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Ralph Steiner
gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 15/16 × 10 inches (20.2 × 25.4 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Marvin and Norma Rappaport.
Accession Number
“Be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success; don’t try to do pictures for others to look at—just please yourself.”
-Ralph Steiner

As a young man learning about photography, Ralph Steiner decided there was no true formula to creativity, but rather the best photographs were made when he took them to please himself, which went contrary to the popular opinion put forward by photographers at the time. Steiner is considered a vanguard of photography today. When he was in college at Dartmouth, he was the first and only student in their newly-offered course on photography. Afterward, he attended one year at the Clarence White School of Photography and went on to make successful commercial work for magazines. He also gained a reputation as a filmmaker. H2O, a silent film looking at the abstracted properties of flowing water, today is considered the second earliest art film by art historians. He took fresh views of the people, places, and objects around him that resulted in keen, unstudied but remarkable photographs. His later work, which often focused on nature views, were a respite from his years spent in New York City as he found beauty in the shadows on fresh powder and the resilience of a tree.