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Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 491

A work made of gelatin silver print.
© Aaron Siskind Foundation.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.




Aaron Siskind
American, 1903–1991

About this artwork

Aaron Siskind, who became known for images of walls reminiscent of Abstract Expressionist paintings, also discovered abstraction on the beaches of Chicago. Between 1953 and 1956, he photographed divers at Chicago’s Oak Street Beach. Silhouetted against the sky, the precariously balanced figures look like hieroglyphs and recall the linguistic forms Siskind saw in urban walls. He called the series Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation.

In a 1978 interview, Siskind explained what had attracted him about the divers: “I was walking along the lake in Chicago, and I saw these guys jumping off a diving board. It was a beautiful Sunday, and I was just walking along with my Rolleiflex. I sat down and started taking pictures of them without knowing exactly what I was doing, only that I was taking pictures of divers. The results didn’t particularly interest me until I looked at one that struck me. This guy was a diver, but he wasn’t a diver. He was levitating as if in a dream state, and then I knew what I was after.”


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Aaron Siskind


Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 491


United States (Artist's nationality)


Made 1954


Gelatin silver print


Unmarked recto; signed and inscribed verso, on mount, upper center, in black marker: "From, "Pleasures + Terrors of Levitation" 1954 / Aaron Siskind"; inscribed verso, on mount, upper right, in graphite: "54 [encircled]"; verso, on mount, lower left, in graphite: "4"


Image/paper: 39.4 × 38.1 cm (15 9/16 × 15 in.); Mount: 49.4 × 47 cm (19 1/2 × 18 9/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Irwin M. Siegel

Reference Number



© Aaron Siskind Foundation.

Extended information about this artwork

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