Thursday, 28 February 2013


I didn't go there deliberately as I started not to like the "old" photography and I consider the 60's and 70's old...  However Silke mentioned this show to me, and I felt I missed something.  Sometimes photography, I mean old photography can have lots of revelations.  One of my first projects was on mannequin, and I happened to see one of the magazine in 50's  David Campany showed in one class, there was the same project there, though the concept behind might not be the same...  I decided not to miss any major photography show from now on.  I did the same 3 years ago actually, but missed this one... I will buy the catalogue instead.

from The Observer

This major photography exhibition surveys the medium from an international perspective, and includes renowned photographers from across the globe, all working during two of the most memorable decades of the 20th century. Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s brings together over 400 works, some rarely seen, others recently discovered and many shown in the UK for the first time.

It features 12 key figures including Bruce Davidson, William Eggleston, David Goldblatt, Graciela Iturbide, Boris Mikhailov, Sigmar Polke, Malick Sidibé, Shomei Tomatsu, and Li Zhensheng as well as important innovators whose lives were cut tragically short such as Ernest Cole, Raghubir Singh and Larry Burrows.

The world changed dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s. From the Cultural Revolution to the Cold War; from America’s colonialist misadventure in Vietnam to the indelible values of the civil rights movement; this was the defining period of the modern age. It also coincided with a golden age in photography: the moment when the medium flowered as a modern art form.

Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s presents some of the most inspiring voices in 20th century photography, in order to reflect on the world then – and now.  

Saturday, 23 February 2013


After conceptual slowly burgeoning inside me a couple of years ago, organically, I started to feel many things around me.  Cinema is a visually rich world and every time I go to cinema there is something there.  There is a cinematic space inside me.  I project my desire, fantasy, memory, love, hope, courage, future and myself onto the screen.  Cloud Atlas is one of the few mainstreams I watched and liked.  It specially talked to me and enough me to go ahead with the bold idea - to connect my three strands. Nearly no one in the crit is persuaded of the idea to edit the three stands in one book, but I think I will make a go.  Yes, there is an atlas in cloud, and everything is connected.

Some quote, though corny. I need them sometimes to sharpen my courage and mind a little.

Robert Frobisher: Sixsmith. I climb the steps of the Scot monument every morning and all becomes clear. Wish I could make you see this brightness. Don't worry, all is well. All is so perfectly, damnably well. I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


So we had the major presentation.  It is a wrap up but at the same time a starting point.  With comments from everyone, more questions and confusions are raised.  A new phase of pressure kicks in especially when I have to finalise in the next 2 months time.  Format, Edit, Image, Presentation, etc etc.  I need another round of plan to set off.  Quite interesting to see such a variety of different projects around.  Miles's In Search for Stillness is quite interesting to me.  Peter's house building was done in a very beautiful way.  Sarah's Learning to Fly has a poetic space.  Will's video is very inner-reflective... Silke gave me a few references, Willie Doherty, Hamish Fulton, John Kippin, Roni Horn, which I will check thoroughly.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


I feel messy in mind.  Literally at the same time, I am doing practice research together with the three projects.  Most of the times, you dig out something, you need to rest and let the things you dug to organically develop in the mind.  However in my “epic trilogy” development, I took three genre, social landscape, social portraiture, skyscape getting the most material to expand my horizon and engage more.  The process is messy. I think of this project and engage and then forget another, then when I pick up another, I forgets this, each time, the journey starts all over again.  Therefore, I stay at the superficial level all the times, it seems.  I sometimes can not develop vertically, as I easily feel bored, so I tried to expand the scope laterally.  This might be the personality problem for me, of course there is always a bright side.  But, I really wish I could do things in a profound way.  Maybe to scatter my energy and time to challenge to take 3 projects is fundamentally wrong at the beginning.  I need some structure now to re-organise my time and engagement.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Born in Ikeda, Osaka, Daidō Moriyama studied photography under Takeji Iwamiya before moving to Tokyo in 1961 to work as an assistant to Eikoh Hosoe. He produced a collection of photographs, Nippon gekijō shashinchō, which showed the darker sides of urban life and the less-seen parts of cities. In them, he attempted to show how life in certain areas was being left behind the other industrialised parts. Though not exclusively, Moriyama predominantly takes high contrast, grainy, black and white photographs within the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, often shot from odd angles.  Moriyama’s photography has been influenced by Seiryū Inoue, Shōmei Tōmatsu, William Klein, Andy Warhol, Eikoh Hosoe, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Moriyama has written a memoir titled Memories of a Dog. 
In 1999, fellow photographer Leo Rubinfien wrote an exhaustive essay on Moriyama’s work for the Art in America magazine. What’s especially interesting about this essay is that it provides us with a good explanation of the symbolic of the “stray dog” both for postwar Japanese culture and for Daido Moriyama:
Since the Second World War, the image of the stray dog has wandered into Japan’s best art often enough to have us ask what, in that famously rule-bound, rank-conscious land, such a pariah might mean. As nearly as I can tell, its earliest appearance was in Akira Kurosawa’s 1949 film Stray Dog, where it was not a character but the metaphorical name for a young, murderous pickpocket, demobilized from the Emperor’s army into the bomb-blasted city with no home to return to. At the start of the chase, the stern senior detective warns that such mined men am stray dogs, to be put down before they turn into mad dogs, but his despondent acolyte pleads for compassion, recalling that in the chaos of 1945 he might easily have become such a dog himself. The stray is there again in Susumu Hani’s exquisite She and He (1960), this time as the companion of a pathetic ragpicker who is one of the two principals of the story. The dog is pretty much this outcast’s alter ego, and when at the film’s denouement it is hideously tortured by the children of a cell-block town of materialistic salary-men, the man suffers equally, and we with him. [...]
For Moriyama to identify himself with these beasts is remarkable. The West maintains a pantheon of alienated heroes, and in its romantic modernist tradition, the bohemian, rebel, tramp or hollow-hearted etranger have been thought bearers of authenticity and moral legitimacy. But in Japan an outsider is truly an outsider. The hero-outcasts of its premodern folklore, the dispossessed lord Yoshitsune, for example, or the 47 vengeful ronin, are not so much opponents of society as plaintiffs for a justice that society has refused but could easily give. The true renegade–with no home village, no pedigree, no uncles or cousins to protect him, no company, guild, obligations, diploma or calling card–is suspicious even to the most free-thinking Japanese. In the less liberal he provokes revulsion and anger. (“Daido Moriyama: Investigations of a Dog” by Leo Rubinfien, originally published in Art in America, October, 1999)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


From The Sky Book’s publisher:


Richard Misrach has redefined contemporary landscape photography with his images of the splendor and destruction of the American West. Each of his "cantos" considers another chapter in the epic story of humankind and the land. Far from the Edenic pristine landscapes of early practitioners such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and Ansel Adams, Misrach's compelling and often troubling images of the American West pose important questions about human impact on the natural world. Beneath the remarkable beauty of Misrach's color photographs are scenes of floods, fires, nuclear testing grounds, dead animals, and the debris of society.

The photographs in The Sky Book comprise Richard Misrach's most recent, most ambitious series, which transposes his narrative from the land to the sky. The images mediate between document and abstraction, reality and metaphor. Drawing on photography's documentary tradition, Misrach contextualizes each photograph with respect to time and place, rooting the celestial realm firmly in the earthly and political one. In this way, his images are reminiscent of the efforts of nineteenth-century expeditionary photographers to record the natural resources of the frontier. At the same time, Misrach's sky pictures are a quiet meditation and a study of ephemerality, light, and color. They evoke a legacy of abstraction in art and photography that includes Alfred Stieglitz's "Equivalents" and Mark Rothko's color field paintings.


However, sometimes, I kinda feel writers just make hype out of something.  Photography is a kind of thing, you can say there is nothing in it but form, and on the other hand, you can elaborate there is everything embedded there, be it natural, cultural, social, political, whatever...

There are so many beautiful books I want to have, but seems the books I like mostly sold out with super high prices...This book now costs 200 pounds on Amazon!

Monday, 4 February 2013


A lot of people are intrigued by the sky, stars, planet.  Wolfang Tillmans remembers his fascination of planet in youth and combines his practice with his dreams.  Below is his comments in Guardian 2004.

A "transit of Venus" happens when the sun, Venus and Earth are in perfect alignment. From Earth, you can observe a small black disc – Venus – slowly wandering over the sun over the course of several hours. This happens in a pattern that repeats every 243 years: there's a gap of 122 years, then a pair of transits spaced eight years apart, then a gap of 105 years, then another pair. On 8 June 2004 the most recent transit happened – the first time any human being then alive could have seen it. In the 18th and 19th century the phenomenon had huge importance. Scientists would time the passage of Venus from several vantage points on Earth. It was the only way to establish our own exact position in relation to the sun, and hence the universe around us.

Observing the 2004 transit through my telescope, which I still have from my astronomy-obsessed teenage days, had no scientific value, but it was moving to see the mechanics of the sky. To see a planet actually move in front of another gave me a visual sense of my location in space. Occasionally, I exchanged the eyepiece of the telescope with a camera adaptor for my 35mm SLR. To make it safe, the light of the sun has to be reduced so much that the exposure time is a quarter of a second. Given the high magnification of the telescope it is difficult to avoid shakes. In all, I managed to take seven good pictures. The pink tint is the colour of the mylar filter I used.

In those years I was mostly involving myself with abstract pictures I made purely with light on photo paper in the darkroom. Those pictures are often soft in feel while the Venus Transit pictures are hard-edged, but equally they seem somehow abstract, when in fact they are totally representational, depicting the celestial body that is the source of light on Earth. I have often shown them with the abstract works. They highlight the fact that all photographs are made, never just taken. They are colour on paper and at the same time evoke a sense of reality no other medium can achieve.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Every Ruff’s project is epic.  I still remember my “wow” in his exhibition at Gagosian last year.

These first series were followed in 1989 by images of the night sky, Sterne, which were not based on photographs by Ruff, but rather on archived images ('Catalogue of the Southern Sky', including 600 negatives) he had acquired of the European Southern Observatory in the Andes in Chile. These photographs of the stars, taken with a specially designed telescopic lens, are described and catalogued with the precise time of day and exact geographic position. From these photographs, Thomas Ruff selected specific details which he then enlarged to a uniform grand scale....


Saturday, 2 February 2013


Images of the sky shot during a temporary 3 day ceasefire by the IRA. They stand as an abstract representation of a political stance. I found I really talk well with Paul Graham’s works, from his early classical documentary projects such as A1 to his current “new” documentary style such as Shimmer of Possibility.  

Paul Graham locates the sites from which he took his skyscapes: Andersonstown, Belfast; Ballymurphy, Belfast; Newry; ShankhilI, Belfast; Bogside, Derry and so on. Graham also informs us that they were all taken during the ceasefire in April1994. Anchored in time and place, these images are less free-floating. Without text these would be nothing but blank sheets, sites for contemplation. Captioned, they carry a metaphorical weight. These skies are readable as metaphor for the political condition in Ireland. The rather uncertain condition of the weather in April, becomes, in literal fashion, an objective correlative of the uncertainty of lreland’s political climate.

Sky to me is always full of enigma, of course including the stars, the clouds...  I am searching the best form to create a metaphor for the Zeitgeist of current China, or even the past and the future.

Friday, 1 February 2013


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946), Equivalent, 1925, Gelatin silver print, 9.3 x 11.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1928, (28.128.8)

Talking about metaphor and sky, which I am extremely intrigued, the first one and the most important one is Equivalent by Stieglitz, especially it happened 90 years ago when the medium was not mature to be an expressive way in art making.  Lots of texts introducing and reviewing it.  I adapted Wickipedia and Manor White’s essay below.

Stieglitz took at least 220 photographs that he called Equivalent or Equivalents; all feature clouds in the sky. The majority of them show only the sky without any horizon, buildings or other objects in the frame, but a small number do include hills or trees. One series from 1927 prominently features poplar trees in the foreground.
Almost all of the photographs are printed very darkly so the sky often appears black or nearly black. The contrast between the sky and the much lighter clouds is striking in all but a few of the prints. Some images include the sun either as a distinct element in the photograph or as an illuminating force behind the clouds.
The multiple series Stieglitz called Equivalents combined two very important aspects of his photography: the technical and the aesthetic. He was a master at both, but with Equivalents he succeeded in bringing his skills to a new level. On the technical side, Stieglitz had been fascinated by the special problems of photographing clouds ever since the summer of 1887, when he took his first pictures of clouds over Lake Como in Italy. Until the 1920s most photographic emulsions were orthochromatic, which meant they were primarily sensitive to light on the blue end of the spectrum. This made photographing clouds particularly difficult because unless special filters were used the sky would appear very light and the clouds would be lost against it. Over the years Stieglitz repeatedly took photographs of clouds using orthochromatic emulsions, but he reported "Every time I developed [a cloud negative] I was so wrought up, always believing I had nearly gotten what I was after – but had failed."

In 1922 Stieglitz read a commentary about his photography by Waldo Frank that suggested the strength of his imagery was in the power of the individuals he photographed. Stieglitz was outraged, believing Frank had at best ignored his many photographs of buildings and street scenes, and at worst had accused him of being a simple recorder of what appeared in front of him. He resolved immediately to begin a new series of cloud studies "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…" He said "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 –…My aim is increasingly to make my photographs look so 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."

Coincidentally at this same time a new panchromatic photographic emulsion was developed that allowed the full range of colors to be captured. Soon after it became available Stieglitz aimed his 8" x 10" view camera at the sky and began taking pictures. By the next year he had created a series of ten mounted photographs he called Music: A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs (also called Clouds in Ten Movements). He told his wife Georgia O'Keeffe "I wanted a series that 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…" He first exhibited this series in 1923 in his one-man show at the Anderson Galleries in New York, and reported that when Bloch saw them there he had exactly the reaction Stieglitz had wanted.

Encouraged by the success of the Music series he took his smaller 4" x 5" Graflex camera and shot dozens of pictures of the sky in the summer of 1923. He arranged many of these photographs into distinct series he called Songs of the Sky. In late 1924 he exhibited sixty-one of his cloud photos in a single room at the Anderson Galleries. In the catalog to the exhibition he wrote "Songs of the Sky – Secrets of the Skies as revealed by my Camera are tiny photographs, direct revelations of a man's world in the sky – documents of eternal relationship – perhaps even a philosophy." After seeing the exhibition, Ananda Coomaraswamy, who was then curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, persuaded Stieglitz to donate some of his photographs, including five from Songs of the Sky, to the museum. This was the first time a major museum in the U.S. acquired photographs as part of its permanent collection.

Stieglitz continued photographing clouds and skies for most of the next decade. In 1925 he began referring to these photographs as Equivalents, a name he used for all such photographs taken from that year forward. In 1929 he renamed some of the original Songs of the Sky as Equivalents, and these prints are still known by both names today.

Stieglitz certainly knew what he had achieved in these pictures. Writing about his Equivalents to Hart Crane, he declared: "I know exactly what I have photographed. I know I have done something that has never been done…I also know that there is more of the really abstract in some 'representation' than in most of the dead representations of the so-called abstract so fashionable now."

The Equivalents are generally recognized as the first intentionally abstract photographs. It is difficult to look at them today and understand the impact that they had at the time. When they first appeared photography had been generally recognized as a distinct art form for no more than fifteen years, and until Stieglitz introduced his cloud photos there was no tradition of photographing something that was not recognizable in both form and content. Art critic Hilton Kramer said that Equivalents "undoubtedly owe something to the American modernist painting (Dove's and O'Keeffe's especially) that Stieglitz felt particularly close to at the time. Yet they go distinctly beyond the pictorial conventions that governed avant-garde painting in this period by reaching for the kind of lyric abstraction that was not to enter American painting until the 40's and 50's. In the line that can be traced from the paintings of Albert Pinkham Ryder to, say, those of Clyfford Still, it is in Stieglitz's Equivalents – rather than in painting itself – that we find the strongest link."

One of the reasons that the strongest of these photographs appear so abstract is that they are void of any reference points. Stieglitz was not concerned with a particular orientation for many of these prints, and he was known to exhibit them sideways or upside down from how he originally mounted them. Photography historian Sarah Greenough points out that by doing so Stieglitz "was destabilizing your [the viewer's] relationship with nature in order to have you think less about nature, not to deny that it's a photograph of a cloud, but to think more about the feeling that the cloud formation evokes."She further says:

    "The Equivalents are photographs of shapes that have ceded their identity, in which Stieglitz obliterated all references to reality normally found in a photograph. There is no internal evidence to locate these works either in time or place. They could have been taken anywhere—nothing indicates whether they made in Lake George, New York City, Venice, or the Alps—and, except for the modern look of the gelatin silver prints, they could have been made at any time since the invention of photography. And because there is no horizon line in these photographs, it is not even clear which way is 'up' and which way 'down.' Our confusion in determining a 'top' and a 'bottom' to these photographs, and our inability to locate them in either time or place, forces us to read what we know are photographs of clouds as photographs of abstracted forms."

New York Times art critic Andy Grundberg said The Equivalents "remain photography's most radical demonstration of faith in the existence of a reality behind and beyond that offered by the world of appearances. They are intended to function evocatively, like music, and they express a desire to leave behind the physical world, a desire symbolized by the virtual absence of horizon and scale clues within the frame. Emotion resides solely in form, they assert, not in the specifics of time and place."

Photographer Ansel Adams said Stieglitz's work had a profound influence on him. In 1948 he claimed his first "intense experience in photography" was seeing many of the "Equivalents" (probably for the first time in 1933, when they met).

Equivalence: The Perennial Trend
Minor White, PSA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963

When we speak of trends, we concern ourselves with changes, with shifts in style from here to there and back again. Trends are peripheral, yet we can lose ourselves in too blind a concern for them. Central to the changes is something else. If we have to give a name to this centrality, and I guess we do, one name is "Spirit." Every fashion, every trend, every style may function as a gateway to the central significance of the aesthetic experience if the individual persists. That is, though we follow trends or get on bandwagons we can always get off and head towards the eternal significance, Spirit. At best styles and trends and fashions are but clothes for the raison d'etre of any art. At the worst, fashions, styles and trends function as traps for the unwary. I will treat here of a tradition, a concept and a discipline, namely the concept or theory called "Equivalence," by which any style, fashion or trend may be worked through to something beyond the conformism of competition.
Probably the most mature idea ever presented to picture-making photography was the concept of Equivalence which Alfred Stieglitz named early in the 1920's and practiced the rest of his life. The idea has been continued by a few others, notably at the Institute of Design in Chicago under Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, and at the former California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco under the efforts of the present author. As a consequence the theory is in practice now by an ever increasing number of devoted and serious photographers, both amateurs and professionals. The concept and discipline of Equivalence in practice is simply the backbone and core of photography as a medium of expression-creation.
Equivalence is a pregnant discipline. Hence the photography that grows out of its practice is bound to develop and change with the photographers and writers on photographic criticism who become mature enough to understand the nature of the theory or approach. The Equivalent is one of those ideas that in practice grows by the efforts and accomplishments of the people who explore it.
To outline this theory (we hardly have space to discuss it), we will refer to "levels" of Equivalence. The term covers too much ground for a linear definition. At one level, the graphic level, the word "Equivalence" pertains to the photograph itself, the visible foundations of any potential visual experience with the photograph itself. Oddly enough, this does not mean that a photograph which functions as an Equivalent has a certain appearance, or style, or trend, or fashion. Equivalence is a function, an experience, not a thing. Any photograph, regardless of source, might function as an Equivalent to someone, sometime, someplace. If the individual viewer realizes that for him what he sees in a picture corresponds to something within himself—that is, the photograph mirrors something in himself—then his experience is some degree of Equivalence. (At least such is a small part of our present definition.)
While we are reluctant to disappoint the reader by not giving some rules or signposts by which one can spot an Equivalent twenty feet away, we would rather be true to the facts of the situation than distort them. So at this graphic level of Equivalence no specifications will be listed.
At the next level the word "Equivalence" relates to what goes on in the viewer's mind as he looks at a photograph that arouses in him a special sense of correspondence to something that he knows about himself. At a third level the word "Equivalence" refers to the inner experience a person has while he is remembering his mental image after the photograph in question is not in sight. The remembered image also pertains to Equivalence only when a certain feeling of correspondence is present. We remember images that we want to remember. The reason why we want to remember an image varies: because we simply "love it," or dislike it so intensely that it becomes compulsive, or because it has made us realize something about ourselves, or has brought about some slight change in us. Perhaps the reader can recall some image, after the seeing of which, he has never been quite the same.
Let us return for a moment to the graphic level of the photographic equivalent. While we cannot describe its appearance, we can define its function. When any photograph functions for a given person as an Equivalent we can say that at that moment and for that person the photograph acts as a symbol or plays the role of a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject photographed. We can say this in another way; when a photograph functions as an Equivalent, the photograph is at once a record of something in front of the camera and simultaneously a spontaneous symbol. (A "spontaneous symbol" is one which develops automatically to fill the need of the moment. A photograph of the bark of a tree, for example, may suddenly touch off a corresponding feeling of roughness of character within an individual.)
When a photographer presents us with what to him is an Equivalent, he is telling us in effect, "I had a feeling about something and here is my metaphor of that feeling." The significant difference here is that what he had a feeling about was not for the subject he photographed, but for something else. He may show us a picture of a cloud, the forms of which expressively correspond to his feelings about a certain person. As he saw the clouds he was somehow reminded of the person, and probably he hopes that we will catch, in the expressive quality of the cloud forms, the same feeling that he experienced. If we do and our feelings are similar to his, he has aroused in us what was to him a known feeling. This is not exactly an easy distinction to make so maybe we can repeat. When the photographer shows us what he considers to be an Equivalent, he is showing us an expression of a feeling, but this feeling is not the feeling he had for the object that he photographed. What really happened is that he recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state or place within himself. With constantly metamorphizing material such as water, or clouds or ice, or light on cellophane and similar materials, the infinity of forms and shapes, reflections and colors suggest all sorts and manners of emotions and tactile encounters and intellectual speculations that are supported by and formed by the material but which maintain an independent identity from which the photographer can choose what he wishes to express.
The power of the equivalent, so far as the expressive-creative photographer is concerned, lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed. The secret, the catch and the power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities. Or to say this in another way, in practice Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer's expressive purposes. He may wish to employ the recording power of the medium, it is strong in photography, and document. Or he may wish to emphasize its transforming power, which is equally strong, and cause the subject to stand for something else too. If he uses Equivalency consciously and knowingly, aware of what he is doing, and accepts the responsibility for his images, he has as much freedom of expression as any of the arts.
To be concrete, and leave off theory for a moment, we can return to the photograph of a cloud mentioned above. If we question the photographer, he may tell us that it stands for a certain quality that he finds in a specific woman, namely her femininity. The photograph exhibits softness, delicacy, roundness, fluffiness and so corresponds to at least one feeling or emotion that he has about her. If we ask why he does not photograph the woman herself directly, he may answer that she is hardly photogenic, or that he wishes to establish a certain aesthetic distance between his direct feeling and his outward manifestation of it via the photograph. And this is pleasant—as we allknow, too intimate a photograph of a person frequently gets in the way of the viewer's enjoyment.
This photograph of the cloud at one level is simply a record, but at another level it may function to arouse certain planned sensations and emotions. The factual side properly belongs to the photograph; the arousable implications are possible only when someone is looking at it sympathetically. So another aspect of Equivalency is this: Equivalency, while it depends entirely on the photograph itself for the source of stimulation functions in the mind of a viewer. Equivalency functions on the assumption that the following equation is factual:
Photograph + Person Looking Mental Image
As we can see from the equation, Equivalence is a two-way reaction. Also we can see that only in the mental image held is there any possibility of a metaphorical function occurring.
The mechanisms by which a photograph functions as an Equivalent in a viewer's psyche are the familiar ones which the psychologists call "projection" and "empathy." In the art world the corresponding phenomenon is referred to as "expressive forms and shapes." In the world of photography the vast majority of viewers remain so subject-identification bound that they stay ignorant of the "expressive" qualities of shapes and forms or are unable to overcome their fear of letting themselves go and responding to "expressive" shapes or colors, that is, the design side of the pictorial experience. Yet fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, the contemporary viewer of photographs nearly always responds subconsciously to the design embedded in photographs. This he can hardly help, as the world of advertising exploits constantly and expertly. The reader no doubt has heard of "hidden persuaders." If advertisers can use the subliminal effect of design in photography to help sell a product, a knowledgeable photographer can use the same aspect of design for more enlightened aesthetic purposes.
At a deeper level of Equivalence, the term refers to the specific effect of a photograph intended to function as an Equivalent. So far in this article it would seem that any awareness of mirroring on the part of the viewer looking at a photograph is related to Equivalence. Now we can revamp the definition somewhat to indicate that the feeling of Equivalence is specific. In literature this-specific feeling associated with Equivalence is called "poetic," using this word in a very broad and universal sense. Not having an exact equivalent for the word "poetic" in photography we will suggest the word "vision," meaning not only sight, but insight. The effect that seems to be associated with Equivalence may be worded thus: When both subject matter and manner of rendering are transcended, by whatever means, that which seems to be matter becomes what seems to be spirit.
A third level of Equivalence was mentioned earlier. This level revolves around the "remembered image." What a man remembers of vision, is always peculiarly his own because various distortions occur and change his recall image after the original stimulation has gone. These alterations from the original can only come from the individual himself. If a viewer happens to study in his mind a remembered image, who knows what degree or trajectory of Equivalence he might reach, or how far he might walk into his remembered image? The moment when a photograph transforms into a mirror that can be walked into, either when one is looking at it, or remembering it, must always remain secret because the experience is entirely within the individual. It is personal, his own private experience, ineffable, and untranslatable. People who report on this experience tell of literal transformations before their eyes, for example a picture that they know to be of peeled paint turns into something else.
To select this moment for which to make photographs hardly seems a likely area for productive camerawork, yet secret as this moment is, a few photographers are working today who deliberately try to start from their own known feeling states to make photographs which will arouse or reach similar feeling states in others. They consciously make photographs to function as Equivalents. We can add the names of a few—Frederick Sommer in Arizona, Paul Caponigro in Massachusetts, Walter Chappell in New York, Gerald Robinson in Oregon, Arnold Gassan in Colorado; there are others.
To work in such a manner, the photographers must be able to get their work before those persons in the world who are sensitized intellectually, emotionally, and kinesthetically—not a numerous audience to be sure, even if widespread. Universality, that quality always thought to be desirable in photographs and pictures, is not denied to such photographers. It is their efforts that matter, to communicate-evoke with individuals who are in tune with the central core of universality common to both man and spirit.

Equivalence, Mirror of the Psyche
The perennial trend, as old as man in art, seems to have appeared in photography at the beginning of this century. At first it was rather vague in the work and writings of the Photo-Secession group around Stieglitz and Edward Steichen in New York; then it was named, as was said, by Stieglitz in the early twenties. The perennial trend is still not generally understood by photographers or their critics.
There seems to be growing frequency on the part of contemporary thinkers about photography to point out that people see themselves in photographs in spite of themselves. Nathan Lyons, Assistant Director of Eastman House, asks the members of his private classes whether they see what they believe, or believe what they see. And most of us see what we wish to see in a photograph, or anything else—not what is actually present. Cameras are far more impartial than their owners and employers. In other words projection and empathy, natural attributes in man, lead us to see something of ourselves almost automatically in anything that we look at long enough to be aware of it. So we can say that the photograph invariably functions as a mirror of at least some part of the viewer. From extensive researches in audience responses to photographs done at the Rochester Institute of Technology, it is evident that many persons looking as a photograph see something of themselves first, and the photographer behind the camera second, if at all. To the innocent, well meaning young photographer, audience response to his photographs is a disheartening experience. They see what they wish to see, and not what he thinks that he is showing them.
Some degree of mirroring happens with any photograph, but it is especially strong with photographs rendered in a stylized or non-literal way. Mirroring is also strong in photographs in which the presence of design is equal to or supersedes the sense of the presence of the subject in front of the camera. This is the usual appearance of the "pictorial" photograph which includes design and its expressive effect as well as the recording of an aesthetic object. When the subject matter is rendered in such a way that it is obscure, ambiguous, or impossible to identify, the response to the image takes on a completely different aspect. Since most of us have no experience of similar images except what we see in abstract or non-objective painting, we will tend to react to such photographs as if they were paintings and look for the same qualities or value relationships and all the rest of the attributes of design long familiar to us from the world of painting and sculpture. When we cannot identify the subject, we forget that the image before us may be a document of some part of the world that we have never seen. Sometimes art and nature meet in such photographs. We call them "abstractions" frequently because they remind us of similar paintings. Actually they are "extractions" or "isolations" from the world of appearances, often literal. This puts a different bearing on the ambiguous or unidentifiable subject in a photograph. And we are faced with a different encounter with the world of appearances than when we confront the painted "abstraction." Nevertheless, our usual tendency, if we make the attempt to engage, rather than reject, the ambiguous rendering of a subject in a photograph, is to invent a subject for it. What we invent is out of the stuff and substance of ourselves. When we invent a subject we turn the photograph into a mirror of some part of ourselves.
Editors such as Ralph Hattersley of Infinity Magazine, or myself of Aperture, who point out that people see themselves in photographs in spite of their protests to the contrary, are long familiar with the letters and articles of persons who insist that they do not want to solve picture puzzles. We wonder if such persons have the emotional-intellectual equipment to solve anything. Or the letters of those who insist that they are upright, honest men or women and so do not want to, or have no need, to indulge in self-searching. "Morbid" is the word most frequently applied to a knowing study of a photograph for what it might reveal of the true nature of the viewer. It would seem that any soul searching, or attempt to discover what Plato meant by "Know Thyself" is considered sickness of some sort by many contemporary Americans. In spite of protests, our own psychology finds a way to see what it wants to see in the world of appearances. This is a difficult and sore point; consequently I and many of my students have observed people's responses to photographs, and attempted to evaluate and investigate the nature of things behind the responses of many kinds of people to many types of photographs. And we observe that all too often the persons who cry "Sick, Sick, Sick" have no imagination. Or, for reasons obscure to them, they deliberately blind themselves to visual experiences that might disturb their basic insecurity. Consequently the full range of photographic possibilities of communication-evocation is a closed world to them.
Sometimes the complaint against ambiguous photographs is stated, "Art must never be a glorified Rorschach test!" Suggestibility is part of the foundations of human nature. Most of our lives depend on suggestibility, the arts especially. The documentarian in photography may communicate considerable information with his camera; the pictorialist conscious of design and its power of suggestion depends heavily on that quality in us that makes the Rorschach blot useful in therapy. The theory of Equivalence is a way for the photographer to deal with human suggestibility in a conscious and responsible way. It seems to me that to think of painting or photography as some degree of glorified Rorschach blots is not detrimental to either medium because suggestibility is the very gate to the perennial trend in art. We must observe, of course, that a gate is not quite the same as a garden.
Some contemporary photographers, such as those already named, willingly acknowledge the fact that photographs mirror some state of feeling within the viewer. They include themselves here as viewers of their own photographs and viewers of the subjects they select. They accept the truth that photographs act as a catalyst, and consequently are a step in process, not an end product. They can remember that the mental image in a viewer's mind is more important than the photograph itself.
That the photograph is a function instead of a thing is a most interesting development in the idea of the Equivalent; if indeed this is a development and not a belated understanding of what Stieglitz meant by the word. It is interesting because it reflects a certain potential change in the Freudian, Jungian and Adlerian effect on the popular ideas about psychology. Probably many a lay person still thinks psychology is dirty, has associated the dirty sides of himself with that word. True enough the inner workings of man are both dirty and clean—as are his outer relations to other men. Art traditionally claims a concern with man's pure impulses and clean motives, yet many a contemporary psychologist thinks that all this is pure hokum. So do some photographers. And in protest and in truth, in soul searching and awareness of our self-destroying age, many people in contemporary art, notably Frederick Sommer in contemporary photography, present images which are intended in such a particular way that if the viewer engages the images at all, then the viewer will see something of himself. If what he sees is unpleasant, that there may be some truth in that some part of himself is unpleasant—if dirty, morbid and so onà If he is struck with terror, perhaps he has met something worthy of his fear. If he finds something magnificent, it is because something beautiful in him has been magnified.
Four photographs are presented here by the author. Of them it may be said that what you get from them is yours. The author presents them also as showing something of himself. In other words, these photographs originate in a known feeling state. They are not self-expressive, or self-searching; they are self-found. Communication is of no importance, evocation of little significance, competition nonexistent. They are shown as an event out of which Equivalence might occur. The possibility of the reader's being confronted with something of himself is their only reason for being reproduced. They will function as mirrors of the viewer, whether he admits it or not. It will not be pointed out which of the images knows happiness, the one that knows anger, or the one that knows sadness because viewers of photographs need the opportunity to learn faith in their own feelings.
With the theory of Equivalence, photographers everywhere are given a way of learning to use the camera in relation to the mind, heart, viscera and spirit of human beings. The perennial trend has barely been started in photography.