Skip to Content
Closed today, next open tomorrow. Closed today, next open tomorrow.

Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 37

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

Image actions

  • 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 37


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1953


Gelatin silver print


Unmarked recto; verso unchecked


Image/paper: 39.4 × 38.2 cm (15 9/16 × 15 1/16 in.); Mount: 47.4 × 45.5 cm (18 11/16 × 17 15/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Irwin M. Siegel

Reference Number



© Aaron Siskind Foundation.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions