Alfred Steiglitz’s Clouds


How I Came to Photograph Clouds
Alfred Steiglitz, “The Amateur Photographer & Photography” 1923

Thirty-five years ago I spent a few days in Switzerland, and I was experimenting. Clouds and their relationship to the rest of the world, and clouds for themselves, interested me. Ever since then clouds have been in my mind, most powerfully at times. I always watched clouds. Studied them.

My mother was dying. Our estate was going to pieces. The old horse of 37 was being kept alive by the 70-year-old coachman. I, full of the feeling of today: all about me disintegration—slow but sure: dying chestnut trees—all the chestnuts in this country have been dying for years: the pines doomed too—diseased: I, poor, but at work: the world in a great mess: the human being a queer animal—not as dignified as our giant chestnut tree on the hill.

So I made up my mind I’d finally do something I had in mind for years. I’d make a series of cloud pictures. So I began to work with the clouds—and it was great excitement— daily for weeks. 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. I knew exactly what I was after. I wanted a series of photographs which when seen by Ernest Bloch (the great composer) he would exclaim: Music! Music! Man, why that is music! How did you ever do that? And he would point to violins, and flutes, and oboes, and brass, full of enthusiasm, and would say he’d have to write a symphony called “Clouds.”

And when finally I had my series of ten photographs printed, and Bloch saw them—what I said I wanted to happen happened verbatim.”

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3 comments to Alfred Steiglitz’s Clouds

  • Emanuel

    Nubes (II)

    Por el aire andan plácidas montañas
    o cordilleras trágicas de sombra
    que oscurecen el día. Se las nombra
    nubes. Las formas suelen ser extrañas.
    Shakespeare observó una. Parecía
    un dragón. Esa nube de una tarde
    en su palabra resplandece y arde
    y la seguimos viendo todavía.
    ¿Qué son las nubes? ¿Una arquitectura
    del azar? Quizá Dios las necesita
    para la ejecución de Su infinita
    obra y son hilos de la trama oscura.
    Quizá la nube sea no menos vana
    que el hombre que la mira en la mañana.

    Jorge Luis Borges

  • Sarah

    I love this - clouds are my favourite photographic subject; I find them fascinating!!

  • Susan Visvanathan

    Steiglitz is always amazing, and always contemporary. Susan

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