Concepts and Trends:

The Sky and Worker’s Tools: Photographs of the Everyday Objects

In 1922, Alfred Stieglitz decided to create a series of photographs of clouds, “to show that [the success of] my photographs [was] not due to subject matter – not to special trees or faces, or interiors, to special privileges – clouds were there for everyone.” He was partly responding to the critic Waldo Frank, who had suggested that the interest of his images simply reflected his striking choices of subject-matter. Stieglitz had been interested in photographing the effects of clouds as early as 1887. Returning to the subject in later decades, he recalled that “[e]very time I developed [a cloud negative] I was so wrought up, always believing I had nearly gotten what I was after – but had failed.” Part of the difficulty was that the orthochromatic nature of most emulsions made them very sensitive to blues, and tended to lighten the sky and blend the clouds into it, creating a washed-out look.

With renewed vigor, and using a new panchromatic emulsion, Stieglitz produced a more successful series of cloud photographs between 1922 and 1923, published as Music: A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs. A further series, Songs of the Sky, appeared in 1924. By describing his images as “songs” and “movements”, he was consciously alluding to the synesthetic credo of the Expressionist painter Wassily Kandinsky, whose abstract works, such as Composition VII (1913), were intended to express musical concepts. In 1925, Stieglitz began referring to his cloud images as Equivalents and to produce images of almost totally abstract effect. Art historian Sarah Greenough and artist Juan Hamilton have described the Equivalents as “photographs of shapes that have ceded their identity, in which Stieglitz obliterated all references to reality normally found in a photograph.”

On December 18th I posted “Artsy” and 365 days later I have a surprise..