The Story Behind: Dreamy, Moody and Ethereal

Photograph /Edward Steichen and Image Source/The J Paul Getty Museum

Photograph /Edward Steichen and Image Source/The J Paul Getty Museum

This article was originally published in May 2016.

Edward Steichen photographed The Pond-Moonlight in 1904, in the wetlands around Mamaroneck, New York. It is an iconic pictorialist photograph that shows the woods surrounding the pond, where the moonlight streams through the trees and reflects upon the water. Steichen, who was famous for curating The Family of Man, created this 41 x 50.8 cm image, by manually applying multiple emulsions of gum bichromate over platinum to introduce colour in the picture. The woods at dusk was one of his favourite subjects, which he returned to time and again in the years before the First World War. Only three prints of this photograph are known to exist, two of which are held by the MET and MoMA respectively.

In 2006, the third print of this image was sold for USD 2.9 million in a two-day private auction at Sotheby’s New York, setting a world record for the most expensive image sold at an auction. This record was broken by Andreas Gursky in 2007 for his image 99 Cent II. Currently, Gursky’s Rhein II holds this record. The uniqueness of The Pond- Moonlight is that it explores the limits of a photography plate and bears an impressionistic quality of early photography.

Tags: Pictorialist, 1904, Edward Steichen, Pond-Moonlight, photography plate