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 Aaron Siskind  (1903 - 1991)

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Lived/Active: Rhode Island/Illinois      Known for: photo mutation, photo collage, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the web site:

Born 1903, in New York, N.Y. and died February 8, 1991, in Providence, Rhode Island, Aaron Siskind was a teacher, editor, and one of the most influential photographers of the mid-20th century, known primarily for his innovations in abstract photography.

Siskind began to photograph in 1932, while he was an English teacher in the New York City public school system. His first notable work was a series of photographic documentaries of the effects of the Great Depression on various New York communities. Unlike other documentary series of the period, Siskind's Dead End: The Bowery and Harlem Document show as much concern for pure design as for the plight of his subjects. After the late 1930s, he no longer photographed people, concentrating instead on architectural photography, as in his series Old Houses of Bucks County.

The abstract work for which Siskind became best known developed from his attempt to express his own states of mind in photography rather than merely to record subject matter. In the early 1940s he began photographing patterns and textures of such mundane subjects as coiled ropes, footprints in sand, and seaweed. Within a few years he became preoccupied with the abstract qualities of two-dimensional surfaces such as pavement, billboards, and walls, especially those transformed by weathering and decay. This theme was perhaps most poignantly emphasized in his 1967 series of photographs of the ruins of the Arch of Constantine and the Appia Antica in Rome.

Siskind's early abstract work was not immediately accepted by photographers, but it was widely admired by painters such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, who were associated with the movement of Abstract Expressionism. Siskind, in fact, exhibited his abstract photographs with their paintings. Much of Siskind's influence resulted from his activities as a founder-member of the Society for Photographic Education and as co-editor of Choice, a literary and photography magazine.

But, aside from the direct impact of his photographs, his greatest influence was as professor of photography at the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a post he held from 1951 to 1971, when he became professor of photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. His publications include Aaron Siskind, Photographer (1965), a 30-year anthology of his photographs; Bucks County: Photographs of Early Architecture (1974); and another anthology entitled Places, 1966-1975 (1976).

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