AARON SISKIND (American, 1903 – 1991)

Born in New York City in 1903, Aaron Siskind was educated at New York’s City College, where he received his Bachelor of Special Studies in Literature. He then began to teach English in New York City’s public school system. Only in 1929, when Siskind received his first camera as a honeymoon gift, did he begin a lifelong photographic exploration of his surroundings. In 1932, Siskind joined the Film and Photo League, a socially inspired documentary group where he was first exposed to the work of such photographers Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans. Siskind's work for the Film and Photo League included his influential role in the Harlem Document, a project intended to shed light on the disintegrating quality of life in Harlem during the industrial expansion that followed World War I.

In 1943, Siskind’s photographs began to evolve and mature according to his early interest in structure and his growing appreciation of the image as both spatially and socially important. He began to photograph disregarded objects and spaces in Martha's Vineyard and Gloucester, Massachusetts, creating images that were expressionistic and personal. As a friend and peer of painters Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline, Siskind directly influenced their work and foreshadowed the style that later became known as Abstract Expressionism.    

Despite his increasing notoriety, the artist never abandoned teaching.  He held a number of professorships, but spent most of his time at the Rhode Island School of Design alongside photographer Harry Callahan, all the while mounting exhibitions and writing extensively.

Siskind continued to travel the world well into his eighties. In 1984, he founded The Aaron Siskind Foundation, which provides support, through grants, for the efforts of contemporary photographers. Siskind died in Providence, RI, on February 8, 1991.

Selected Collections:

Aaron Siskind Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

International Center for Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Carpenter Center and Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Art Institute of Chicago

Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris