Friday, June 8, 2012

Harry Callahan / One of the most influential photographers

Harry Callahan
(1912 - 1999)


Born in Detroit, Michigan, he began teaching himself photography in 1938. A talk given by Ansel Adams in 1941 inspired him to take his work seriously. In 1946 he was invited to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago by Lásló Moholy-Nagy. He moved to Rhode Island in 1961 to establish a photography program at the Rhode Island School of Design, teaching there until his retirement in 1977.

Callahan left almost no written records—no diaries, letters, scrapbooks or teaching notes. His technical photographic method was to go out almost every morning, walk the city he lived in and take numerous pictures. He then spent almost every afternoon making proof prints of that day's best negatives. Yet, for all his photographic activity, Callahan, at his own estimation, produced no more than half a dozen final images a year.

He photographed his wife, Eleanor, and daughter, Barbara, and the streets, scenes and buildings of cities where he lived, showing a strong sense of line and form, and light and darkness. He also worked with multiple exposures. Callahan's work was a deeply personal response to his own life. He encouraged his students to turn their cameras on their own lives, leading by example. Callahan photographed his wife over a period of fifteen years, as his prime subject. Eleanor was essential to his art from 1947 to 1960. He photographed her everywhere - at home, in the city streets, in the landscape; alone, with their daughter, in black and white and in color, nude and clothed, distant and close.

Callahan tried several technical experiments - double and triple exposure, blurs, large and small format film.Callahan was one of the few innovators of modern American photography noted as much for his work in color as for his work in black and white.

In 1996, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Callahan died in Atlanta in 1999. He left behind 100,000 negatives and over 10,000 proof prints. The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, which actively collects, preserves and makes available individual works by 20th-century North American photographers, maintains his photographic archives. His estate is represented in New York by the Pace/MacGill Gallery. [via  wiki]

New York, 1970

Eleonore and Barbara, Chicago, 1954

Chicago, 1949
Born in Detroit in 1912, Harry Callahan was a self-taught photographer. Callahan began taking pictures in his hometown Detroit for fun, opting for an inexpensive point and shoot camera over an expensive 16mm movie camera. In 1941 he joined a camera club and while there met celebrated photographers of the previous generation including Ansel Adams who gave a workshop for the class. After studying engineering at Michigan State University, Callahan worked as a photographic technician for General Motors, but was hired in 1946 by László Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design (ID), Chicago. Initially established as the New Bauhaus, the ID was at the forefront of innovative methods of education and teaching photography in America in the mid-20th century. In 1948 Callahan met Edward Steichen, who responded strongly to his work, including it in numerous shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1961, Callahan left Chicago to head the photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence with his friend and former ID colleague Aaron Siskind. He stepped down from the chairmanship in 1973, but continued teaching at the school until his retirement in 1977.
Callahan often transformed his everyday subjects—nature, architecture, city streets, his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara into (barely recognizable) simple forms; a visual essence that still evokes their worldly counterparts. Callahan’s goal, however, was to describe, not to conceal or distort. For each new subject, he refreshed his photographic vocabulary and used his 8×10 view camera and strong sense of design and composition to create meticulously crafted and elegant images.
Harry Callahan produced several monographs of his work including Harry Callahan (1996), Water’s Edge (1980), Harry Callahan: Color (1980), Callahan (1976), Photographs: Harry Callahan (1965), The Multiple Image (1961), and On My Eyes(1960). His work is held in the collections of numerous museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York and the George Eastman House, New York.

Harry Callahan ~ Self Portrait

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