Edward Steichen (1879 -1973)

The Awakening

1902

Platinotype

H. 25 cm ; W. 20 cm

Ph.684

The Awakening, also called the Nymph Echo, is known to exist in plaster versions, now in the Musée Rodin, and a marble dating from 1902, whose whereabouts today are uncertain. Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the sculpture represents a young woman, seated on a rock, stretching voluptuously. Edward Steichen photographed The Awakening twice, from an almost identical angle, but playing on very different lighting effects. The first shot presents the work in a uniform light, with all the details of the sculpture clearly visible. The second photograph, shown here, is an againstthe- light view of The Awakening. A piece of fabric attempts to soften the light coming through the studio window, but it is so bright that it transforms the sculpture into a silhouette and all the details have vanished.

 

In what seems to be the early morning light, the effects suggested by the title of the work are heightened, rather like a metaphorical illustration. One may therefore suppose that Steichen only handled the first photograph in a conventional manner so that he might attempt a bolder – and fundamentally more pertinent – interpretation of The Awakening.

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