Inside this issue
On Equivalence, Expression, and Art
Slow Thinking and the Conscious Mind
Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US.
Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer's expressive purposes. Minor White
After an exhibit of photographic portraits, Alfred Stieglitz was jarred when a critic suggested that the power of the portraits came from a hypnotic power Stieglitz exerted over his models. Recognising he did not actually have such powers, Stieglitz nonetheless wished to understand where the “hypnotising” effect came from: what made some photographs express more than just recognisable subjects. Stieglitz wanted to see if he could distil the effect and separate it from any impression having to do with the identity of the literal things portrayed in a photograph. Toward that end, he produced a portfolio of cloud photographs (clouds being the most benign thing he could think of) to see if he could reproduce the effect with ostensibly unexciting subject matter. He later dubbed the effect “equivalence,” stating cryptically “My cloud photographs are equivalents of my most profound life experience, my basic philosophy of life.”
“In looking at my photographs of clouds,” Stieglitz wrote, “people seem freer to think about the relationships in the pictures than about the subject matter for its own sake.”