Stieglitz had edited two previous publications—The American Amateur Photographer and Camera Notes—before deciding in 1902 that he wanted to put his energies toward an autonomous, high-quality magazine intended to elevate and promote the art of photography. In the prospectus for Camera Work, he argued that the journal would be independent, “owing allegiance only to the interests of photography.” The first issue was published in January 1903, and Stieglitz declared therein his standards of inclusion: “Only examples of such work as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, will find recognition in these pages.”
Camera Work was a sumptuous, erudite publication. Its Art Nouveau cover was designed by Edward Steichen, and the quarterly printed some of the best of American art criticism, often reproducing reviews of 291 shows from other publications. Most importantly for Stieglitz, Camera Work boasted high-quality photogravures—printed under Stieglitz’s supervision and tipped in by hand—in order to better represent subtle gradations of tone and value. This was seen as a major improvement over the typical halftone reproductions employed in other publications.
In the journal’s early years, Stieglitz prominently featured artists of the Photo-Secession, including James Craig Annan, Frank Eugene, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Frederick Evans, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Clarence White, and others. As 291’s exhibition program moved beyond photography to embrace painting and sculpture, the magazine began to cover modern art, taking on a more international focus. With these changes, and the advent of World War I, subscribers dwindled and the publication schedule became increasingly irregular. The last issue of Camera Work (49–50, June 1917) featured early work by Paul Strand, presaging Stieglitz’s own new direction toward straight photography.
 Alfred Stieglitz, “Camera Work Prospectus,” August 25, 1902, reprinted in Richard Whelan, ed., Stieglitz on Photography: His Selected Essays and Notes (Aperture, 2000), pp. 149–50.
 Alfred Stieglitz et al., “An Apology,” Camera Work 1 (January 1903), p. 15.