At the Crossroads of American Photography.
Photographs by Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer. Essays by Keith F. Davis and Dr. Britt Salvesen.
Radius Books, 2008. 172 pp., 66 duotone illustrations, 12x11".
At the Crossroads of American Photography examines the aesthetic interrelationship of three photographers who helped define the course of American photography: Frederick Sommer, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. Although each has been honored with individual museum retrospectives, this is the first full comparison of their work and exploration of their robust, prescient exchange of ideas about photography, abstraction and metaphor. Self-taught as photographers, they helped shape a national community of peers and the evolution of photography as an art form. They are the bridge between the purity of Group f/64-era photography at mid-century and the hybrid approaches to the medium seen today.
These men, whose professional friendships span 25 years, were dubbed the “holy trinity” of American photography (by publisher Jonathan Williams). This exhibition and publication highlight the powerful role of such camaraderie in shaping photography at this seminal time, before the emergence of a market for photography and before widespread artistic acceptance of the medium. It brings to light contrasting philosophies of the artist/photographer’s role (influenced by existentialism for Siskind and by the writings of Spinoza for Sommer); the interest in chance as an artistic process; the expressive potential of photographic ‘found’ objects and ‘collage’; experimental abstraction; close affiliations with “fine art” movements (New Bauhaus, Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism); and changing attitudes toward the fine-print tradition. This project explores the intellectual genealogy of American photography, as well as the artistic personalities that helped define photographic education in this country for generations to come.
This publication, which accompanies an exhibtion at The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, will include 66 of the most seminal images from the show (22 by each photographer), a thorough text by guest curator Keith F. Davis, an essay by Dr. Britt Salvesen, and a complete exhibtion checklist. The images included in the exhibtion will be borrowed from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation in Prescott and a heretofore unseen vast private collection in northern Arizona, which are together nearly comprehensive and of especially remarkable high quality.