Biography

Harry Morey Callahan was an American photographer who is considered to be one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. He was also one of the few innovators of modern American photography noted as much for his work in color as for his work in black and white. He started photographing in 1938 as an autodidact and by 1946, he was appointed by László Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago, IL. 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. 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, form, 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. In 1996, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

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