Item Number: AAS-1226
Apollo Theatre from the Series Harlem Document, NY, c. 1937
Aaron Siskind, American Photographer (1903-1991) Born in New York, NY and died Providence, RI.
He graduated from the City College of New York in 1926 and taught high school English until he became interested in Photography
in 1930. Aaron Siskind’s early social documentary work is strongest in his contributions to the Harlem Document 1932-40. His photography involved modern photography, straight photography, documentary photography and abstract expressionist photographic works.
Siskind also identified with the concepts and styles of the Abstract Expressionist artists in New York City in the 1940s.
He was the only photographer closely associated with this movement early on.
In 1933 Aaron Siskind joined the Film and Photo League in New York, a group of documentary photographers devoted to improving social conditions in contemporary society with their photographs. He had a falling out with the Photo League in 1941 as his work became more focused on abstraction.
Abstract Expressionists painters Mark Rothko and Franz Kline supported Siskind’s abstract photographic approach as they recognized his elimination of pictorial space and his focus on the arrangement of objects within the picture plane as qualities connecting his work with their own.
Siskind’s photographs have been widely exhibited and he won many awards for his photography, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Distinguished Photography Award from the Friends of Photography. Siskind was a photography instructor at Chicago’s Institute of Design and served as head of the department there from 1961 to 1971.
Siskind’s abstract photographs from the late 1940s and early 1950s were a major force in the development of avant-garde art in America. In rejecting the third dimension, this work belied the notion that photography was tied exclusively to representation. As such, Siskind’s work served as an invaluable link between the American documentary movement of the 1930s and the more introspective photography that emerged in the 1950s and 60s.