Harry Callahan

 Harry Callahan was born October 22, 1912 in Detroit, Michigan. He was a self-taught photographer and began taking photos in his hometown, opting for an inexpensive point and shoot camera over an expensive 16mm movie camera. He joined a camera club in 1941 where he met many celebrated photographers including Ansel Adams, who gave work a workshop for the class. He studied engineering at Michigan State University and worked as a photographic technician for General Motors in 1944. He was hired by László Moholy-Nagy in 1946 to teach photography at the Institute of Design (ID) in Chicago. In 1948 Callahan met Edward Steichen, who responded strongly to his work and included it in numerous shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Callahan left Chicago in 1961 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.[1]

Callahan’s legacy as a photographer and educator earned him many honors and awards. His work was the subject of a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1976 and at the National Gallery of Art at Washington, D.C., in 1996. In 1977 he was selected to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition, and was the first photographer to be honored.[2]

Contribution to Photography: Callahan is considered to be one of the most influential photographers in the 20th century. He often transformed his everyday subjects including: nature, architecture, city streets, and his wife and daughter into simple forms. His goal in photography was to simply describe, rather than conceal or distort. He was also one of the few photographers that worked well in both black & white and color.[1] Callahan was self-motivated, extremely curious about technique, and continually willing to try new approaches. He worked with extreme contrast, collage, multiple time exposures, camera motion, and unique lighting.


[1] Pultz, John. “Harry Callahan.” Art Journal, 1997: 103-104.

[2] Bookrags. http://www.bookrags.com/biography/harry-callahan/ (accessed April 12, 2010).

“Eleanor, Chicago” 1952. Gelatin Silver Print.

Source: Museum of Contemporary Photography

This is one of his most admired photographs of his wife.

“Typewriter Shop” 1970. Dye Transfer Print.

Soure: Museum of Contemporary Photography

“Chicago” 1950. Gelatin Silver Print.

Source: Museum of Contemporary Photography

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One response to “Harry Callahan

  1. I like the pictures of the trees and nice summary of him

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