Index: Harry Callahan


Harry Callahan

When I saw these photographs by Harry Callahan reproduced in a magazine, I took them to be photo-realist paintings. It’s the compositions – they’re so deliberate and graphic. What I love about the photo-realist painters that I love is the degree of framing and editing they employ. They hold reality in abstraction, and the intersection of the two is the source of a great deal of the aesthetic impact they deliver. It’s why I was so gobsmacked to find that these images were caught in camera.

Callahan was an engineer with Chrysler Motors in the 40’s, where he joined a camera club. A visit by Ansel Adams to the club transformed his passion for photography from a hobby into an artistic calling – a search for the intensified image. As he put it – “The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem” – which gets at the essence of his images perfectly. Half a decade later he was hired by Bauhaus legend Liszl Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago. He went on to create the photography program at the RISD. More on Callahan here.