“The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem” _ Harry Callahan
Harry Morey Callahan was an American photographer, who is considered to be one of the great innovators of modern American photography. He was born in Detroit, Michigan and started photographing in 1938 as an autodidact.
Callahan discovered photography at the age of 26 and in less than a decade found ways of working, chose photographic subjects, and launched experiments that would continue for the next sixty years. His photography is exploratory rather than evolutionary. He chose a subject, photographed it for awhile, left it, did other things, and then returned to it, usually from a changed perspective. Chronology is of little importance to understanding Callahan and the Art Institute divides up the show topically, according to the three subjects that he photographed: nature, buildings, and people.
In 1938, he was working at the Chrysler Company in Detroit, Michigan, joined the Chrysler Photo Club, and learned camera basics from a friend. He soon became dissatisfied with hobby photography and the sentimental pictorialism that club members favoured. Wanting something more, he found it late in 1941 when the photographer Ansel Adams lectured at the club and—as Callahan later told it—“set me free.”
Adams told the club to view photography in its own terms not as would-be painting and within its own limitations. A photograph should be “a clean, sharp, highly detailed description of the external world within a carefully delineated, continuous tonal range,” he stated. Photographing simple things, such as nature at our feet, is just as valid as creating spectacular images, Adams added. He taught Callahan how to make prints and, above all, inspired him to become a photographic artist.