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The Octupus Tree


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The Octupus Tree

Artwork Details


Clarence John Laughlin
American, 1905–1985


1951, printed 1953


Gelatin silver print

Accession #



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Currently Not on View


The Octopus Tree exemplifies Laughlin’s belief that photography could radically transform even the most commonplace natural forms into something fantastical. This is one image from a series of seven photographs he made of the same fallen tree, each designed to spin a unique story. Here, Laughlin framed the decaying tree from below so that it resembles a dead octopus floating on the bottom of the ocean, its tentacles thrusting out from the center branch. The cloudy sky above contrasts sharply with the darkness of the tree, increasing the visual weight of the slain octopus.


Gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection