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Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)


Also known as:  Callahan, Harry M.; Callahan, Harry Morey; Harry M. Callahan

Birth Place: Detroit (Wayne county, Michigan, United States)

Harry Callahan was a photographer who rose to fame during the 20th century for his experimental and unusual outlook on commonplace scenes and objects. He was one of the rare creators of modern American photography that was known just as much for his work in color as he was for his black and white pictures.

Callahan was born in 1912 in Detroit, Michigan, and worked at Chrysler as a young man. During his time with Chrysler, Callahan joined the company's camera club, and he started to teach himself the art of photography. He became friends with Todd Webb, who would also eventually develop into a famous photographer. When Callahan heard a talk provided by Ansel Adams in 1941, he became inspired to focus seriously on his work. By 1946, he became the head of the photography department at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Callahan remained in Chicago for 15 years until he relocated to Rhode Island in 1961 to create a photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design. He taught at the school until he retired in 1977. Callahan was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1996 for his photography achievements.

Callahan's method of photography simply involved heading out of the house each morning to walk through the city and take multiple pictures. He spent the remaining afternoon of nearly each day making proof prints of the best negatives from that day. However, despite all of these pictures, Callahan estimated that he created less than six final images per year. Callahan particularly enjoyed taking pictures of the city scenes that surrounded the environment of his current home. However, his wife Eleanor was his primary subject for 16 years, and she became an essential part of his art from the period of 1947 to 1960. Callahan photographed her just about anywhere, whether it was within their house or in the city streets. She was also photographed both nude and clothed, as well as in black and white or color. His images became known for representing both darkness and light with a significant sense of line and form.

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