This straightforward scene from contemporary life is proclaimed as Stieglitz’s first Modernist photograph—a work that stands in stark contrast to his previous painterly photographic renderings of Symbolist subjects. Employing a compressed composition, Stieglitz portrays the densely packed lower decks of a ship, or steerage. Created at a significant moment of migration to the United States, the image has been interpreted as a cultural document of struggling European newcomers. However, as Stieglitz actually took the photograph on a steamer heading from New York to Germany, these passengers may be immigrants who were denied entry to the United States and/or various foreign artisans and workers returning to their home countries.


  • Title: The Steerage
  • Creator: Alfred Stieglitz
  • Date Created: 1907
  • Physical Dimensions: Image Dimensions Height/Width: 33.3 x 27.4 cm, Image Dimensions Height/Width: 13 1/8 x 10 3/4 in, Mat Dimensions: 20 x 16 in
  • Type: photographs
  • Medium: photogravure on laid tissue

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