“Edward Steichen is an immortal among photographers. During the seven decades of his career, he advanced photography as an art form as well as a vital medium of visual communication. His richest, most profound photographs were made between 1900 and 1927. It is from this period that in 1969 he selected 12 masterpieces and, for his final photographic project, asked Aperture’s Michael Hoffman to attempt at that time what appeared to be impossible: publication of his prints as hand-pulled photogravures.”
Like his close colleague Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen understood the potential of photogravure and considered photogravure prints to be original works of art, in many cases the most faithful realization of the photographer’s intention. It is no wonder then that he chose photogravure for his last great work.
In the 70’s, Jon Goodman, already working to revive the photogravure process, teamed up with Richard Benson and Hoffman in an attempt to execute the exacting plates. The painstaking task of printing the plates was accomplished, under Jon’s supervision, at the atelier de Taille Douce, Saint-Prex, Switzerland. Twelve years later, the portfolio was finished. Of the twelve plates, three were made from Steichen’s original negatives – Torso, Isadora Duncan and Three Pears.
It baffles this writer why these portfolios have been sitting in Aperture’s inventory all this time. Is it possible that people just don’t realize that they are still available?… Well, they may not be for long. Only three complete portfolios remain. My sentiments…. It’s about time. It’s about time that this great portfolio is sold out, finally acknowledging that it is indeed an amazing and important achievement and a milestone in the history of photogravure.