It seems ironic now that someone like Alfred Stieglitz would have been given an elaborate full-page presentation of a second prize award rather than a first prize one in a popular photographic journal of his day, but London’s Amateur Photographer magazine did just that in 1889, reproducing his photograph Meditation as a woodburytype in an unknown issue sometime late in the year. The photograph, a typical genre portrait of an unknown woman lost in a daydream, was exhibited along with others at the journal’s Home Portraiture Competition exhibition showcasing the work of amateur photographers.

An unusual review of the exhibit appeared in the fortnightly gazette of London’s Guy’s Hospital that year in which Stieglitz  is later oddly referred to as a “medical man”:

“We were privileged on Monday, Sept. 30th, to see the private view of the Home Portraiture Competition at the office of the Amateur Photographer. This was an exceedingly good collection of photographs done entirely by amateur photographers. We understand this was the first exhibition initiated by the proprietors of the above paper, and may be considered to be entirely successful. We were especially pleased with the pictures of Mr. H. Keighley and Baron A. Stieglitz, who were the two first prize winners, and showed some very good genre subjects. This exhibition showed how useful photos could be made by medical men, and was quite a revelation. It is much to be regretted that the show is now closed, but we hear that there are to be future exhibitions, of the opening of which we shall duly inform our readers, and, as the admission is gratis, they will doubtless be visited by all our photographers.” 1.

With respect to Stieglitz’s early work, it is intriguing to compare this unknown woman of modest dress to that of Paula, (Bauschmied) a prostitute with whom Stieglitz was apparently involved romantically with while living in Berlin at the time. Both photographs are believed to have been taken around 1889. What is interesting is how different they are portrayed photographically.

Taken in Berlin, Sun Rays, Paula, 1889, portrays a hip, cosmopolitan woman with fancy dress photographed from the side, engaged in writing a letter while light streaming through the slats of a venetian blind in front of her illuminates her work as well as a wall behind her.  Mementos tacked up on the wall including photographs taken by Stieglitz of Paula are cross-hatched by the streaming light.

As for Meditation, a different kind of genre photograph, a woman lost in thought looks down towards what appears to be a sewing basket- overflowing with scraps of cloth. A seamstress perhaps?  Several years later, the photograph was made into a lantern slide by Stieglitz and identified as having been taken in Munich, Germany. 2. Posed in a room lined with wood paneling while wearing utilitarian yet elegant dress, the model’s surroundings, including the ornately carved chair she sits on, are reminiscent of a stylish home in that Bavarian city.  Although a close-up of Paula as reproduced in Katherine Hoffman’s book Stieglitz : A Beginning Light does bear a resemblance facially to the model in Meditation, it seems unlikely they are the same woman. 3.

1. Review: Guy’s Hospital Gazette: Vol. III New Series:  Oct. 12, 1889: London: Ash & Co. Printers:  p. 215

2. The American Amateur Photographer: Volume IV: New York, N.Y. : The American Photographic Publishing Company: February, 1892:  p.73

3. Plate #81: In: Stieglitz : A Beginning Light: Katherine Hoffman: Yale University Press: 2004: p. 99


Image Dimensions14.5 x 9.8 cm

Support Dimensions28.5 x 22.1 cm