In this episode, I’ll walk you through a virtual exhibition of color photographs by the legendary Harry Callahan, hosted by Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta
Full Audio Transcript
In this episode we visit a virtual exhibition of color photographs by Harry Callahan — stay tuned
[ Intro ]
Hey everybody Keith Dotson here and in this episode of the fine art photography podcast, I’ll talk you through my experience viewing the virtual exhibition of work by Harry Callahan from Atlanta’s fine art photo gallery Jackson Fine Art.
First, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, let me say that I’ll be talking about Harry Callahan, the photographer, not the Clint Eastwood character Harry Callahan better known as “Dirty Harry.” Both Harrys were shooters, but one used a .44 magnum and the other used a camera.
But back to the point, I’m on the mailing list of Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta — and was thus invited recently to access their temporary viewing room for the exhibition “Harry Callahan The Street: in Color.” That show is available through Sept 11, 2020, but even if you hear this after the closing of the show, get on the Jackson Fine Art mailing list to see future shows.
Before I talk about the show, let me give you some background on Jackson Fine Art and Harry Callahan.
About Jackson Fine Art
My hope is to record a podcast live from a real show at Jackson Fine Art at some point, but for now, we have to settle for the online format. Jackson Fine Art is an Atlanta-based art gallery that specializes in fine art photography. They’ve been in business for 30 years, operating out of an amazing old house in the upscale Buckhead area of Atlanta.
The business was founded by Jane Jackson, who built the business and then sold it to the current owner, Anna Walker Skillman — and in case you’re wondering, Ms. Jackson sold the business to go be the director of Elton John’s photo collection and in case you didn’t know, Elton John maintains a home in Atlanta and he also owns a world-class photography collection.
I’m embarrassed to say I had never really heard of Jackson Fine Art until last year, when I had pictures in a Nashville special designer home that was sponsored by a national interior design magazine, and Jackson loaned the work of several great photographers to the project — including a print by young superstar Bastiann Woudt.
Jackson Fine Art has a glorious space and I am very excited to get there in person to look at prints. Their client list includes major corporations and art museums — so they are a legit big deal art gallery — and I love galleries that specialize in photography.
By the way, this podcast is not sponsored by Jackson Fine Art and I don’t have any relationship with them — but I’d love to — if you hear this Anna Walker Skillman, call me!
[ Break ]
About Harry Callahan
Harry Callahan was born in Detroit in 1912, and died in Atlanta in 1999. He was a self-taught photographer who became so accomplished that he went from being a shipping clerk in the parts department at Chrysler in the 1930s to teaching at the Chicago Institute of Design in the 1950s and at the top-flight Rhode Island School of Design in 1961.
His work is held in many of the most important museums, including the Mett, and the Museum of Modern Art. In 1978 he became the first photographer ever chosen to represent the United States at the prestigious Venice Biennale.
Harry Callahan was known for black and white work, which is why this exhibition at Jackson Fine Art is making a point of his color images. A TIME magazine article said Harry Callahan was visually akin to the abstract expressionists, but their giant canvases aimed to capture the spiritual realm, whereas his small photos were more like an intuition.
I’m quoting from the online viewing room:
“Harry Callahan is one of the 20th century’s most recognized photographers. Both an artist and teacher, his influence changed the way we think about the possibilities of photographic expression and the relationships between art and life. His influences can be seen in generations of photographers that have come after him.
Most famous for his black-in-white work of urban scenes, nature, nudes, his family, and a variety of photographic abstractions, it is less known that he was one of the pioneers of color photography.
Throughout the course of his career his most consistent subject has been the city. He mostly focused on cities he resided in or frequently traveled to including Detroit, Chicago, New York, Providence and finally the last city he lived in, Atlanta.
The Street: In Color exhibition focuses on Callahan’s multiple exposure, color dye-transfer photographs taken on one of his favorite stages, the city streets. Created by running the film through the camera twice the resulting images are a combination of reality instinct, intuition, imagination and chance resulting in complex, yet honest and simple images that reflect who the artist was as a person.”
The exhibition begins with a series of well-known black and white photographs including his beautiful minimalist snowscape featuring six black trees.
Then we are greeted with a quote from Harry: he says…
“I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me that makes photography more exciting.”
Then as we scroll down the page, we come to an award-winning short film about Harry Cahhahan, which actually clicks through to the website of Judith Wechsler. I’ll include a link to the short film in the description.
In the film Harry says something that I can completely relate to — he says he was never excited by the grand landscapes, like mountains, but rather he liked the things he could shoot anywhere, like plants close to the ground, or leaves.
While he shot landscapes and other things, he is known for the many photographs he made of his wife, Eleanor, often nude. In the video she said she wasn’t a model, and didn’t know how to pose so she posed how Harry told her to do it. Then Harry chimed in, saying he didn’t know how to do it either, he was just taking pictures. She replied with a chuckle that he did very well. They were a cute couple.
Harry said he was inspired to photograph Eleanor because of the way Stieglitz made images of Georgia O’Keeffe. About his multiple exposures, he said he composes those in the camera, relying on accidents to make it surprising. Callahan said accidents are important in photography, and quotes artist Chuck Close as saying that accidents are one thing photography has as an advantage over painting.
The film is 23 minutes long, and I learned all that from the first few minutes — well worth watching.
As we scroll further down the page to the 7 color photographs that comprise the actual exhibition, we see that each one is titled with the name of the city where it was taken, and with a date.
First up is Atlanta, 1984, and it’s a street scene shot with a window reflection, giving the impression of a double exposure — or it might even be a double exposure as described earlier. The other six are named similarly and most have multiple scenes captured on the image.
All are dye transfer prints, and since this is a commercial art gallery, all are offered for sale. The image sizes average slightly larger than 8 x 13 inches or 9 x 14 inches on a larger sheet.
All are signed in pencil recto, which means on the front, with notations in pencil verso, which means on the back.
You can find a link to the online viewing rooms on the Jackson Fine Art website at jacksonfineart dot com, or click the link in the description.
That’s all I’ve got for this episode. Thanks for listening — I’ll talk to you again real soon.
Harry Callahan, Encyclopedia.com
Jackson Fine Art