Winter – Fifth Avenue Stieglitz, Alfred  (American, 1864-1946)

"It is a realistic expression of an everyday occurrence of metropolitan life under special atmospheric conditions, rendered faithfully and yet with consummate art. I, as a literary man, would feel proud if I could express a “Winter Day” in words with the same vigor, correctness, and individual note as Mr. Stieglitz in his photographic plate. His achievements in this picture are not merely finger posts for amateur photographers, but for our American art world in general." [1]

This photograph was made at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 35th Street, near the headquarters of the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York, where Stieglitz was a member. In “The Hand Camera—Its Present Importance,” The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1897 (New York, 1896), 19–27, Stieglitz wrote: “In order to obtain pictures by means of the hand camera it is well to choose your subject, regardless of figures, and carefully study the lines and lighting. After having determined upon these watch the passing figures and await the moment in which everything is in balance; that is, satisfies your eye. This often means hours of patient waiting. My picture, ‘Fifth Avenue, Winter,’ is the result of a three hours’ stand during a fierce snow-storm on February 22d, 1893, awaiting the proper moment. My patience was duly rewarded. Of course, the result contained an element of chance, as I might have stood there for hours without succeeding in getting the desired picture. I remember how upon having developed the negative of the picture I showed it to some of my colleagues. They smiled and advised me to throw away such rot. ‘Why, it isn’t even sharp, and he wants to use it for an enlargement!’ Such were the remarks made about what I knew was a piece of work quite out of the ordinary, in that it was the first attempt at picture making with the hand camera in such adverse and trying circumstances from a photographic point of view. Some time later the laugh was on the other side, for when the finished picture was shown to these same gentlemen it proved to them conclusively that there was other photographic work open to them during the ‘bad season’ than that so fully set forth in the photographic journals under the heading, ‘Work for the Winter Months.’ This incident also goes to prove that the making of the negative alone is not the making of the picture. My hand camera negatives are all made with the express purpose of enlargement, and it is but rarely that I use more than part of the original shot.” When Stieglitz exhibited this photograph later in his life, he often dated it 1892, but he consistently remembered that it was made on Washington’s birthday, 22 February (see above and W. M. M., “Reviews and Exchanges,” Camera Notes 1 [January 1898], 84). On 22 February 1892 the forecast for the day was “fair, warmer weather,” while on the same day in 1893 a blizzard blanketed the entire East Coast with as much as fifteen inches of snow (The New York Times [22 February 1892], 4; [22 February 1893], 4; and [23 February 1893], 1).

This photograph and Key Set numbers 83, 84, 85, 86, and 87 were made from the same negative. [2]

Reproduced / Exhibited

‘The Hand Camera—Its Present Importance’ The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1897

National Gallery of Art Online Editions

Stieglitz, Camera Work, No. 12, October 1905, plate II.

Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies (New York, 1897): unnumbered (ill,
Winter on Fifth Avenue, photogravure)


[1] “An Art Critic’s Estimate of Alfred Stieglitz”: Sadakichi Hartmann: In: The Photographic Times: June, 1898: pp. 259-262

[2] National Gallery of Art Online Editions