Harry Callahan, Cape Cod, 1972, vintage gelatin silver print, image, 9 1/4 x 12 1/8", paper, 11 x 14" © The Estate of Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan


Harry Callahan © Stephan Brigidi


b. 1912, Detroit, Michigan
d. 1999, Atlanta, Georgia

One of the foremost American photographers of the 20th century, Harry Callahan began his photographic career as an untrained amateur while working for the Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation in 1938.

Following a workshop by Ansel Adams at the Detroit Photo Guild in 1941 and a meeting with Alfred Stieglitz in 1942, Callahan decided to completely devote his energies to the medium. His talent in the field was recognized in 1946 by László Moholy-Nagy, who invited Callahan to teach photography at Chicago’s Institute of Design (formerly the New Bauhaus). After a 15-year tenure in Chicago, Callahan moved to Providence in 1961 to begin and chair the Photography Department at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he taught until his retirement in 1977.

Callahan repeatedly returned to the same subjects throughout his prolific six-decade career — his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, the urban environment, and nature — continually developing new methods to embrace and depict them. Utilizing different camera formats and materials, the resulting pictures are thematically consistent, but varied in their aesthetic approach. Instrumental in introducing a vocabulary of formal abstraction into American photography at a time when descriptive realism was the dominant aesthetic, Callahan employed techniques of extreme contrast, reduction of form, seriality and multiple exposure to present his subjects from unexpected points of view.


Harry Callahan, Eleanor, Chicago, 1948, gelatin silver print, image, 7 5/8 x 9 5/8", paper, 8 x 10" © The Estate of Harry Callahan


Harry Callahan, Detroit, 1945, gelatin silver print, image, 9 5/8 x 7 5/8", paper, 10 x 8" © The Estate of Harry Callahan


Harry Callahan, Multiple Exposure Tree, Chicago, 1956, gelatin silver print, image, 6 1/4 x 6 1/8", paper, 10 x 8" © The Estate of Harry Callahan


Harry Callahan, Chicago, c. 1949, gelatin silver print, image, 7 11/16 x 9 5/8", paper, 8 x 10" © The Estate of Harry Callahan