My latest photo assignment was to give a presentation on a photographer of my choice. I don’t know much about famous photographers, but we were given a list of names, so I started by simply searching in Google and looking at the first images that came up. After a handful of tries, I was instantly drawn to Harry Callahan’s photos. They are very simple, often focusing on nature, buildings, or people, and sometimes created with interesting techniques, such as high contrast or multiple exposures. These are (only a few of) my favorites:
I learned that Harry Callahan was born right here in the mitten – in Detroit in 1912. He went to MSU for engineering but never finished the program. He got interested in photography while working at Chrysler, and made it into a lifelong hobby/job/career. His photography can be seen as sort of a documentation of his life and his surroundings, whether that be the place he was living or the people in it – mostly his wife Eleanor. He taught in Chicago for many years, before traveling to Europe and then moving to Rhode Island where he started a photography program. After retiring, he spent more time traveling with his wife.
His work ethic was very inspiring to me. He was constantly be out shooting and would sometimes just go for a walk and take pictures. Although he got a lot of bad pictures this way, he still considered it valuable and believed the practiced helped him. In an interview he says, “I photograph continuously, often without a good idea or a strong feeling. During this time the photos are nearly all poor but I believe they develop my seeing and help later in other photos.”
I think I liked this so much because I often find myself trying to go out and take photos without a good grasp of what I’m trying to capture. I know that isn’t the most productive way to do it, but then I see what is working and what isn’t. But usually an idea comes out of it, and I can start to pursue it. It may take longer, and leave me with some pretty bad photos, but it helps me get started.
One of my favorite quotes by Callahan is: “I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing.” He believed that an individual could express what they saw or how they felt through a photograph. He wanted his photos to have something spiritual in them, something that would make a person feel something.
Well, Harry Callahan, I surely felt drawn to them the first time I saw them.
I hope to continue to explore other photographers’ styles, work, and subjects to further develop my own skills and to learn more about those who have already produced great photos.
One of my favorite blogs that helped me to learn some of this information was Eric Kim Street Photography Blog. You should check out the article he wrote, “7 Lessons Harry Callahan Has Taught Me About Street Photography and Life.”
Artner, Alan. “Harry Callahan Pursued a Vision Pure and Simple.” Chicago Tribune 23 Mar. 1999. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-03-23/features/9903230155_1_harry-callahan-salon-photographers-alfred-stieglitz>.
Callahan, Harry M. Interview by Robert Brown. “Eleanor, Chicago, 1952.” ASX. 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/12/theory-harry-m-callahan-interview-feb.html>.
Cassidy, Victor M. “Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work.” lensCulture . Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <https://www.lensculture.com/articles/harry-callahan-harry-callahan-the-photographer-at-work>.
“Harry Callahan .” Pace/MacGill Gallery . N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://www.pacemacgill.com/biography.php?artist=Harry%20Callahan>.
Harry Callahan, Subtle Scientist and and Poet of the 20th Century Lens. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://arttattler.com/archiveharrycallahan.html>.
Kennicott, Philip. “Review: Harry Callahan photography exhibit at the National Gallery of Art.” The Washington Post 4 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/review-harry-callahan-photography-exhibit-at-the-national-gallery-of-art/2011/10/04/gIQAJ5V1LL_story.html>.
Salvesen, Britt. Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work. Tuscon: Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, 2006. 1-50. Print.
Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. “Harry Callahan, Street Photography and the Alienating City.” The Archive 35 Oct. 2007: 21-32. Print.
Ware, Katherine. “Field Notes from a Life: Harry Callahan’s Landscape Photographs.” The Archive 35 Oct. 2007 : 13-17. Print.