Harry Callahan (1912-1999) grew up in Detroit and briefly studied chemical engineering and business at Michigan State University in Lansing before taking a job at the Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation in 1936.
One of the most influential American photographers of the second half of the twentieth century, Callahan began his career as an amateur photographer. In 1938 he joined Chrysler’s Camera Club and two years later became a member of Detroit’s Photo Guild. After attending a lecture and workshop by Ansel Adams in 1941, and a meeting with Alfred Stieglitz in 1942, Callahan decided to devote his energies to photography. By 1946 he had established a strong enough reputation in the field to secure an invitation by László Moholy-Nagy, a veteran of the German Bauhaus, to teach at Chicago’s Institute of Design. The school’s experimental philosophy was formative for Callahan, who would become instrumental in introducing a vocabulary of formal abstraction into American photography at a time when descriptive realism was the dominant aesthetic. He taught a summer course at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1951, and eventually left the Institute in 1961 to chair the photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design. Callahan held that position until 1973 and retired from teaching altogether four years later.
Shot in both black-and-white and color, Callahan’s subjects include his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, nature and light studies, pedestrians in downtown Chicago, telephone lines, architecture in Providence, landscapes in Cape Cod, and scenes from his travels to such places as Great Britain, France, Japan, and Morocco. He also photographed collages he had made using images cut from such magazines as Vogue. (read more)