Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents: Landscape in the Aviation Age
by Russo, Carolyn, M.A., American University, 2020, 67; 27828606
Abstract (Summary)

Between the years 1922 and 1935, American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) photographed over 300 images of clouds from his family’s property at Lake George in upstate New York. About an hour’s drive north of Albany, Lake George experienced highly changeable weather systems and, so, was a fitting site for this extensive series, known as the Equivalents. This thesis focuses on Set XX (1929), a sequence of nine photographs. Whereas a few sets include poplar trees or an indication of the ground, this set focuses almost exclusively on the sky. The clouds themselves are unnaturally angled to the un-pictured horizon and—from photograph to photograph––they shift diagonally on their vertical axis. Scholars consider the Equivalents Stieglitz’s most important late work and have read the images either symbolically or formally, but they have not considered the specific understanding of clouds in the early twentieth-century America. Reading Set XX in relation to developments in meteorology and aviation in the 1920s, this thesis argues that the photographs represent the experience of flight. Throughout his career, Stieglitz worked to champion photography as art, and ironically, drawing upon science enabled him to rival the aesthetic of landscape painting. Whereas nineteenth-century landscape paintings prioritized the horizon line and pictured their subject from a terrestrial perspective, Stieglitz used aeronautic thinking to picture humanity’s ascension into the sky. By invoking and reimagining the genre of landscape, Stieglitz posited photography as equivalent or perhaps even superior to painting.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Elder, Nicole
Commitee: Amirkhani, Jordan, Pearson, Andrea, Allen, Joanne, Bellow, Juliet
School: American University
Department: Art
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 81/11(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, Art Criticism, Meteorology
Keywords: Stieglitz, Alfred , Clouds, Equivalents, Flight, Landscape, Photography
Publication Number: 27828606
ISBN: 9798643174875
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