Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan is an influential photographer from 20th century America. He was born in Michigan and lived from 1912 until 1999, just a year less than millennium. As a young man he worked in a company called Chrysler, however later he left the place to study at Michigan State University. He later left his studies in the middle and returned to the same company and joined its camera society. In 1938, he started to self-learn photography. In 1941, Ansel Adams’s work inspired Callahan to take photography seriously. After five years, Arthur Siegel and László Moholy-Nagy from Chicago’s Institute of Design invited Callahan to become one of the teachers at the department of photography. Between 1949 and 1961, he was the head of the department there. In 1961, he moved to Rhode Island School of Design to start a photography course there and taught there until 1977. His method of photography was to walk on the streets of the city he lived in every morning and capture what he felt was worth it on his film. He then spent the afternoons selecting the best among them. In a year, Callahan finalized only a few images for printing. He took pictures of his family, and of the city’s landscape including streets and buildings. His images displayed a strong understanding of light and dark, forms and lines. He also photographically documented his wife during her pregnancy. Apart from the pregnancy mode, he took pictures of his wife for fifteen years and hence she was his major subject of photography.  He photographed Eleanor (wife) in the streets and at home; with their child and without her; in color and in black and white; clothed and nude. He took both close ups and long shots. He experimented with small and large film formats, blurs, triple and double exposure. The photographer met his wife in 1933 on a blind date and married her after three years. By 1950 Barbara, their daughter came into this world. Harry Callahan was skilled at producing multiple exposures. His work was a reflection of his life. This advice was given by him to his students as well – that they should focus the camera on their individual lives. Callahan produced abstract work with conceptual ideas instead of literal depiction. In the other half of 1970s, Callahan had developed a fondness to work to color photography and his color images became the reason for his fame. He wanted to explore the possibilities of aesthetics and kept on doing so. In 1978, he printed his color photographs. In the same year, at the Venice Biennale, Callahan was the first from the field of photography to represent America. In 1996, he was given the National Medal of Arts award. Three years later, he departed this world from Atlanta. 100,000 photography negatives and more than 10,000 photographic prints  by Harry Callahan stayed behind and with which the coming generations can know about him and his work. His photo archives are with University of Arizona‘s Center for Creative Photography. The representative of his New York estate is Pace/MacGill Gallery. Much later, in 2012 his wife died at the age of 95. His work were displayed in solo and group shows and exhibitions, for example at Spain’s La Caixa, 2000; Arizona’s creative centre of photography, 2006; and Paris’s Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation.

Harry Callahan Photos

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