more than fifty years Harry Callahan has created some of the
most innovative and expressive photographs the medium has
ever seen. Moreover, he has known from almost the very beginning
of his career both what he wanted to express in his art and
how to realize his goals. Like other twentieth-century American
photographers before him, he wanted to use his photography
to understand and reveal his relationship, as he explained
in 1946, “to the life within and about me”. Photography,
he wrote, “is an adventure just as life is an adventure.
If man wishes to express himself photographically, he must
understand, surely to a certain extent, his realtionship to
life. I am interested in relating the problems that affect
me to some set of values that I am trying to discover and
establish as being my life. I want to discover and establish
them through photography”
To a great extent, Callahan was fully formed by 1946; his
goals, his subject matter, his method of working, and his
style were clearly defined. Like the man himself, his work
from this period, as well as throughout his career, is an
uncanny mixture of directness and subtlety, transparency and
complexity, grace and determination; and his images speak
of order and chaos, public and private worlds, timeless beauty
and ephemeral moments. Yet, because he celebrates change and
cultivates chance, because he insists each time he revisits
a subject he “find a way to see it fresh, to feel intensely,”
his art and his vision have continued to grow and change in
a spiral manner, reflecting both the evolution of his personal
life and the changing social, cultural, aesthetic climate
of the last fifty years.
© Sarah Greenough, from ‘Harry Callahan’
National Gallery of Art, Washington / Bulfinch
Please contact the gallery if you would like to purchase a
copy of this monograph.
Callahan was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1912. In 1936 he
married Eleanor Knapp, the subject of many of his photographs
(along with their daughter Barbara, born 1950).
In this year he was also hired by the accounting department
of Chrysler Motor Parts, and in 1938 he purchased his first
camera and joined the Chrysler camera Club, where he first
met photographer Todd Webb. Together they joined the Detroit
Photo Guild in 1940, and over the next few years he was to
meet several major photographic figures who influenced his
life and his art – Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Arther
Siegel, along with Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Paul Strand,
Lisette Model, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and Minor White.
In 1946 he was hired by László Moholy-Nagy to
teach at the Institute of Design, Chicago. His first exhibition
took place in 1947, when fifty photographs were shown in 750
Studio Gallery, Chicago. In 1948 he began a long friendship
with Edward Steichen, Director of the Department of Photography,
Museum of Modern Art, New York. Steichen chose six of his
photographs for an exhibition “In and out of focus”,
and hereafter his work was shown extensively in one-person
and group shows in the United States and abroad.
In !949 he was appointed head of Department of Photography,
Institute of Design, Chicago where he worked until accepting
the position of Deapartment Head and Associate Professor of
Photography, Rhode island School of Design, Providence, in
1961. During this time he taught a summer course where he
met Aaron Siskind, Ben Shahn and Robert Motherwell, and used
a fellowship to take a leave of absence and live with his
family in Aix-en-Provence. In 1963 he took his first major
photographic trip through Mexico, then traveled extensively
throughout Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand,
Japan and China. In 1964 he was appointed Professor, and his
first major monograph was published: Photographs: Harry Callahan,
by El Mochuelo Gallery, Santa Barbara.
He continued to teach until his retirement in 1977, and in
1978 was the first photographer to represent the United States
at the Venice Biennale. He received various awards, honours
and medals during the rest of his life and continued to photograph.
He died in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999.
Harry Callahan’s work has been exhibited extensively
across the United States and throughout the rest of the world.
His work is represented in substantial number in the Hallmark
Photographic Collection, Kansas, along with the National Gallery
of Art, Washington, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
to top of page
prices are subject to change without notice and availability
is subject to prior sale. Please call or email the gallery
for current pricing & availability. Thank you!
2003 Hackelbury Fine Art, Ltd. Copyright for all images is
held by the respective artist or estate and they may not be
reproduced in any form without express premission. All rights