Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1930

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was an American photographer and champion of modern art who was instrumental in the evolution of photography from a mere documentary tool into an art form.  Over his long career Stieglitz explored many styles and subjects, and he is perhaps most famous for his urban scenes.  He was also an avid landscape photographer but the Equivalents photographs that Stieglitz took from about 1925-34 are something quite different.  In this series, Stieglitz took at least 220 photographs of clouds and the sky.  The piece I have chosen is actually unusual in the inclusion of a tree at the bottom, as most of the pictures have no visible horizon or objects.  These photographs are intended to be free of literal interpretation, the first completely abstract photographic artworks.  The idea of the "equivalents" is that they were analogous to Stieglitz's own emotional experiences, and he was very influenced by Kandinsky's ideas–that with shapes, lines, and color, abstraction can reflect greater emotive truths than figurative art.  This particular photograph almost looks like a painting, the clouds are so unusual.  There is a great intensity here that Stieglitz manages to convey.  We see the size of the clouds and the cope of their power against the dark sky.

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