A Witness to War: Edward Steichen's U.S. Navy Photography

Edward Steichen:untitled (Signal Man messaging other ship, USS Yorktown), July 1
Sep 01, 2005 - Jan 29, 2006
Voorhees Gallery Corridor

This exhibition marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. A companion exhibition, organized by the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II, is on view in the Alexander Library’s Gallery ‘50.

Born in 1879, Edward Steichen and his family emigrated from Luxemburg to the United States when Steichen was a small child. Settling in rural Michigan, Steichen began taking photographs as a teenager and continued to do so for the duration of his life.

Between World War I and World War II, Steichen became known as a photographer of the American heartland. Having petitioned the Navy to admit him as an official wartime photographer, the 62-year-old Steichen—a successful commercial and portrait photographer, as well as decorated World War I Army veteran—finally joined the air station at Floyd Bennett Field on Long Island in 1941. Late in the year, he was commissioned by the Navy to tell the story of naval aviation. The Navy records state that they “desperately needed Steichen’s photographs to recruit new pilots.” In addition to recording facts, Steichen wanted to prove that photography could be a powerful instrument for showing the human side of complex events. “The camera,” wrote Steichen in 1947, “serves as an instrument for waging war and as a historian in recording that war.” 

Edward Steichen

Untitled (Signal Man messaging other ship, USS Yorktown), July 1944

Gelatin silver print on fiber paper

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Gift of Thomas Maloney in memory of Robert Kriendler, Rutgers Class of 1936