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View Full Version : Discussing a Harry Callahan Photograph



Jim Chinn
08-17-2006, 10:04 AM
This will be my last contribution for awhile to this forum. I invite those who showed an interest in posting images in the original sticky thread to do so as well as anyone else wanting to discuss a favorite image. I will be busy with re-starting a second business that was on hold for the last year so my time to contact people will be limited.

Harry Callahan is probably my favorite photographer. After wanting to emulate Adams and Weston I discovered Callahan and learned that beautiful images don't have to all come from Yosemite or Point Lobos. He was a life long experimentor with the medium and produced great work in landscape, urban, portraiture, street, collage, color, and various in camera manipulations.
His life long series of nudes of his wife Eleanor are among the classic works of contemporary art.

I suppose everyone has a favorite photograph they would like to have hanging in their home. If I could buy one image from a well known photographer this would be the one, Trees, Lake Michigan, 1950
The computer does not begin to show the delicate tonality and feel that this print has.

Here is a couple links of Callahan's work. (The images at George Eastman house are no the best of reproductions)
http://masters-of-photography.com/C/callahan/callahan.html

http://www.eastman.org/ne/str085/htmlsrc9/callahan_sld00001.html

billschwab
08-17-2006, 10:20 AM
Callahan is truly one of the greats and I LOVE this image. A friend of mine has one that he got directly from the photographer in the early 70's.... for $200.00! It was recently appraised at over $15,000.00. It is a beautiful Jewel of a print.

Bill

magic823
08-17-2006, 11:16 AM
Very nice. It something that I'd be proud to hang on a wall. Reminds me a lot of a print from a friend of mine, Dan Burkholder. Attached is a copy of Dan's print.

tim atherton
08-17-2006, 12:16 PM
Very nice. It something that I'd be proud to hang on a wall. Reminds me a lot of a print from a friend of mine, Dan Burkholder. Attached is a copy of Dan's print.

well - they both have tree trunks in them... that's about as far as it goes

KEK
08-17-2006, 12:46 PM
If any one is in Chicago there is a Callahan show at the Art institue. I think its for a couple more weeks? I talked my wife into going with me a few weeks ago(she doesn't normally go to something like that) and she noticed and commented on how varied his subject matter was. We both liked the short explanations that callahan gave for some of his prints. He wrote that he was very unsatisfied with his early versions of the trees print and realized to satisfy his vision he was going to have to break with the current tradition at that time of a full range of tones and detail in the shadows and print it much more graphic. It sure worked in this case.

Kevin

mark
08-17-2006, 12:47 PM
A very quiet and peaceful image. I see the connection between it and the burkholder image but I get a different feel from that one. It not as peaceful, more of what being lost looks like.

CarlRadford
08-17-2006, 01:58 PM
I see parallels between Callahan and Keena:

http://www.michaelkenna.net/html/archive/95.html
http://www.michaelkenna.net/html/hokkaido_05/1.html

there is a stark beauty in the images - sometimes very little says a great deal!

David Henderson
08-17-2006, 02:30 PM
Beautifully composed, perfectly balanced, lovely tones and a wonderful feel. What more can I say?

I agree there are similarities with the look of some of Kenna's images, but then I love those too.

tim atherton
08-17-2006, 02:36 PM
I see parallels between Callahan and Keena:

http://www.michaelkenna.net/html/archive/95.html
http://www.michaelkenna.net/html/hokkaido_05/1.html

there is a stark beauty in the images - sometimes very little says a great deal!

One of the bigger influences on Kenna is Bill Brandt (but I can't find any of his good landscapes online) - but I could certainly see Callahan as an influence on him as well.

Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work is a quite nice book I got recently - which does just that - shows a lot of his work in the process of being made - contact sheets, notes, negatives etc (interestingly, it's the first book the Centre for Creative Photography has produced by making all the copy work with a Betterlight Scanning back rather than film transparencies...)

jovo
08-17-2006, 02:51 PM
I love Callahan's work. He seems to have tried absolutely everything, including photographing Eleanor with a telephone pole "growing" from her head, breaking, one of the zillions of camera club no-no's that must have delighted him to do. And as to emulating his work, check out Rolfe Horn's nearly identical image of same toned beach and sky with a tiny sliver of dark ocean in the middle...it's almost plagerism. As to the posted image above, it's one of my all time favoritesof his that I would have little compunction against plagerizing...if I could ;)


(here's a link to the Horn 'graph. I can't find the Callahan original on line:)

http://www.f45.com/html/japan/12.html

tim atherton
08-17-2006, 03:08 PM
I love Callahan's work. He seems to have tried absolutely everything, including photographing Eleanor with a telephone pole "growing" from her head, breaking, one of the zillions of camera club no-no's that must have delighted him to do. And as to emulating his work, check out Rolfe Horn's nearly identical image of same toned beach and sky with a tiny sliver of dark ocean in the middle...it's almost plagerism. As to the posted image above, it's one of my all time favoritesof his that I would have little compunction against plagerizing...if I could ;)


(here's a link to the Horn 'graph. I can't find the Callahan original on line:)

http://www.f45.com/html/japan/12.html

small

http://www.geh.org/ne/str085/l198111350002.jpg

and not a very good version (there's a couple of different ones) of it, but:

http://www.perichgallery.com/dynamicsite/data/photograph/image/1000_by_322/6564.jpg

or

http://photographydealers.com/images/newinventory0826/enlargements/CallahanBook07110.jpg

Sparky
08-17-2006, 04:55 PM
The Callahan is a really naive image I think. But for that, it's SOOO lovely! I think it's a documentary photograph. He's simply documenting the 'feel' of a particularly nice scene. It's photography at it's most 'zen' perhaps. Without any authorial pretension.

Daniel Grenier
08-17-2006, 06:32 PM
[QUOTE=Jim Chinn]..... If I could buy one image from a well known photographer this would be the one, Trees, Lake Michigan, 1950
QUOTE]

I, too, rate this image as one of my all time favorites and would love to have it on my walls. The deep black trees, the pure white snow, the gray sky. Simple, yet very powerful and deeply emotional.

I love this picture.

BWGirl
08-17-2006, 07:21 PM
Well, to show you how un-schooled I am... the only Harry Callahan I know of is "Dirty Harry"...you know... "go ahead...make my day." :rolleyes:

Having said that, I love that print you posted, Jim. I'll have to look for more of them. The one you posted reminds me a lot of my favorite Tim Rudman shot... "Two and a half trees". Gorgeous.

naturephoto1
08-17-2006, 10:06 PM
I also like the posted Callahan photo.

Rich

Jim Chinn
08-17-2006, 10:10 PM
I love Callahan's work. He seems to have tried absolutely everything, including photographing Eleanor with a telephone pole "growing" from her head, breaking, one of the zillions of camera club no-no's that must have delighted him to do. And as to emulating his work, check out Rolfe Horn's nearly identical image of same toned beach and sky with a tiny sliver of dark ocean in the middle...it's almost plagerism. As to the posted image above, it's one of my all time favoritesof his that I would have little compunction against plagerizing...if I could ;)




In the earlier comprehensive book of his photography titled Harry Callahan
the story is related how he and a friend would purposely break all the "rules" of composition in thier photographs just to rile up the Detroit Camera club crowd.

copake_ham
08-17-2006, 10:11 PM
Photos like this one by Callahan (taken 1950) always depress me. They make me feel as if all of the "good shots" have already been taken so - why bother? I was born in 1951. Jeez, before I was born one of the best wintertime shots had already been taken!

With a house in Copake, New York where the winter is five months long - I've come to "appreciate" winter scenes. This guy sets a very high bar to hurdle!

BTW: I particularly like the symettry of this shot - it both follows the "rule of thirds" while being centered! And the "crowns" of the trees are "lace-like" (but "negatives" - i.e. black) and wonderfully stand out against the wintertime white/grey sky. This is a "classic" monochrome shot.

I have to think that Callahan looked long and hard to find the particular "arrangement" of the trees. And I also think he had to have had extreme patience and presence of mind NOT to go stamping about "examining" them - and thus leaving footprints in the snow! ;)

Then again, maybe he had an early version of PS and "cloned out" the footprints? After all the original Univac computer was "invented" around 1948 or so! :D

reellis67
08-20-2006, 05:24 PM
The aesthetics of this photograph are very strong. There is great depth and feeling of place and the tone of the print really adds to that feeling. This is a photograph that I don't feel inclined to look for form in, but rather just take in the feeling of it.

Thanks also for posting the woman and the lamp post photograph along with the significance of it - very interesting. That's a good example of a time when understanding the backstory of a photograph helps in understanding it.

- Randy