Harry Callahan (b.1912-1999) was born in Detroit, Michigan, studied engineering at Michigan State University, and worked for Chrysler before taking up photography as a hobby in 1938. Although Callahan was never formally trained in photography, he was able to find work in the General Motors Photographic Laboratories. Over the course of sixty years, Callahan’s photographic style would develop as he explored different subjects. His work consists of documentary and formalist styles that switch between black-and-white to colored photography. A large majority of Callahan’s work focuses on natural landscapes, cityscapes, people, and his wife, Eleanor.


In 1941, after meeting Ansel Adams at his local camera club, Callahan began taking photography seriously and his hobby soon took a professional turn. Shortly after meeting László Moholy-Nagy, Callahan was asked to join the faculty of the New Bauhaus (later renamed the Institute of Design) in Chicago and in 1949, he became the chairman of the department of Photography.


In 1961, Harry Callahan left Chicago to head the Photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he remained until 1973. Due to his open mind and pursuit of experimentation, Callahan gained the respect of the photography community.


Callahan would later be the first photographer to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. He has won many awards for his photography, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972 and the Photographer and Educator Award from the Society for Photographic Education in 1976. He would then be designated Honored Photographer of the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles, France in 1977. Callahan also received the ICP’s Master of Photography Infinity Award in 1991 and in 1997, he received the award for the National Medal of the Arts.


Harry Callahan retired from RISD in 1977 and passed away on March 15, 1999, in Atlanta, GA. He leaves behind hundreds and thousands of negatives and around 10,000 prints which are on display and in collections at prestigious institutions around the world.

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