was a 16-year-old living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who’d just bought his first camera and had taken to kicking his tripod to give his images an evocative blur. The notion that he’d create a picture deemed a masterwork—or the encapsulation of a photographic movement, at that—was far-flung. But The Pond—Moonrise
(1904), his tranquil photograph of woods gently reflected in a lustrous moonlit pond, shot less than a decade later, became just that: an exemplary vision of
, and a symbol of photography’s quest for legitimacy as an art form.
How he arrived at this outcome, surprisingly, was via a relatively unbending path. “We occasionally find ourselves in darker parts of the world, and, as a rule, feel more easy there,” he reflected in 1901, three years prior to the creation of the famous nocturne. “What a beautiful hour of the day is that of the twilight when things disappear and seem to melt into each other, and a great beautiful feeling of peace overshadows all. Why not, if we feel this, have this feeling reflect itself in our work?”
Éduard, who later changed the spelling of his name to Edward, was, by all accounts, an early adopter of the arts. At age 15, he began a four-year apprenticeship at a lithography firm, and in addition to taking up photography the following year, he had already sketched and painted in his free time. He read Camera Notes
, a quarterly photography publication run by
, and in his own work eschewed straight, mundane images, which were gaining widespread popularity with the advent of point-and-shoot Kodak cameras. At age 21, in 1900, he left home for Paris to study painting at Académie Julian, but stopped over in New York, where he introduced himself to Stieglitz, and sold him three soft-focus platinum prints (two were pictures of the woods) for the highest price the young artist had ever garnered: five dollars per image (around $140 each at the time). In Paris, he discontinued his painting studies in favor of photographing portraits, establishing relationships with artists such as