Alexis Madrigal reflects on a time when photographs resembled paintings:
Many works like Edward Steichen’s “Flatiron—Evening Camera Work 14” (above) play with fog and smoke. They hide things in the greyscale and even tend toward a hazy abstraction. Everything becomes a little harder to see and a bit more romantic. I’d long, lazily assumed that turn-of-the-century photos looked like this because of technical reasons, that this was just how cameras made photos at the time. That’s not true. These photographers were skilled enough and their techniques good enough that they could have made razor sharp portraits, but they didn’t. Instead, we have two decades where the best photographs work like memories not recordings.