by Gerald Boerner

  

“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us.”
— Harry Callahan

“I think nearly every artist continually wants to reach the edge of nothingness – the point where you can’t go any further.”
— Harry Callahan

“I guess I’ve shot about 40,000 negatives and of these I have about 800 pictures I like.”
— Harry Callahan

“I do believe strongly in photography and hope by following it intuitively that when the photographs are looked at they will touch the spirit in people.”
— Harry Callahan

“I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.”
— Harry Callahan

“I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings are worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.”
— Harry Callahan

“I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.”
— Harry Callahan

“The photographs that excite me are photographs that say something in a new manner; not for the sake of being different but ones that are different because the individual is different and the individual expresses himself.”
— Harry Callahan

“The photographs that excite me are photographs that say something in a new manner; not for the sake of being different, but ones that are different because the individual is different and the individual expresses himself.”
— Harry Callahan

“I photograph continuously, often without a good idea or strong feelings. During this time the photos are nearly all poor but I believe they develop my seeing and help later on in other photos. I do believe strongly in photography and hope by following it intuitively that when the photographs are looked at they will touch the spirit in people.”
— Harry Callahan

“Photography is an adventure just as life is an adventure. If a man wishes to express himself photographically, he must understand, surely to a certain extent, his relationship 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.”
— Harry Callahan

“The photographs that excite me are photographs that say something in a new manner; not for the sake of being different, but ones that are different because the individual is different and the individual expresses himself. I realize that we all do express ourselves, but those who express that which is always being done are those whose thinking is almost in every way in accord with everyone else. Expression on this basis has become dull to those who wish to think for themselves.”
— Harry Callahan

  

Note:
The quotes included in this posting were taken from the public quotation site, PhotoQuotes.com, which does not indicate that they are covered by any special copyright restrictions. Likewise, the images included in this posting were obtained under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from the Wikipedia.com web site or from the Masters-of-Photography.com web site which did not state any restrictions on their use. This blog makes every attempt to comply with the legal rights of copyright holders.

This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.

GLB

  

Harry Callahan (1912 – 1999)

Callahan_Image Harry Morey Callahan was an American photographer who is considered one of the great innovators of modern American photography. He was born in Detroit, Michigan and started photographing in 1938 as an autodidact. 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.

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.

Callahan_Rear of Nude WifeHe 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. Callahan photographed his wife over a period of fifteen years, as his prime subject. 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 several technical experiments — double and triple exposure, blurs, large and small format film.

Sarah Greenough in her analysis of Harry Callahan, talk of his early life photographing his wife Eleanor…

Callahan_Eleanor New York 1945“Yet it was with his series of photographs of Eleanor, more than with any other subject, that Callahan most fully learned what it meant to see photographically. Although he had photographed her intermittently before, beginning in 1947 he photographed Eleanor extensively for more than a decade and during that time she was central not only to his emotional, physical, and spiritual life, but also to his artistic development. He recorded her, as he recalls, "In an endless number of ways": nude and clothed; in parks, streets, and city squares; on the beach, in the water, in tents, and in the woods; in the privacy of their home – their ballroom studio or their bedroom – and the homes of relatives; in this country and in Europe; with their daughter Barbara or alone.

Callahan_Eleanor and Barbara.1953 He tried almost every technical or aesthetic experiment in his repertoire, including extreme contrast, silhouette, multiple exposure, serial and out-of-focus imagery as well as color and black-and-white and he pioneered a new approach, that of the formal "snapshot" made with an 8 x 10 inch view camera, of Eleanor and Barbara on their daily outings. In the resulting photographs Eleanor emerges in a multiplicity of ways. Through the snapshots, in which Eleanor and Barbara are often depicted as small figures within a large city or landscape, the strength and centrality of the relationship of mother and daughter is revealed; through multiple exposures, Eleanor is presented as one with the natural and urban world, made of the same substance that constitute those environments; and through silhouette, extreme contrast, and color, as well as in more straight forward studies, her beauty, presence, stature, dignity, and womanhood are described.

Callahan_Wife's Photo“In all of these studies, Callahan did not strive to probe and uncover the innermost workings of Eleanor’s psyche, nor did he want to describe her "many selves" as Stleglitz had attempted to do with O’Keeffe. Rather he hoped through his photography to discover and establish for himself those elements in their life together that had greatest meaning and resonance. He realized this was a private quest – "strictly my affair" – as he had said earlier in his career. Because of the intensity of his vision and because of his ability to translate his emotions and perceptions into visual forms, he was able to locate that meaning and convey it to others.

Callahan_Eleanor and Barbara-Lake Michigan 1953 Through his detailed studies of Eleanor, which delineate the boundaries of their lives together and describe the most intimate and incidental minutia of their daily existence – the feel of the folds of skin, for example, or the quality of light failing on the bed – Callahan speaks of an all-encompassing, ever-present relationship, one that is so powerful that even when he is not with her, he sees her all around him. And through his graceful, elegant presentations – the way he allows her to close her eyes, avert her gaze, or even turn her back to the camera, the way her body and face are always composed and comfortable, never disturbed or surprised – he reveals a relationship of profound trust, case, intimacy, and, most significantly, respect. Eleanor is never presented as an object for scrutiny and dissection. Even when she stares directly into the camera she projects her own calm self-confidence and retains her individuality, integrity, and privacy.”

Likewise, John Szarkowski, in his Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, makes the following observations of Callahan’s work…

“Nevertheless, the work of most artists clearly aims at extrapolating from their personal experience, to make it the vessel for a broader and more universal statement. Such work invites us to work our way outward, from the private and specific to the larger world.

Callahan_Woman Swimming “Harry Callahan’s work is an exception, for it draws us ever more insistently inward toward the center of Callahan’s private sensibility. This sensibility is expressed in his perception of subject matter that is remarkably personal and restricted in its range. For thirty years Callahan has photographed his wife and child, the streets of the cities in which he has lived, and details of the pastoral landscapes into which he has periodically escaped – materials so close at hand, so universally and obviously accessible, that one might have supposed that a dedicated photographer could exhaust their potential in a fraction of that time. Yet Callahan has repeatedly made these simple experiences new again by virtue of the precision of his feeling.

Callahan_Female Portrait“The point is not merely that Callahan has responded faithfully as a photographer to the quality of his own life, or merely, even, that photography has been his method of focusing the meaning of that life. The point is that for Harry Callahan photography has been a way of living – his way of meeting and making peace with the day.”

In 1950 his daughter Barbara, was born. Even prior to her birth she showed up in photographs of Eleanor’s pregnancy. 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.

Callahan_photocollage 1957 Harry Callahan made his reputation with black and white photographs, which he developed and printed himself. He took photographs all day, developed them at night, and often returned to the same place on the following day to take more pictures.

Callahan took color photographs too, but he had to send them out for processing and could not always afford to have prints made. During the last 25 years of his life, he reviewed his color slides and had some printed. Nine Cibachromes of Chicago storefronts, which Callahan took in 1954-55 and approved for printing in the late ’90s, are on exhibition at the Carol Ehlers Gallery, Chicago, until Apr. 14, 2001.

Vernacular architecture

Callahan_Chicago 1955 During 1946, László Moholy-Nagy invited Callahan to teach at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Callahan moved to Chicago and began to photograph local building façades in 1948, making black and white images that are well known today.

During the early 1950s, Callahan became friendly with the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who shared his passion for quality, craftsmanship and perfection of detail. Both men took a special interest in open and closed architectural spaces — and the interplay between building interiors and exteriors. This is reflected in the storefront photographs.

Callahan_Chicago 1949 Callahan liked to work early in the morning and the cool, even light we see in the storefront photographs suggests that they were taken at that time of day, probably in autumn of 1954 and spring of 1955. The storefronts are vernacular architecture — small, undistinguished wooden structures along commercial strips about two miles northwest of the Chicago Loop. All are gone now, unmourned victims of development.

The storefront door, seen straight on, is the center of each photograph. Depending on how far back the camera is situated, we may see just the two display windows or both sides of the storefront, the space between it and the next building, part of the second floor, or a portion of sidewalk. The image is all squares and rectangles, with the door as a shallow cavity at center. There is no sentimentality in these photographs, nothing that smacks of the picturesque.

Callahan died in Atlanta in 1999. He 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 and makes available individual works by 20th-century North American photographers, maintains his photographic archives. His estate is represented in New York by the Pace/MacGill Gallery.

   

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Harry Callahan that can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_John_Laughlin

Also see…

Masters of Photography: Harry Callahan
http://www.masters-of-photography.com/C/callahan/callahan.html

John Szarkowski: Harry Callahan
http://www.masters-of-photography.com/C/callahan/callahan_articles3.html

Sarah Greenough on Harry Callahan
http://www.masters-of-photography.com/C/callahan/callahan_articles2.html

PhotoQuotes.com on Harry Callahan
http://www.photoquotes.com/ShowQuotes.aspx?id=243&name=Callahan,Harry