Research Code Key
[E] Explanation [O] Opinion [W] Website [R] Further Research [Q] Quotation [U] Useful [!] Critical
[X] Exhibition [T] Timeline [I] Important [>] Indent
[P] Photograph [B] Book To Read



[U] Harry Callahan (American, born October 12, 1912–died March 15, 1999) is known for his work in photography.

[U] A native of Detroit, MI, he worked for Chrysler, and, after a brief hiatus spent at Michigan State University, he joined the company’s camera club, and, by 1938, Callahan had begun teaching himself photography.

[U] During this time, he became friends with another future photographer, Todd Webb. Callahan met his wife on a blind date in 1933, when they were both Chrysler employees, and the two married three years later.

[U] 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.

[U] Callahan once estimated that he produced no more than a half dozen finished images each year.

[U] 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.

[U] 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.

[U] 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.

[U] Callahan was a unique innovator in American photography. His work is noted as much for his use of color as for black and white.

[U] He received the National Medal of Arts in 1996.

[U] The artist died in Atlanta in 1999, leaving behind some 100,000 negatives and 10,000 proof prints.

[U] The University of Arizona maintains his archives, and the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York represents his estate.


[T] 1912 – Born in Detroit, MI

[T] 1938 – Began as an amateur photographer when he was clerk in the shipping department of Chrysler Motors

[T] 1941 – Joined the Chrysler camera club and then the Detroit Photo Guild where he met many established photographers, including Ansel Adams

[T] 1942 – Travelled to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz

[T] 1946 – Asked to join the photography faculty at the Institute of Design in Chicago by Arthur Siegel

[T] 1961 – Left Chicago to head the photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

[T] 1973 – Stepped down from the chairmanship in 1973, but continued teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design.

[T] 1996 – Awarded the National Medal of Arts.

[T] 1999 – Died in Atlanta, GA