A Fascination with Clouds

For the longest time, I’ve been fascinated by clouds and some of the best clouds are in Seattle. There is just something about that city which brings out the best clouds. The only place I’ve ever seen with better clouds is Santa Fe, New Mexico. What is it about clouds? I don’t know…there’s something magical and awe inspiring about watching a storm develop. I could sit for hours and watch storm clouds brewing in the heat of summer. When the clouds turn dark and the lightning starts, you know your place in the world very quickly.

This image is in Seattle, just outside the MoPOP (formerly Experience Music Project Museum) at Seattle Center (a must for music lovers when visiting Seattle).

Experience Music Project Art Sculpture and Clouds

This image is from a boat on Lake Union in Seattle. The cloud simply dwarfs the skyline of Seattle.

Clouds over Lake Union, Seattle

I remember presenting a report about the life of photographer Alfred Stieglitz in college and recalled a story about how he spent months photographing clouds every day. This is an excerpt from an inductee statement for the International Photography Hall of Fame.

Searching for another way in which to make a personal, artistic statement with his camera, Stieglitz looked to the sky. In the early 1920s he made some of his first images of clouds. However, by using the palladium process, the resulting images were extremely bright, and one was unable to differentiate between the sky and the clouds.

Driven by challenge, Stieglitz began to experiment with some of the newly introduced emulsions and silver gelatin paper. With this paper, combined with the straight photographic practices inspired by Paul Strand, success found Stieglitz once again and by 1924 he had an artistic series he called Equivalents.

I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in forty years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life to show that the success of my photographs was not due to subject matter.not to special trees, or faces, or interiors, to special privileges, clouds were there for everyone. Paul Strand inspired the characteristics of most of this series, some of his 1920s work, and most of Stieglitz’s later work.

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  1. Erio

    The Equivalents series is just amazing. When I was back in Chicago, I had the chance to see quite a few of the original prints. The simplicity of what clouds are to us, forever living beneath them, the prints that Stieglitz created still have left impressions on my brain.

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