Callahan, Harry Morey


Callahan, Harry Morey
▪ 2000

      American photographer (b. Oct. 22, 1912, Detroit, Mich.—d. March 15, 1999, Atlanta, Ga.), experimented with the use of light, line, and space to produce images that portray ordinary scenes and objects in innovative, abstract ways. He felt that photographs had to have more significance than was apparent at first look; he focused on such favourite themes as his wife and daughter, landscapes, and cityscapes. Callahan, who was self-taught, took up photography in 1938. Attendance at workshops held by Ansel Adams inspired him to view photography as an art form and to focus his attention on light and shadow. In the 1940s Callahan also became one of the earliest photographers to shoot in colour. The technology for printing those images was not sufficient for his needs, however, so he did not have his slides printed until he represented the U.S. at the 1978 Venice Biennale, the first American photographer so honoured. Callahan began teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1946 and became head of the photography department three years later. In 1951 Abstract Expressionist photographer Aaron Siskind joined the faculty, and the two added a graduate program that inspired the creation of similar ones elsewhere. In 1961 Callahan and Siskind went to the Rhode Island School of Design, where Callahan served as chairman of the photography department until 1973. He retired from teaching in 1977 and turned his attention to colour photography. Callahan's images were featured in such books as Callahan (1976), Water's Edge (1980), Harry Callahan: Color 1945–1980 (1980), Eleanor (1984), and Harry Callahan: New Color, Photographs 1978–1987 (1988). He continued working until he suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s. In 1997 Callahan was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.

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