Equivalents, 1923



gelatin silver print, 9,2 x 11,8 cm / 3,7 x 4,7 inch

Alfred STIEGLITZ’s Equivalents series began with a commentary by Waldo FRANK (1889-1967) from 1922, in which he suggested that the strength of STIEGLITZ’s photographs came from the power of the individuals he photographed. This comment irritated STIEGLITZ who understood it as a criticism of his work. He then decided to start a series tending towards abstraction, through which he could express the skills he acquired over the last 40 years.

Photographing the clouds appeared to him as the approach to follow, first of all for the absence, strictly speaking, of individuals; then for the high level of technicality involved in such photographs. Indeed, photographing the clouds was particularly difficult because of the photosensitive surfaces used at the time. Until the 1920s, the emulsions used reacted in priority with the blue part of the chromatic spectrum, making any photography combining sky and clouds almost impossible. New emulsions, called "Panchromatiques", were developed and marketed around the 1910s, allowed to photograph without color discrimination. Alfred STIEGLITZ put them to good use for his series Equivalents, which shows his great knowledge of the chemistries used in photography, both their possibilities and their limits. Finally, STIEGLITZ explained that clouds are there for everyone. It proves that what matters is the way things are looked at, rather than the availability of a non-standard subject.

The first photos of this series were called "Song of the Sky". STIEGLITZ made them in 1923. It was not until 1929 that he renamed the entire series "Equivalents".

Know more: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/44200

Equivalents, 1923
Other photographs of the exhibition