The photographs Stieglitz made late in his career—as well as the early negatives he reprinted during this time—reflect his increasing affiliation with modernist straight photography and his self-defined “search for truth.” Eschewing the soft-focus effects of Pictorialism, which sought to imitate the aesthetic of painting, he instead chose to create photographs that resulted from the technical possibilities of the camera itself.
Even as Stieglitz’s technique became more pragmatic, his subject matter became more spiritual. While he described his process as one of trying “to get down what I see,” he wrote that his photographs were also “ever born of an inner need—an Experience of Spirit.” He sought to depict something uniquely American in portraits of friends and lovers, New York cityscapes, images of clouds, and scenes from Lake George. His photographs of the dying poplars at Lake George are especially poignant, since these trees’ lifespans are approximately the same as a human life. The titles of works such as Songs of the Sky, Spiritual America, and Equivalents reveal his interest in images as metaphors, even as the photographs themselves were resolutely straight depictions of reality.
The materials Stieglitz used also changed. Due to the increasing scarcity of platinum paper (and the unpredictable nature of its replacements, Satista and palladium papers), he turned to the most common material available—gelatin silver postcard stock. Stieglitz used this paper to make contact prints, taking advantage of the commercially manufactured product’s capacity for precise detail. That the wide white margins of his later works’ mounts draw attention to the crisp prints is no accident: Stieglitz labored, sometimes for months, to realize the perfect relationship between mount and photograph.
 Alfred Stieglitz, An Exhibition of Photography by Alfred Stieglitz: 145 Prints, Over 128 of which Have Never Been Publicly Shown, Dating from 1886–1921, exh. cat. (Anderson Galleries, 1921), n.p.
 Alfred Stieglitz to David Liebovitz, June 24, 1924, in Sarah Greenough and Juan Hamilton, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs and Writings (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1983), p. 209; Alfred Stieglitz to J. Dudley Johnston, Apr. 3 1925, in ibid., p. 208.