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Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in ARTICLES | 0 comments

Harry Callahan: The Tate Modern


The work of Harry Callahan has been residing in the Tate Modern for almost four months now, and with another two months still to go, the exhibition persists to draw in an impressive audience.

It was an Ansel Adams workshop, back in 1941, which encouraged Callahan to pursue the path of professional photography. Though he received little training, Callahan is perceived as one of the most influential post-war photographers.

From cityscapes to close-ups of weeds, many of Callahan’s images have a simplicity with the ability to trigger one’s mind into wondering what his inspiration could possibly have been.

The exhibition displays a variety of photographic methods experimented with at the hands of Callahan. From the light abstraction of ‘Chicago’ to the carefully pieced together fashion collage, ‘Cutouts’, it’s undeniable that each of Callahan’s creations received a lot of care and attention.

© Estate of Harry Callahan

© Estate of Harry Callahan

A whole room of the exhibition is dedicated to the photographs Callahan captured of his wife; several subtle nude shots, a stark silhouette, and many shot on location, as well at the ‘Eleanor Aix-en-Provence’ montage – it is clear that his wife may well have been his favourite subject to photograph.

The stark simplicity of the weeds and grasses collection means that some of the prints don’t really resemble photographs at all. ‘Grasses’, ‘Weed in Snow’ and ‘Cattail’, at a glance, take the appearance of digitally created images or even a paintings, rather than that which has been captured through the lens.

'Weeds in Snow', Detroit,  1943

© Estate of Harry Callahan

The ‘New York (mannequin legs)’ collection presents an unusual way of capturing one of the most widely photographed cities in the world. As the name suggests, legs from mannequins were placed in various NY locations and then captured on camera by Callahan.

The exhibition also showcases Callahan’s abstract images of New York skyscrapers; ‘NY 1974’ and ‘NY c.1974’ show appreciation of the linear patterns visible on many New York buildings, towering hundreds of feet above the photographer.

A particular favourite collection of mine was ‘Providence’, showcasing fashion in 1962 via the presentation of natural, somewhat ordinary street photography, including a woman in a striking red dress – perhaps one of Callahan’s most colourful captures.

© Estate of Harry Callahan

© Estate of Harry Callahan


The Harry Callahan exhibition runs until 1st June, at the Tate Modern. Entrance is free of charge.