Musée d'Orsay: Alfred Stieglitz Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)
Epreuve au gélatino-bromure d'argent
H. 11,6 ; L. 8,6 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski


This frame—from the infinite continuity of cloudy skies, the field of which, with its subtle shades of gray, is divided into dark and light masses—was taken by Stieglitz with a Graflex camera pointed at the firmament from his summer house at Lake George (New York), in 1925.

Deprived of any reference to the earth, this small-format, vertical picture, which can be viewed any way up, offers no orientation or anchoring in space. It is one of a series of cloud studies he began in 1922 and carried on until the start of the following decade, a subject that had by then become a central preoccupation for this champion of modernity in photography.

After giving his first set of views the title "Music - A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs", seeking to establish correspondences with music, Stieglitz titled the next several hundred studies he went on to produce Songs of the Sky and then Equivalents, in the sure knowledge that their deeper meaning lay beyond the transcription of their apparent subject matter.

Equivalents of his feelings, “of the chaos of the world and his relationship to that chaos,” these cloud fragments form, through the practice of photography, a masterly metaphysical exploration, and equally a radical aesthetic experiment.

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