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HomeContentsThemes > Clouds

Contents

Introduction
752.01   Weather: Clouds
Photographers
752.02   Gustave Le Gray: Combination prints
752.03   George N. Barnard: Rebel Works in front of Atlanta
752.04   Charles Marville: Vue du ciel de Paris, de la fenetre de l'artiste
752.05   Henry Stuart Wortley: Seascapes with clouds
752.06   Carlo Baldassare Simelli: Cloud studies
752.07   Alfred Stieglitz: Equivalents
752.08   Edward Weston: Clouds
752.09   Mitch Dobrowner: Storms
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
  
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
 
  
Introduction 
  
752.01   Nature >  Weather: Clouds 
  
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Photographers 
  
752.02   Nature >  Gustave Le Gray: Combination prints 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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As the albumen print improved through the 1850s there was a desire to improve landscape photography to show details over the entire image. As Thomas Sutton wrote in his Dictionary of Photography (1858):
But every day, as the real capabilities of landscape photography are better understood, the photographer should become more ambitious, and seek for those very studies, which, in the infancy of the art, were esteemed impracticable. Skies, moving water, animate objects, mists, haze and all atmospheric effects, should now engage his earnest attention.[1]
The difficulty was how to achieve this as the contrast between the sky and the earth meant that the photographer could get the right exposure for only one of them and thus there are few clouds in early photographs.[2]
 
The albumen prints prepared around 1857 by Gustave Le Gray[3] show the seascapes and clouds with discernible features in both - a remarkable achievement for the 1850s. An examination of the clouds shows that these photographs are combination prints as the same glass negative of the sky[4] has been used in each.[5] By the use of multiple glass plate negatives Le Gray was able to achieve the harmonious balance that Thomas Sutton was seeking. 
  
752.03   Nature >  George N. Barnard: Rebel Works in front of Atlanta 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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An examination of the skyline and the edges of the tree branches in the photograph Rebel Works in front of Atlanta, No. 1 by American Civil War (1861-1865) photographer George N. Barnard[6] shows that this is a composite made from multiple distinct negatives
  
752.04   Nature >  Charles Marville: Vue du ciel de Paris, de la fenetre de l'artiste 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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752.05   Nature >  Henry Stuart Wortley: Seascapes with clouds 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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During the 1860s Henry Stuart Wortley (1832-1890)[7] took a number of sea and cloud studies in a similar style to the much admired seascapes of Gustave Le Gray.[8] 
  
752.06   Nature >  Carlo Baldassare Simelli: Cloud studies 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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752.07   Nature >  Alfred Stieglitz: Equivalents 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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From 1922 to around 1935 Alfred Stieglitz took a series of photographs of clouds that he named Equivalents. The photographs were not intended as literal series of meteorological studies but as an examination of states of mind - a study in abstraction. Stieglitz published his thoughts in How I came to Photograph Clouds in Amateur Photographer and Photography in 1923:
Last summer when manuscripts were sent in by the various contributors for the issue of the publication, "M.S.S." devoted to photography, and its aesthetic significance, Waldo Frank—one of America's young literary lights, author of Our America, etc.—wrote that he believed the secret power in my photography was due to the power of hypnotism I had over my sitters, etc.
 
I was amazed when I read the statement. I wondered what he had to say about the street scenes—the trees, interiors—and other subjects, the photographs of which he had admired so much: or whether he felt they too were due to my powers of hypnotism. Certainly a lax statement coming from one professing himself profound and fair thinking, and interested in enlightening.
 
It happened that the same morning in which I read this contribution my brother-in-law (lawyer and musician) out of the clear sky announced to me that he couldn't understand how one as supposedly musical as I could have entirely given up playing the piano. I looked at him and smiled—and I thought: even he does not seem to understand. He plays the violin. The violin takes up no space: the piano does. The piano needs looking after by a professional, etc. I simply couldn't afford a piano, even when I was supposedly rich. It was not merely a question of money.
 
Thirty-five or more years ago I spent a few days in Murren (Switzerland), and I was experimenting with ortho plates. Clouds and their relationship to the rest of the world, and clouds for themselves, interested me, and clouds which were difficult to photograph— nearly impossible. Ever since then clouds have been in my mind, most powerfully at times, and I always knew I'd follow up the experiment made over 35 years ago. I always watched clouds. Studied them. Had unusual opportunities up here on this hillside. What Frank had said annoyed me: what my brother-in-law said also annoyed me. I was in the midst of my summer's photographing, trying to add to my knowledge, to the work I had done. Always evolving—always going more and more deeply into life—into photography.
 
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 answer Mr. Frank and my brother-in-law. I'd finally do something I had in mind for years. I'd make a series of cloud pictures. I told Miss O'Keeffe of my ideas. I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in 40 years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life— to show that my photographs were not due to subject matter—not to special trees, or faces, or interiors, to special privileges—clouds were there for everyone—no tax as yet on them—free.
 
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 had told Miss O'Keeffe 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." Not like Debussy's but much, much more.
 
And when finally I had my series of ten photographs printed, and Bloch saw them—what I said I wanted to happen happened verbatim.
 
Straight photographs, all gaslight paper, except one palladiotype. All in the power of every photographer of all time, and I satisfied I had learnt something during the 40 years. It's 40 years this year that I began in Berlin with Vogel.
 
Now if the cloud series are due to my powers of hypnotism I plead "Guilty." Only some "Pictorial photographers" when they came to the exhibition seemed totally blind to the cloud pictures. My photographs look like photographs—and in their eyes they therefore can't be art. As if they had the slightest idea of art or photography— or any idea of life. My aim is increasingly to make my photographs look as much like photographs that unless one has eyes and sees, they won't be seen—and still everyone will never forget them having once looked at them. I wonder if that is clear.[9]
 
  
752.08   Nature >  Edward Weston: Clouds 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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The photographs of Edward Weston[10] were undergoing a stylistic shift as he moved from California to Mexico. He was breaking with his wife and some of his children for a new life away from the confines of a struggling photographic studio. On 4th August 1923 he arrived in Mexico at the port of Mazatlan with Tina Modotti[11] and his son Chandler[12] and two days later Edward Weston wrote in his daybooks:
A quite marvellous cloud form tempted me - a sunlit cloud which rose from the bay to become a towering white column.[13]
His time in Mexico was a period of rethinking photography for Edward Weston as he was moving away from the soft focus style closely linked to the studio portraiture of Pictorialism to the harder edges and angular designs of Modernism. The break was not immediate and there are photographs from his pre-Mexico period that show the changes in his visual understanding a shift and there are photographs taken in Mexico that retain elements of Pictorialism. With the "Cloud series"[14] that he took in Mexico there is a mental shift taking place that is seeking almost a spiritual foundation in the temporary forms of nature.
 
On the 12 December 1924 Edward Weston wrote of an ominous dream::
A dream I had of the night just passed: someone: someone, and to my regret I cannoy recall who, perhaps Tina or Chandler - came running to me and called, "Come quick. - There are the most wonderful cloud forms for you to photograph." I hurried, regulating my Graflex as I went. But once out of doors I was terrified, for black ominous clouds bore down on me, enveloping me: I seemed about to be overwelmed, I dropped my head into my arms to protect myself from the sweeping forms and slammed the door to keep them from me.[15]
This was not the "towering white cloud" of Mazatlan that he had had such difficulty in printing. Here we get a sense, rather like Alfred Stieglitz and his Equivalents taken at around the same time, that a clouds is not only a meterological phenomena - they are analogies for states of mind. As Edward Weston wrote:
Next to the recording of a fugitive expression, or revealing the pathology of some human being, is there anything more elusive to capture than cloud forms! And the Mexican clouds are so swift and ephemeral, one can hardly allow the thought, "Is this worth doing?" or, "Is this placed well?" - for an instant of delay and what was, is not![16]
Edward Weston would continue to photograph clouds through his career. 
  
752.09   Nature >  Mitch Dobrowner: Storms 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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In an artist's statement from January 2011 Mitch Dobrowner[17] described his Storms series:
The images produced in this series represent the beginning of a new project that started as an experiment in the summer of 2009.
 
Growing up on Long Island, NY I've always loved being caught in thunderstorms. Since childhood the memories have been seared into my brain. Now fast forward to today – and while photographing the landscapes of the Southwest I’ve always gone out in the nastiest, most unstable weather possible. Thus I decided my next move was to locate the most severe weather I could. This brought me to Tornado Alley and the Great Plains of the USA.
 
The Trips
 
The trips to the Great Plains are an adventure unto itself. As I write this I sit in Tucson Arizona preparing go out on my 4th trek….. chasing after monsoon thunder/lightning storms. In each of the last 3 trips we have traveled 5600, 4800 and last month 6100 miles (over 16,000 miles in total) – seeing over 14 states. Besides the great storms I’ve had the honor of seeing the midwest and central states - whose small, tight knit communities make up a majority of the United States. But that’s another story (and maybe another project).
 
The Storms
 
The first time I witnessed a structured supercell thunderstorm was June 12th, 2009. What I saw would give me a fresh prospective on the power of Mother Nature and how small and insignificant we really are.
 
One memory is of June 13th, 2009 in Valentine, Nebraska: I was standing in a wheat field with wind gusts eclipsing 50mph, witnessing lightning strikes every few seconds, hearing the rumble of hail – all while standing in front of a 60,000 foot high mesocyclone. I could not believe what I was seeing; it was unlike anything I’ve even see before in my life.
 
It was also then that I realized that these storms are living, breathing things. They are born everyday, they fight against their environment to stay alive, change their form as they age, they lose their strength – and eventually they die. Standing in front of one of these phenomena of nature is an adventure into the extreme. For me, I’ve had the honor to witness Nature in her beauty (illustrated in landscapes) but these storms (besides being beautiful) represent Mother Nature in a fluid, ever-changing manner. Seeing Nature in this manner is an extremely personal level experience as it has helped move my relationship with nature and our planet to a newer level.
 
The hope is that the images presented communicate how I feel while standing in front of these amazing forces of nature.
 
  
   Mitch  Dobrowner 
View exhibition 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ Thomas Sutton, 1858, A Dictionary of Photography, (S. Low, Son, and Company), p. 11 
      
  2. Λ There are examples of photographs of clouds by Charles Marville, Carlo Baldassare Simelli and Henry Stuart Wortley taken in the 1850s and 1860s but in most the earth is a dark form with little detail. An exception to this is Henry Stuart Wortley's photograph Evening taken in around 1869 which has detail throughout the image. If you have any details on how this was achieved I'd be most interested - alan@luminous-lint.com 
      
  3. Λ For Gustave Le Gray - Eugenia Parry Janis, 1987, The Photography of Gustave Le Gray, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago Press); Sylvie Aubenas et al., 2002, Gustave Le Gray, 1820-1884, (Paris, BnF / Gallimard) [Exhibition, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 19 March - 16 June 2002]; Aubenas, Sylvie et al., 2002, Gustave Le Gray, 1820–1884, (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) 
      
  4. Λ Note the oddly shaped cloud that looks like North America in each of the photographs. 
      
  5. Λ A surviving print Étude de nuages (ca. 1856-1857) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) with cloud detail but little detail for the sea and land provides the clue as to how the effect was achieved.
     
    Gustave Le Gray, Étude de nuages, 1856-1857, Albumen silver print, from glass negatives, 32 x 41.8 cm (12 5/8 x 16 7/16 ins) (image), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2013, Accession Number: 2013.159.39 
      
  6. Λ For the photographic work of George N. Barnard during the American Civil War - George N. Barnard, 1866 (ca), Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign, Embracing Scenes of the Occupation of Nashville, the Great Battles around Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, the Campaign of Atlanta, March to the Sea, and the Great Raid through the Carolinas, (New York: Press of Wynkoop & Hallenbeck); George N. Barnard, 1977, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, (New York: Dover Publications) [Preface by Beaumont Newhall]; Keith F. Davis, Keith (ed.), 1990, George N. Barnard: Photographer of Sherman’s Campaign, (Kansas City, MO: Hallmark Cards) 
      
  7. Λ Katherine DiGiulio & Henry Stuart Wortley, 1994, Natural Variations: Photographs by Colonel Stuart Wortley, (Huntington Library Press), Exhibition catalogue 
      
  8. Λ For Gustave Le Gray - Eugenia Parry Janis, 1987, The Photography of Gustave Le Gray, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago Press); Sylvie Aubenas et al., 2002, Gustave Le Gray, 1820-1884, (Paris, BnF / Gallimard) [Exhibition, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 19 March - 16 June 2002]; Aubenas, Sylvie et al., 2002, Gustave Le Gray, 1820–1884, (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) 
      
  9. Λ Alfred Stieglitz, 1923, "How I came to Photograph Clouds", Amateur Photographer and Photography, vol. 56, no. 1819, pp. 255.
    I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in 40 years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life— to show that my photographs were not due to subject matter—not to special trees, or faces, or interiors, to special privileges—clouds were there for everyone—no tax as yet on them—free.
     
      
  10. Λ Charis Wilson & Edward Weston, 1940, California and the West, (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce); Edward Weston, 1947, Fifty Photographs, (New York: Duell Sloan & Pearce Publishers); Edward Weston, 1950, My Camera on Point Lobos, (Yosemite National Park, CA: Virginia Adams; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.); Edward Weston & Brett Weston, 2003, Dune, (Wild Horse Island Press)
     
    To better understand the thinking of Edward Weston his Daybooks are the best source - Nancy Newhall (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 1, Mexico, (Millerton, NY: Aperture); Nancy Newhall, (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 2, California, (Millerton, NY: Aperture). The immortality of any photographer is strongly linked to having a good editor and a biographer - Nancy Newhall had that ability. 
      
  11. Λ Leonard Folgarait, 2008, Seeing Mexico Photographed: The Work of Horne, Casasola, Modotti, and Alvarez Bravo, (Yale University Press) 
      
  12. Λ Edward Chandler Weston (1910–1993) 
      
  13. Λ Nancy Newhall (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 1, Mexico, (Millerton, NY: Aperture), p. 14, August 6, 1923 
      
  14. Λ Edward Weston, "Cloud, Mexico", 1926, Palladium print, 14.9 x 24 cm (5 7/8 x 9 7/16 in), J. Paul Getty Museum Object number: 84.XM.229.24, © 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography 
      
  15. Λ Nancy Newhall (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 1, Mexico, (Millerton, NY: Aperture), p. 109, December 12, 1924 
      
  16. Λ Nancy Newhall (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 1, Mexico, (Millerton, NY: Aperture) quoted in Brett Abbott, 2005, In Focus: Edward Weston: Photographs From the J. Paul Getty Museum, (J. Paul Getty Museum), p. 48 
      
  17. Λ Mitch Dobrowner - Personal website
    (Accessed: 12 November 2013)
    www.mitchdobrowner.com 
      

alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  

HomeContents > Further research

 
  
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
  
William Eggleston 
  
Eggleston, William, 2014, At Zenith, (Steidl) isbn-10: 3869307102 isbn-13: 978-3869307107 [Δ
  
Alfred Stieglitz 
  
Steiglitz, Alfred, 1923, ‘How I Came to Photograph Clouds‘, The Amateur Photographer & Photography, vol. 56, no. 1819, p. 255 [Δ
  
Henry Stuart Wortley 
  
DiGiulio, Katherine & Wortley, Henry Stuart, 1994, Natural Variations: Photographs by Colonel Stuart Wortley, (Huntington Library Press) isbn-10: 0873281489 isbn-13: 9780873281485 [Δ
  
 
  
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com 
  

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

 
Mitch Dobrowner  (1957-) • Gustave Le Gray  (1820-1884) • Charles Marville  (1813-1879) • Carlo Baldassare Simelli  (1811-1877) • Alfred Stieglitz  (1864-1946) • Edward Weston  (1886-1958) • Henry Stuart Wortley  (1832-1890)
HomeThemesNatureWeather > Clouds 
 
A wider gazeRelated topics 
  
Equivalents, similes and visual metaphors 
 
  

HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Clouds

Please submit suggestions for Online Exhibitions that will enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
ThumbnailMitch Dobrowner - Storms 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (January 8, 2011)
 
  

HomeVisual indexes > Clouds

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
   Photographer 
  
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Equivalents 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailCharles Marville: Vue du ciel de Paris, de la fenêtre de l'artiste 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEdward Weston: Clouds 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailGustave Le Gray: Different photographs with the same clouds 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHenry Stuart Wortley: Seascapes and clouds 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailMitch Dobrowner: Storms 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
 
  
   Connections 
  
ThumbnailGustave Le Gray - Henry Stuart Wortley - Dmitry Ermakov - Fred Judge 
 
 
  
   Themes 
  
ThumbnailWeather: Clouds 
 
 
  
Refreshed: 17 September 2014, 13:32
 
  
 
  
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