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AARON SISKIND 1903-1991
Born and brought up in New York, Aaron Siskind was an American photographer with a distinct style. His images were what have been termed Abstract Expressionist and Experimentalism.
Aaron Siskind received a camera as a wedding gift in 1930. Initially he photographed in a social documentary style. His introduction to photography was around the time of the Great Depression which informed his choice of subject. In 1936 he formed a group, whose purpose was to collectively produce documentary photographic essays. He and others in the group produced Harlem Document, a photo essay of life in Harlem following the Great Depression. It is his most famous documentary series. (A comprehensive group of these images are available to view on Google).
Towards the middle of the 1940s Aaron Siskind’s photography moved away from socially centred documentary.
He began experimenting with photographing recognisable things and places in a new way – a conceptual way, an abstract way. At the time, Siskind was a high school teacher, with a personal interest in music and poetry. His abstract photography, which encompassed run down, derelict facades, surfaces and other discarded objects, has been described as poetic. It has also been compared to musical score. Undoubtedly his background informed his imagery.
For his time, this type of work was quite revolutionary. This innovation earned him a place in the history of photography.
Siskind began to align himself with abstract expressionist painters of that time. This association led to a joint exhibition between himself and expressionist painters.
By the 1950s, although still photographing in an abstract style, Siskind was commissioned to document a building project in Chicago and he began to concentrate on Architecture.
With his background in teaching, his move into teaching photography is perhaps not surprising. Siskind went on to found the Society of Photographic Education in 1963 along with Harry Callahan. He continued teaching at various design schools in the USA up until 1976.
Abstract Expressionist painting as well as the Abstract Expressionist Photography produced by Siskind appealed to a small audience. This however, did not detract from the recognition that Siskind received worldwide. Apart from his many years to teaching, successful commissions and multiple exhibitions, Siskind won many awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Rome.
Today Siskind’s work is highly collectable and is held in major collections such as, The Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institute, USA as well as other museums in the USA and abroad. His images are held by reputable AIPAD galleries. His archive is held by the International Center of Photography in New York.
For a look at a complete collection of the Aaron Siskind archive, follow the link below