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Mary Learns to Walk

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A "pictorial" photograph, hand-manipulated during the printing process, this is one of a series Steichen made of his wife and daughter at Huntington, Long Island. This image, or a close variant, was published in Camera Work in 1913. Chijo Takeda, a Willamette University art major who studied this work, argues that it was Steichen's studio prototype from which he made copy photographs for exhibition. On this prototype, Steichen supplemented the image with handmade marks and abrasions to suggest highlights and "painterly" artistic passages. Certain areas are shaded with pencil, and these apparently also represent Steichen's working of the print as a unique, expressive original. He also signed and dated the picture in pencil. Takeda argues that this hand-worked prototype then became the subject of subsequent photographs, copies that were printed for exhibition. If this thesis is correct, the image before you is rare surviving evidence of Steichen's creative process.