The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz (1907)

“The Steerage” is a photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. The image is a significant early example of modernist photography and captures various passengers aboard a ship, showcasing the division between social classes during the journey.

The photograph portrays a busy scene on a ship with layers of complex interaction and detail. At the top of the image, we see the deck area, where passengers wearing hats and headscarves are gathered behind a railing, looking down or conversing with each other. Below them is a lower deck where people in lighter clothing seem to be carrying their belongings, possibly indicating their passage in the steerage class, which was the least expensive area on a ship. The division between the two areas is palpable, emphasizing the social hierarchy onboard. There are ropes and chains crisscrossing the frame, serving both as physical barriers and as visual elements emphasizing the structural composition of the scene. The overwhelming sense from the photograph is one of life in transition, captured in a moment of natural social division and juxtaposition.

Other Photographs from Alfred Stieglitz

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