photography

Unrarified Air: Alfred Stieglitz and the Modernism of Equivalence

In 1923 Alfred Stieglitz published “How I Came to Photograph Clouds,” a short essay in which he writes:

I always watched clouds. Studied them. . . . So I began to work with the clouds—and it was with great excitement . . . Every time I developed I was so wrought up, always believing I had nearly gotten what I was after—but had failed. A most tantalizing sequence of days and weeks.[1]

This “tantalizing sequence” of initial experimentation would later yield a formidable legacy, as Stieglitz would spend nearly a decade (1923–31) producing the pivotal series of cloud photographs he would title the Equivalents.[2] During this period he printed and exhibited hundreds of cloud images, most taken during the summers he spent with Georgia O’Keeffe at Lake George, in the Adirondacks. When Stieglitz turned his camera to the skies in the early 1920s, the resulting photographs sometimes included a sliver of horizon or the silhouette of a tree, inclusions which hold the vastness of the cloudscape in relative perspective against the scale of the earth. Yet by the late 1920s, most visual references to solid ground disappear from the work, seeming to set the clouds adrift within their frames. Free of mooring, their spatial proportions and positioning indeterminate, the cloud images become disoriented from any authoritative vantage: their shapes and textures may imply certain atmospheric vectors or conditions, but no single beholder’s grounded point of view definitively calibrates them (fig. 1).

In the Soviet School of Photography: Lessons in Photographic Literacy

By the mid-1930s, the literary works of the aging Russian naturalist author Mikhail Prishvin abounded in the Soviet press, from children’s books to literary journals.[1] But despite a long list of publications, the author has been relegated to a secondary position in the Soviet literary canon. It has only been with the recent publication of his vast and detailed diaries that Prishvin’s authorial persona has sparked growing scholarship and interest.[2] And it was not until December 2015 that viewers were able to see the first exhibition of his equally meticulous and remarkable photographs.

Tearing Free

A daguerreotype, a picture made with the world’s first practical photographic technology, can’t survive the experience of being looked at unless it is framed under glass. Removed from the frame, the ephemeral image can be wiped off its metal backing as easily as a blackboard is erased. But the crystal that protects a daguerreotype is really an emblem of the barrier between

Whither Politics? Photography and Protest in the “Provoke Era”

When the photography exhibit Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960-1975 began its tour of Europe and the United States in January of 2016, its relevance to the contemporary moment was unclear.

Images in Crisis: Three Lives’s Vanishing Women

In 1876, Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and the founder of eugenics, reported to the Anthropological Institute of London his newest physiognomic method for uncovering and defining human "types." Galton’s composite portraiture was an exercise in re-photography that co-opted the mechanical precision of the photograph for a pseudoscience of predetermined sociological and biological categories.