Analog Equivalence

When I was studying photography in the 1970s, my teacher and mentor, Malcom Paterson introduced our class to the photographs of Alfred Stieglitz and his concept of Equivalence. The Equivalent photographs of clouds, produced c.1925-33, were ungrounded in time, scale, or location. They were also unusual for the time due to improvements in film technology that enabled dramatic photographs of clouds. A new technology, but a familiar canvas – clouds are among the first things we point to as children and imagine, even as adults, to be more than, other than, clouds.

There is a transcription of Stieglitz speaking to a man viewing his Equivalents who insisted on knowing what the subject of the photograph was. Stieglitz’s final response seems at the point of exasperation as he says, “It happens to be a picture of the sky. But I cannot understand why that is of any importance.” Stieglitz’s Equivalents were meant to evoke rather than inform: the viewer has a response to an image as an equivalent of personal experience. While the concept may sound obvious today, or my explanation simplistic, viewers at the time were not used to abstractions in photographs and viewed images as vehicles for information.

But… oh, such talk…. Fear not, dear viewer, for there are still to be found circus seals, leaping pups, and the icy hand of death reaching, grasping.

Equivalent One

equivalent one

Equivalent Two

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Equivalent Three

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Equivalent Four

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Equivalent Five

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Equivalent Six

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Equivalent Eight

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Equivalent Nine

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Equivalent Nineteen

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Equivalent Twenty

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Equivalent Twenty One

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Equivalent Twenty Four

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Equivalent Twenty Seven

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Equivalent Thirty

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Equivalent Thirty One

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Equivalent Forty

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Equivalent Forty Nine

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Equivalent Fifty

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Equivalent Fifty One

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Equivalent Fifty Two

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On a technical note, I wanted it to be apparent that the images were from a digital source. To accomplish this, I underexposed the images in the camera and then reconstituted them through levels and brightness/contrast functions. In addition,    I used sharpening filters, as well as a high pass overlay.

In this exhibit, I am presenting equivalents in the Stieglitz tradition and digital equivalents to what is now referred to as analog (film) photography. Analog Equivalence is a shout-out from the digital age to Alfred Stieglitz.

Many thanks to all who have helped with this exhibit. And particular thanks to Greg Emslie for the tip on high pass overlay and to Tom Morris for his gift in 1978 of the book Mount Analogue by René Daumal.

3 thoughts on “Analog Equivalence

  1. Hi Rob, Congrats on your latest exhibit! I have just reviewed all the photos and wow! some very wonderful images. Thank you for sharing your photos. I love clouds too. Recently around 9pm
    there have been some unusual cloud patterns here, they last for a short while and then break up so you would never know that they had been there. The pattern resembles a waves in the sand like you see in shallow water at the beach on a calm day. Except in the sky they are huge and awe inspiring, much like some of your images.
    Yeh, Rob!! I look forward to seeing more of your photos.


  2. WOW, Rob! I LOVE every effin’ one of them!! The light, the beauty, the drama, the melodrama, the tragi-comedy, the Rorschach tests…! I think 111 is my favourite (if I had to choose) – there’s a big leaping horse there! Do you sell individual prints (or digital vesions, I suppose)? Will this be a book? Is the exhibition still on?


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