Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Eleanor - New York 1945

Harry Callahan (1912–1999) was one of the most influential photographic artists of the twentieth century. A master of modernist experimentation, Callahan explored a range of subjects—from landscapes to city streets to portraits of his wife—and techniques throughout his career.

Eleanor and Barbara - Chicago 1953

Born in Detroit, Michigan. He is recognized as one of the great masters of photography. He has been a part of countless exhibitions worldwide including retrospectives at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has received numerous awards including the National Medal of Arts, Distinguished Career in Photography Award, Friends of Photographers Lifetime Achievement Award, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Award.

Detroit 1943

By 1946, he was appointed by László Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Callahan retired in 1977, at which time he was teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Atlanta 1984

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.

Atlanta 1985

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 was well known to encourage his students to turn their cameras on their lives, and he led by example. Even as he did this he was not sentimental, romantic or emotional. Callahan illustrated the centrality of Eleanor in his life by his continual return to her over 15 years as his prime subject -- she was subject more than model -- but the images are not about who she was, what she did, what she thought as an individual. Callahan's art was a long meditation on the possibilities of photography as it might be used playfully, but not naively.


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. He tried every technical experiment--double and triple exposure, blurs, large camera and small. The attitude of respect and warmth permeates the endeavor.

Kansas City 1981

In 1950, his daughter, Barbara, was born, and even prior to her birth she showed up in pregnancy photographs. From 1948 to 1953, Eleanor, and sometimes Barbara, were shown out in the landscape as a tiny counterpoint to large expanses of park, skyline or water. No matter how small a part of the scene they are, they still dominate the viewer's perception.

Morroco 1981

Callahan 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, interprets and makes available materials that are essential to understanding photography and its history and which holds more archives and individual works by 20th-century North American photographers than any other museum in the world, maintains the photographic archives of Harry Callahan.


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.