Harry Callahan

22 Mar - 09 Jun 2013

© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York
22 March − 9 June 2013

Harry Callahan (1912 − 1999) is one of the icons of 20th-century Us photography. His oeuvre quite marvelously points up trends in traditional romantic photography and combines them with the formalist/experimental New vision developed during european Modernism. For almost six decades, Harry callahan produced a unique multi-facetted body of photographic work which − in its full complexity − has not yet been brought to the attention of a wider audience inside europe. one of the reasons may be that callahan’s reception obviously focused on the United states, culminating in a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976. still, in 1978 together with the painter Richard Diebenkorn (1922 − 1993) he represented the United states at the venice Biennial.

After Callahan died in 1999, his works were shown in group exhibitions or solos shows, for example in the superb solo presentation at La caixa, Madrid, Spain (2000), at the center for creative photography in Tucson, Arizona (2006) or at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, France (2010). Nevertheless, in Europe Callahan must be considered an inside tip within the photographic world. Given the significance of his outstanding oeuvre and on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birthday, we believe Callahan deserves a major retrospective at an internationally renowned art institution showing main aspects of his exceptional photographic production.

The exhibition will present the entire bandwidth of Harry Callahan’s photographic oeuvre: Taking as a point of departure the motifs he encountered in his daily reality, in addition to depictions of nature and landscapes there are works that evolved in urban settings including shop windows, street processions and buildings, or shots of people passing by. The images in which he places his family − his wife eleanor and daughter Barbara − at the center of things are later replaced by other subjects that essentially stem from his numerous journeys, for instance, through France, Italy, Ireland, Morocco, Portugal, Mexico and Peru. Not only will the show demonstrate Callahan’s topical diversity and the variation of work groups he rigorously pursued and repeatedly revised over the years. in addition to the works produced as black−and−white silver gelatin prints the works produced using the dye transfer method will be featured.

Haus der photographie attached to Deichtorhallen Hamburg possesses some 200 works by Harry callahan and thus a highly important portfolio of his oeuvre. F. c. Gundlach, the collector and founding director of House of Photography, started collecting Callahan’s photos back at the end of the 1970s and accorded Callahan a very special status in his collection. it is not only thanks to F. c. Gundlach’s intensive collecting activity that Harry Callahan’s photographs occupy a special place within his collection. especially the dye transfer prints are also relevant in terms of photographic history: they resulted from the direct collaboration between Harry Callahan, F.C. Gundlach and New York gallery owner Peter MacGill. it was this method of producing color prints that in the early 1980s helped Callahan achieve the desired form of expression for his colored work.

The retrospective on Harry Callahan follows on from major panoramic exhibitions on pioneers of international photographic history such as tina Modotti and Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1998), irving penn (1998) and Weegee (1999) not to mention Martin Munkácsi (2005) and Lillian Bassman & Paul Himmel (2009).

Tags: Manuel Álvarez-Bravo, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Diebenkorn, Gelatin, F.C. Gundlach, Tina Modotti, Irving Penn