Skip to Content
Today Open today 11–5

U.S. Motor Overhaul Park near Dijon. Small dots are motor cars and trucks in repair, Motor Overhaul Park, Dijon

A work made of gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the photographic section, air service, american expeditionary forces, world war i.
© 2018 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Image actions

  • A work made of gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the photographic section, air service, american expeditionary forces, world war i.

Date:

February 12, 1919

Artist:

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)
and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. (American, born Luxembourg, 1879–1973)

About this artwork

Edward Steichen was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century—a pioneering champion of art photography and an innovator in fashion and commercial photography. Lesser known, however, is his important role in World War I, as chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) from 1917 to 1919. Steichen, who had come to regard France as a second homeland after living there from 1906 to 1914, was quick to enlist once the United Statesa officially entered the war in 1917. Though at 38 he was eight years older than the Signal Corps age limit, his experience as a photographer made him a valuable recruit, and he entered active duty in July 1917 as a first lieutenant.

World War I, sometimes called the first “modern” war, was marked by groundbreaking advances in technology, including photography. Steichen intended to be “a photographic reporter, as Mathew Brady had been in the Civil War,” but he quickly abandoned this romantic notion to help implement one of the newest weapons—aerial photography. Taking images from airplanes made it possible not only to observe a wide swath of the battlefield but also to track daily changes on the front lines.

Steichen was assigned to the newly formed Photographic Section, led by Major James Barnes, and together they oversaw the training and outfitting of aerial-photography and surveillance units that proved their usefulness over the course of the war. Steichen also worked to standardize cameras, materials, and formats across the various national armies in order to simplify cooperation among the Allied forces.

This album was assembled by Steichen in 1919 from prints he kept after his military discharge. Many such pictures entered public and private collections; in some cases, they were assembled into albums that chronicled aerial photography during the war. Steichen’s pride in his work for the AEF is made clear in this unique compilation, which he personally captioned and dedicated to a member of a prominent family of art patrons.

To learn more about this album, visit http://archive.artic.edu/steichen/index.html.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Photography and Media

Artist

Edward Steichen (Maker)

Title

U.S. Motor Overhaul Park near Dijon. Small dots are motor cars and trucks in repair, Motor Overhaul Park, Dijon

Date

Made 1919

Medium

Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I

Dimensions

12 × 15.5 cm (upper image overall); 3.2 × 14 cm (lower image); 23.9 × 17.5 (paper); 24.5 × 31.8 cm (album page)

Credit Line

Gift of William Kistler

Reference Number

1977.745a-b

Copyright

© 2018 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share