Aaron Siskind




Close to many members of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, including Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning, Aaron Siskind (1903-1991) turned away from socio-political photography post World War II. Siskind immortalised found objects that were simultaneously true-to-life and abstract, placing an emphasis on form, line and texture.

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Jerome 49, 1949

Aaron Siskind

Early Years and The New York Photo League

The fifth of six children in a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in New York City, Siskind studied literature with the objective of becoming a writer. In 1929, he was given his first camera as a honeymoon gift and soon after became dedicated to the medium. In 1932, Siskind joined The New York Photo League and participated as an active social documentary photographer, creating series such as Harlem Document. Siskind was instrumental in establishing the The Feature Group, which produced influential photo-series including The Most Crowded Block in the World, Tabernacle City and Dead End: The Bowery.

Move to Abstraction

In the early 1940s, Siskind left the Photo League and became close to many members of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, including Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Guided by the philosophy of the Abstract Expressionists, Siskind began photographing discarded objects as abstract compositions. In 1945, he published The Drama of the Objects and exhibited regularly with the prominent gallerist Charles Egan. Through his process of experimentation he helped to transform photography as a medium.

In addition to helping revolutionise the medium of photography, Siskind was an influential and passionate teacher. With an invitation from his friend Harry Callahan, Siskind moved to Chicago and taught photography at the Institute of Design for twenty years. His works are held in a number of prestigious collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.