Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind was born on New York’s Lower East Side in 1903. He spent his young life in search of a medium with which to express and develop his aesthetic. He was interested in social reform, and explored music, literature, and poetry. The gift of a camera in 1930 changed his life forever. His early images were powerful evocations of the human condition, many of them done under the auspices of the New York Photo League. As a member of the Photo League, Siskind organized the League’s Feature Group whose focus was documenting neighborhoods in the city, and Harlem was his primary subject.

Beginning in the 1940’s, Aaron’s imagery shifted from social documentary to symbol and form. By the 1950’s, this symbol and form, abstraction from a context combined with a passion for surface and texture came to identify the pictorial language of Aaron Siskind . This was his mature artistic voice and this is the work for which he is most celebrated today. Siskind explored great themes of art and literature in the photographic vernacular he invented, an idiom related to the explorations of painters Willem DeKooning and Mark Rothko. Siskind was the photographer accepted by the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. From 1947 – 1953 Siskind had five one man exhibitions at the Egan Gallery, which was the preeminent gallery for the abstract expressionists of the day.

In 1950 Aaron Siskind met-up with his friend Harry Callahan at summer workshops at Black Mountain College. Shortly there-after Callahan persuaded Siskind to join him to teach at the renowned Institute of Design, Chicago, where Siskind remained for almost twenty years, helping shape the next generation of artists and photographers. This continued when he was hired at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1971 until his retirement in 1976. Aaron Siskind passed away in 1991 in Providence.