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Aaron Siskind
Born 1903 in New York, NY
Died 1991 in Providence, RI
Harlem, ca. 1935
from the series A Harlem Document
gelatin silver print
8 x 11 inches (image)
11 x 14 inches (paper)
Gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela
1997.29.14
enlarge image return to collection directory
Aaron Siskind grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side and was a public school English teacher after graduating from New York’s City College. He was given his first camera at age 28 and soon thereafter joined the New York Film and Photo League, an organization of professional and amateur photographers interested in social reform through documentary photography. From a young age, Siskind was politically active and was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League.
With the documentary style in mind, Siskind photographed extensively in Harlem before 1940. The result was a body of work that couples social commentary with aesthetic elegance. Through his photographs of the residents of Harlem he was able to reveal that specific time and place—unknowable to many—to a broader public. The works in this exhibition are from this early period in Siskind’s career.
In the early 1940s, Siskind’s work became increasingly abstract, and eventually he abandoned the documentary style seen in the Harlem photographs. By 1950 he had changed his style completely, seeking patterns and beautiful detail in everyday objects and material such as street signs and asphalt. Ultimately, Siskind was linked with many of the Abstract Expressionist painters, and his mature work is often compared to their paintings.

© Aaron Siskind Foundation

Aaron Siskind
Born 1903 in New York, NY
Died 1991 in Providence, RI
Harlem, 1939
from the series A Harlem Document
gelatin silver print
6 5/8 x 10 1/8 inches (image)
11 x 14 inches (paper)
Gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela
1997.29.15
enlarge image return to collection directory
Aaron Siskind grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side and was a public school English teacher after graduating from New York’s City College. He was given his first camera at age 28 and soon thereafter joined the New York Film and Photo League, an organization of professional and amateur photographers interested in social reform through documentary photography. From a young age, Siskind was politically active and was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League.
With the documentary style in mind, Siskind photographed extensively in Harlem before 1940. The result was a body of work that couples social commentary with aesthetic elegance. Through his photographs of the residents of Harlem he was able to reveal that specific time and place—unknowable to many—to a broader public. The works in this exhibition are from this early period in Siskind’s career.
In the early 1940s, Siskind’s work became increasingly abstract, and eventually he abandoned the documentary style seen in the Harlem photographs. By 1950 he had changed his style completely, seeking patterns and beautiful detail in everyday objects and material such as street signs and asphalt. Ultimately, Siskind was linked with many of the Abstract Expressionist painters, and his mature work is often compared to their paintings.

© Aaron Siskind Foundation
Photo: Dan Wayne

Aaron Siskind
Born 1903 in New York, NY
Died 1991 in Providence, RI
Harlem, 1940
from the series A Harlem Document
gelatin silver print
7 1/4 x 11 inches (image)
11 x 14 inches (paper)
Gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela
1997.29.13
enlarge image return to collection directory
Aaron Siskind grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side and was a public school English teacher after graduating from New York’s City College. He was given his first camera at age 28 and soon thereafter joined the New York Film and Photo League, an organization of professional and amateur photographers interested in social reform through documentary photography. From a young age, Siskind was politically active and was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League.
With the documentary style in mind, Siskind photographed extensively in Harlem before 1940. The result was a body of work that couples social commentary with aesthetic elegance. Through his photographs of the residents of Harlem he was able to reveal that specific time and place—unknowable to many—to a broader public. The works in this exhibition are from this early period in Siskind’s career.
In the early 1940s, Siskind’s work became increasingly abstract, and eventually he abandoned the documentary style seen in the Harlem photographs. By 1950 he had changed his style completely, seeking patterns and beautiful detail in everyday objects and material such as street signs and asphalt. Ultimately, Siskind was linked with many of the Abstract Expressionist painters, and his mature work is often compared to their paintings.

© Aaron Siskind Foundation

Aaron Siskind
Born 1903 in New York, NY
Died 1991 in Providence, RI
Harlem, 1940
from the series A Harlem Document
gelatin silver print
8 1/2 x 8 inches (image)
14 x 11 inches (paper)
Gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela
1997.29.16
enlarge image return to collection directory
Aaron Siskind grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side and was a public school English teacher after graduating from New York’s City College. He was given his first camera at age 28 and soon thereafter joined the New York Film and Photo League, an organization of professional and amateur photographers interested in social reform through documentary photography. From a young age, Siskind was politically active and was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League.
With the documentary style in mind, Siskind photographed extensively in Harlem before 1940. The result was a body of work that couples social commentary with aesthetic elegance. Through his photographs of the residents of Harlem he was able to reveal that specific time and place—unknowable to many—to a broader public. The works in this exhibition are from this early period in Siskind’s career.
In the early 1940s, Siskind’s work became increasingly abstract, and eventually he abandoned the documentary style seen in the Harlem photographs. By 1950 he had changed his style completely, seeking patterns and beautiful detail in everyday objects and material such as street signs and asphalt. Ultimately, Siskind was linked with many of the Abstract Expressionist painters, and his mature work is often compared to their paintings.