Rochester, NY—The George Eastman Museum premiered Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today in the museum’s main galleries. The Gathering Clouds photography exhibition illustrates the key role that clouds played in the development as well as reception of photography from around 1850 to 1920. Curated by Heather A. Shannon, PhD, it is on view through January 3, 2021.
Moreover, bringing cloud photography into the present by way of Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents (1923–34), the contemporary works in the exhibition forge new artistic paths. They do so, however, while responding in various ways to the history of cloud photography. The exhibition features more than 100 photographs by 19th century and contemporary artists.
Gathering Clouds Photography
At the end of the 19th century, Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901) emphasized the significance of the sky in landscape photography. “The artistic possibilities of clouds,” he noted, “are infinite.”
However, Robinson’s plea to photographers to attend to the clouds wasn’t new. From photography’s beginnings, clouds were central to aesthetic and technological debates in photographic circles. Moreover, they were featured in discussions about the nature of the medium itself.
The exhibition includes cloud photographs made by prominent figures such as Anne Brigman (American, 1869–1950); Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, 1882–1966); Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856–1936), Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884), Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830–1904); Henry Peach Robinson, Southworth & Hawes (American, 1843–1863); and Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856–1916).
In addition, selections from the group of photographs that Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946) titled Equivalents (1923–34) serve as a link between past and present.
Furthermore, featured contemporary artists are Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican); John Chiara (American); Sharon Harper (American); Nick Marshall (American); Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American); Sean McFarland (American); Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba); Vik Muniz (Brazilian); Trevor Paglen (American); Bruno V. Roels (Belgian); Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch); James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori/Australian); Carrie Mae Weems (American); Will Wilson (American, Navajo); Byron Wolfe (American); Penelope Umbrico (American) and Daisuke Yokota (Japanese).
The George Eastman Museum received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES program and also from Art Bridges to provide digital access, including exhibition tours and talks, for visitors unable to visit the museum in person.
A 360º tour of Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today is now available at eastman.org/clouds. Also available are two audio tours to complement the show. One features sound bites from some of the contemporary artists whose work is part of the exhibition; the other is a tour focusing on cloud formations with local meteorologist Scott Hetsko.
Gathering Cloud Public Programming
All of the online public programming related to the exhibition is free to all. However, registration is required via Zoom; spaces are limited.
Historic Process Demonstration: Clouds and Combination Printing [ONLINE]
Tuesday, September 1, 1 p.m.; Register through Zoom
Many 19th century landscape photographs are cloudless. Early photographic negatives documented light blue as well as white as the same value, resulting in blank skies. In this live online program, Process historian Mark Osterman discusses the reasons for these cloudless skies. He also demonstrates the 19th century technique of combination printing from two separate negatives.
Gathering Clouds—Panel Discussion, Part I [ONLINE]
Thursday, September 17, 6 p.m.; Register through Zoom
This is the first of a two-part panel discussion with associate curator Heather A. Shannon. It features artists who works are in Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today. Alejandro Cartagena, Sean McFarland and also Will Wilson will discuss the ways their work engages with environmental issues; including pollution and climate change.
Gathering Clouds—Panel Discussion, Part II [ONLINE]
Thursday, November 19, 6 p.m.; Register through Zoom
This is the second of a two-part panel discussion with associate curator Heather A. Shannon as well as artists featured in Gathering Clouds. Sharon Harper, Nick Marshall, Penelope Umbrico and Byron Wolfe will discuss how clouds have informed their thinking about the nature of photography.