Pond-moonrise (was: Re: Steichen image in April's 'Vanity Fair'
Judy, I agree with you on both counts: (1) that Steichen's pictorialist photographs were much more beautiful and interesting than his "straight" photographs, and (2) that it looks like the blue tone in the sky, especially in the pond print where the blue was printed with cyanotype, just about had to be printed in with a positive "negative" in order to get that much tone. You've got a good eye.
I did that once, when I wanted a glow of golden light between the trees in a forest shot; I printed the golden color in with a reversed negative; there wasn't any way to get that much tone between the trees using the original negative.
Whether this is what Steichen actually did we can only speculate, because AFAIK all Steichen's negatives are still in the possession of, and under the tight control of, Joanna Steichen.
God (in the form of the aforenamed woman herself) may strike me dead for this, but I've made a page with reproductions of all three of the prints (I hope) of this image, so we can compare them and evaluate the validity of your observation. I'm not so sure it's accurate with the first print, the gum over platinum; I think maybe this was printed from just the negative. What do you think? But the bottom one, the cyanotype over platinum, it seems pretty certain to me that the cyan is printed with a reversed negative. I don't know if MOMA has analyzed this print the way the Met has analyzed theirs, but since I don't know otherwise, I'm taking on faith that they know for sure that this is cyanotype over platinum and not hand-applied color over platinum. I'd be willing to bet big bucks that he simply colored in the moon (notice that he didn't think to color in a reflection of it in the water).
Look quick, because this page will self-destruct in a few days. I'm hyperventilating already at the thought that I actually did this, even though it's all for a good cause.
As for the Flatiron, that doesn't seem quite as clearcut to me, and besides there are so many copies of that image (mostly reproductions from a copyneg made from the original gum print) that it's almost impossible to say which one we're talking about. The Met alone has five versions of it, I think, and the version they show on their website doesn't correspond by date and description to any of the ones listed in the catalog of the Stieglitz collection, so it's all pretty confusing. But would you say it's probably true of this one?
the actual $2.9 million print?