Fotograf Magazine

Stieglitz/Equivalents

To come to photography from an intense and often embattled experience of modernism is to feel a peculiar sense of relief. It is like coming in from the cold, like leaving a swamp and gaining high ground. For photography seems to offer a direct, transparent relationship to experience, to the objects of one’s experience. It does not involve us in that sense of deprivation and attack that we feel in much of modernist painting and sculpture. In forcing us to consider our connection to the world only through the mediation of an abstract language, modernism seems to be imposing on us a kind of parsimony, an abstention from the sensuous appetites we had always expected art to satisfy. And it hounds us as well with questions about how we can claim to know what we know, how we can think we see what we see. For a time — long for some, shorter for others — we are deeply engaged with those questions. But then, out of frustration or exhaustion or even mere curiosity, we find ourselves kicking the stone — like Dr. Johnson, indignant at Berkeley’s idealism, pointing to the stone and to his foot and crying, “I refute it thus.” In short, we turn to photography.

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#29 contemplation

Stieglitz, Alfred: Equivalent, 1930. Santa Fe, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gelatin silver print. 3 5/8 × 4 9/16”. Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © 2017. Photo Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.
Stieglitz, Alfred: Equivalent, 1925–27. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Gelatin silver print, 4 5/8 × 3 5/8”. Given anonymously. Acc. no.: 93.1943. 2. © 2017. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence.

#29 contemplation

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