In the winter of 1892-93 Alfred Stieglitz purchased his first hand held camera, a 4x5 inch glass plate box camera with folding bellows. This technical innovation revolutionized the medium and permanently expanded Stieglitz's repertoire of image making approaches. Previously encumbered by the bulk of the tripod-bound 8x10 inch view camera, Stieglitz was now free to explore with ease the world at large, meaning New York City, with lens and film. His first success with the portable machine was Winter - Fifth Avenue, a striking vertical view of cab and driver in the midst of a severe blizzard (Camera Work, Number 12, Plate II, October, 1905; see also, lot 130 of this sale). The picture instantly convinced Stieglitz of the promise this new format held for him.
With The Terminal, New York (also known as The Car Horses) Stieglitz found a spiritual awareness in the city life about him that had previously eluded him - his first step towards a totally modernist decree. In depicting American urban life he moved away from the sentiment of the genre scenes that had enchanted him. In Alfred Stieglitz and The Photo-Secession, William Innes Homer writes: "The Terminal, his masterpiece of the early nineties, held a special place in Stieglitz's emotional life. As he told his niece many years later: The New York that I had come back to was not my old New York. I used to wander around the streets disconsolately, until one night during a blizzard, I happened to see a man watering a couple of steaming horse-car horses, and I thought, "Well, there at any rate is the human touch." That made me feel much better. (op. cit., p. 17). Homer and others, (see: Sarah Greenough's essay in Alfred Stieglitz, pp. 14-15) have remarked on how Stieglitz's early New York street scenes, such as The Terminal, prefigure and coincide with the painting of Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens and other "Ash-Can School" realists.
In identifying with his subject Stieglitz found the ability to visualize his internal feelings, a theme that resounded throughout his career, which came to an apex in his Equivalents of the 1920s. He later told Dorothy Norman: "The steaming horses being watered on a cold winter day, the snow-covered streets and the stagecoach on Winter - Fifth Avenue, my sense of loneliness in my own country, all seemed closely related to my experience...America was saved for me. I was no longer alone." (Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer, p. 37). In another conversation with Norman he also said of the photograph: "There seemed to be something closely related to my deepest feeling in what I saw, and I decided to photograph what was within me." (c.f. Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Garde, p. 16). This spiritual search for fulfillment became both credo and content. His signature statements about photography and art would heretofore contain references to the realization of an inner self, so much so that in The American Annual of Photography, 1936 (Vol. 50) Nicholas Haz wrote "Stieglitz makes his pictures timeless. This is the result, not of conscious intent, but of his way of making pictures. His landscapes serve as carriers of philosophical conceptions concerning the eternal. Even fast snapshots are so composed that their line, spacing and shape of areas, their tone and rhythm suggest far more than the factual statements of the subject. News value, records, story-telling, mean nothing to him." (op. cit., p. 14).
Examples of the large-format photogravures that Stieglitz produced around 1910 are quite rare. Signed, titled and dated impressions are rarer still. While his exact purpose in creating these prints is uncertain, he may have produced them for sale to museums, hoping for a strong selection of his important earlier images represented. This project apparently was never fully realized. Only a few large-format examples of The Terminal have appeared at auction, most notably a signed impression, from the Family of Aline and Charles Liebman sold at Christie's, New York October 8, 1993, lot 78.