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Liberating Lens
Alfred Stieglitz
Equivalent, 1925, printed 1927. Gelatin silver print. 4 3/4 in. x 3 3/4 in. Collection SFMOMA, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Gift of Georgia O’Keeffe.
The Liberating Lens is a multimedia project inviting students to learn about Jewish photographers by conducting research, taking photos and contributing to an online multimedia exhibition, as artists, interpreters and curators.

No overview of Jewish photographers could begin without an exploration of the work of Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Throughout his career as an artist and promoter, he sought to liberate American photography from European traditions of pictorial art.


Submit a Photo
Take inspiration from Alfred Stieglitz’s photos of clouds and submit a photo of your own, or inspire your class to submit their own images.
Participate in The Liberating Lens
Who Was Alfred Stieglitz?
Pioneering Jewish American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), transformed photography into modernist art. His gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City and his journal, Camera Work (1902-1917), introduced Americans to new ways of seeing. In 1921 Stieglitz defined himself: “I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my Passion. The Search for Truth is my Obsession.” Stieglitz did not mention that he was a Jew because everyone knew it. Being Jewish pushed him to the margins of society and photography freed him to innovate, to shape his personal identity, and create his own artistic community. “No two moments are alike,” he said. So he photographed clouds as “equivalents” of his “most profound life experience.”

—Deborah Dash Moore,
Director, Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan
How I Came to
Photograph Clouds
by Alfred Stieglitz
I was in the midst of my summer’s photographing…

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… 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… the world in a great mess…

So, I made up my mind… to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in 40 years about photography…

—Excerpted from The Amateur Photographer & Photography, Vol. 56, No. 1819, p. 255, 1923
On Seeing Pictures
“I have found that the use of clouds in my photographs has made people less aware of clouds as clouds in the pictures than when I have portrayed trees or houses or wood or any other objects. In looking at my photographs of clouds, people seem freer to think about the relationships in the pictures than about the subject-matter for its own sake. What I have been trying to say through my photographs is communicated with greatest clarity in the series of Songs of the Sky. The true meaning of the Equivalents comes through without any extraneous pictorial factors intervening between those who look at the pictures and the pictures themselves.”

—Alfred Stieglitz in Dorothy Norman’s An American Seer, Aperture, 1990