Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 – 1966) was an early 20th-century photographer who became a key figure in the development of American pictorialism. He became the first major photographer to emphasize the visual potential of elevated viewpoints and later made some of the first completely abstract photographs.
Coburn was born in Boston and was an amateur photographer until he met Edward Steichen in 1899. In 1903 Coburn joined with Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Clarence White and Gertrude Kasebier to form the Photosecession Group, and the year after he moved to London where he developed a reputation for photographing the portraits of celebrities such as George Bernard Shaw and George Meredith. Coburn's portraits were collected and published in the books, Men of Mark (1913) and More Men of Mark (1922).
Many historians date the beginnings of modernism in photography to the Photo-Secession, a group of American photographers founded by Alfred Stieglitz in 1902. Members included Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence H. White, who all placed great importance on fine photographic printing and used techniques which mirrored paint and pastel. Their main ambition was to position photography as more than a popular pastime or commercial pursuit, and rather as a fine art. The results were exhibited in their New York gallery, The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, later known simply as 291.