About Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan (American, October 12, 1912–March 15, 1999) is known for his work in photography. He was born in Detroit, MI. He worked for Chrysler in his youth but left the company to attend Michigan State University to study engineering. Eventually, he dropped out of college and returned to work at Chrysler. Upon his return, he joined the company's camera club, and, by 1938, Callahan had begun teaching himself photography. During this time, he became friends with another future photographer, Todd Webb (American, 1905–2000). Callahan met his wife on a blind date in 1933, when they were both Chrysler employees, and the two married three years later. His method of photography was very technical and precise; every day, he woke up and walked the city where he lived to take photographs. In the afternoons, he would look over his negatives and choose the best ones to make print proofs.

Callahan once estimated that he produced no more than a half dozen finished images each year. He often photographed his wife and daughter, buildings, and streets. His photos showed a strong sense of darkness and light, along with lines and forms. Callahan often experimented with multiple exposures and saw photography as deeply personal. His wife, in particular, held great significance in his work. She was his major subject for a period of 15 years. Callahan gave his photographs simple titles, such as Eleanor, New York, and Chicago. These works are currently in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

Callahan was a unique innovator in American photography. His work is noted as much for his use of color as for black-and-white. He received the National Medal of Arts in 1996 and died in Atlanta in 1999. Callahan left behind some 100,000 negatives and 10,000 proof prints. The University of Arizona maintains his archives, and the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York represents his estate.

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Harry Callahan's Projects on LensCulture
Harry Callahan's Books