Aaron Siskind

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Aaron Siskind
Portrait of Aaron Siskind by Harry Callahan.jpg
Siskind, circa 1950
BornDecember 4, 1903
New York City, New York
DiedFebruary 8, 1991(1991-02-08) (aged 87)
Known forPhotography

Aaron Siskind (December 4, 1903 – February 8, 1991) was an American photographer. Siskind's work focuses on the details of things, presented as flat surfaces[1] to create a new image independent of the original subject. He was closely involved with, if not a part of, the abstract expressionist movement.[2]


Born in New York City, Siskind grew up on the Lower East Side.[1] Shortly after graduating from City College, he became a public school English teacher.[1] Siskind was a grade school English teacher in the New York Public School System for 25 years, and began photography when he received a camera as a wedding gift and began taking pictures on his honeymoon.

Early in his career Siskind was a member of the New York Photo League,[1] where he produced several significant socially conscious series of images in the 1930s, among them "Harlem Document".[3][4]

In 1950 Siskind met Harry Callahan when both were teaching at Black Mountain College in the summer. Later, Callahan persuaded Siskind to join him as part of the faculty of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago[1] (founded by László Moholy-Nagy as the New Bauhaus[5]). In 1971 he followed Callahan (who had left in 1961) by his invitation to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design,[1] until both retired in the late 1970s.

Siskind made photographs of "close-up details of painted walls, asphalt pavement, rocks and lava flows",[1] "cracked, peeling paint on weathered surfaces".[6] He also used "a process of tracing, rubbing and smearing on the surfaces of his negatives and prints, . . . dirt, dust and grime".[7]

Siskind's work includes works done in Rome in 1963 and 1967, Mexico in the 1970s, and in the 1980s works such as the Tar Series in Providence, Vermont, and Route 88 near Westport, Rhode Island. He continued making photographs until his death on February 8, 1991.

He died of a stroke on February 8, 1991.[1]


  • Bucks County: Photographs of Early Architecture. Horizon, 1974. ISBN 9780818014161.
  • Places: Aaron Siskind Photographs. Siskind and Thomas B. Hess. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976. ISBN 9780374232054.
  • Harlem Document Photographs 1932 1940: Aaron Siskind. Matrix, 1981. ISBN 978-0936554075.
  • Road Trip: Photographs 1980-1988 (Untitled 49). Friends of Photography, 1989. ISBN 9780933286535.
  • Harlem Photographs 1932-1940. Smithsonian, 1990. ISBN 9781560980414.
  • Aaron Siskind 100. powerHouse, 2003. ISBN 9781576871942.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Grundberg, Andy (9 February 1991). "Aaron Siskind, a Photographer Of Abstract Images, Dies at 85". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via NYTimes.com.
  2. ^ Abstract Expressionism - Museum of Modern Art
  3. ^ Conrad, Peter (6 January 2012). "Cecil Beaton: The New York Years; The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951 – review". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via www.theguardian.com.
  4. ^ Sandhu, Sukhdev (12 August 2011). "Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via www.theguardian.com.
  5. ^ Hopkinson, By Amanda (30 March 1999). "Harry Callahan obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via www.theguardian.com.
  6. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (30 April 2018). "Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art review – an experimental masterclass". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (8 June 2017). "History gathers dust … photographers add an extra layer to the story of a century". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-20 – via www.theguardian.com.
  8. ^ "Aaron Siskind". The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  9. ^ "Aaron Siskind · SFMOMA". www.sfmoma.org. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  10. ^ "The jewels of the new SFMOMA photography collection – in pictures". The Guardian. 9 May 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-19 – via www.theguardian.com.

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