Atget Photography
Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan

American, 1912-1999

Harry Callahan

Since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, artists have advised each other to find their subject matter close to home, among things native to their own experience, and by and large they have done so. There are not many major painters of the period who, like Paul Gauguin, could comfortably provide the inspiration for a Somerset Maugham novel.

Among photographers also, most of those who have produced the medium's memorable work have dealt with issues from their everyday lives, subject matter that they have known well.

Harry Callahan

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.

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.

Harry Callahan

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.

Harry Callahan

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.

from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski

Harry Callahan / recommended books
Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work

Beautifully designed and produced, this book focuses on understanding how Callahan worked --- both his day-to-day photographic explorations and his resulting fifty-year career in photography.

Harry Callahan: Retrospective

This catalog presents the entire spectrum of Callahan's multifaceted photographic oeuvre, the product of tireless and prolific creative labors over the course of nearly sixty years.

Harry Callahan

A collection of photographs by Harry Callahan, whose interest in fine art photography was sparked by Ansel Adam's visit to the Detroit Camera Club in 1941. A celebrated photographer of nature, the city and women, Callahan explores new ways of looking at and presenting the world.


For much of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, photographer Harry Callahan's wife, Eleanor, was his most regular subject. She stares out of his acclaimed work, sometimes sharp and sometimes blurred, sometimes Classical and sometimes Modern, in public parks and city streets, at the beach, in a tent, in the studio and their home, nude and clothed, eventually pregnant and then mothering. The couple's longstanding collaboration makes up an intimate visual diary of their relationship and of Callahan's artistic exploration: these are seldom portraits in the traditional sense.

Harry Callahan quotes
  • 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.

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