Stieglitz took about a dozen photographs of Ellen swimming in Lake George, climbing a ladder out of the water, standing on the dock. More fascinating to me, however, is a photograph said to be taken a year or two earlier, also of Ellen, identified as having been taken at Silver Bay.


Ellen Morton at Silver Bay, Lake George, ca. 1914; gelatin silver print; University of Virginia Art Museum (1989.23.2)

I can find no other reference to Stieglitz being at Silver Bay, and because the distant landscape is unclear, I can’t really tell if the identification is accurate. But I would like to know. I may have to wait until the Hereafter to ask Stieglitz myself.

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Quote above from Steve Jermanok, “Fire in the Lake” in Art & Antiques, December 1995


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