'Gathering Clouds' photography exhibition now on view at the George Eastman Museum

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'Gathering Clouds' photography exhibition now on view at the George Eastman Museum
Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825–1878). The Colosseum, ca. 1865. Albumen silver print. George Eastman Museum, purchase. Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum.

ROCHESTER, NY.- The George Eastman Museum premiered Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today on July 26 in the museum’s main galleries. Gathering Clouds illustrates the key role that clouds played in the development and reception of photography from around 1850 to 1920. 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 while responding in various ways to the history of cloud photography. The exhibition features more than 100 photographs by 19th-century and contemporary artists. The exhibition is also available to view virtually with a 360 tour at eastman.org/clouds.

At the end of the 19nth 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.” Robinson’s plea to photographers to attend to the clouds was not new. From photography’s beginnings, clouds had been central to aesthetic and technological debates in photographic circles. Moreover, they 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, b. United States, 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, active 1843–1863), and Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856–1916). Selections from the group of photographs that Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946) titled Equivalents (1923–34) serve as a link between past and present. The featured contemporary artists are Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), John Chiara (American, b. 1971), Sharon Harper (American, b. 1966), Nick Marshall (American, b. 1984), Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American, b. 1990), Sean McFarland (American, b. 1976), Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba, 1948), Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961), Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974), Bruno V. Roels (Belgian, b. 1976), Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch, b. 1978), James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori & Australian, b. 1986), Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), Will Wilson (American, Navajo, b. 1969), Byron Wolfe (American, b. 1967), Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), and Daisuke Yokota (Japanese, b. 1983).

The George Eastman Museum has received grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES program and from Art Bridges to provide digital access, including exhibition tours and talks, for visitors who are unable to visit the museum in person. A 360 tour of Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today is now available at eastman.org/clouds, as well as two audio tours to complement the show. One audio tour features sound bites from some of the contemporary artists whose work is part of the exhibition, and the other is a tour focusing on cloud formations with local meteorologist Scott Hetsko.

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