Aaron Siskind


NARRATOR: Aaron Siskind is best known for tightly focused photographic compositions. He honed in close on things like peeling paint, torn posters on city walls, wood grains, and patches of tar on asphalt roads. He used a large-format camera that captured detail beautifully—but his images are less “realistic” depictions of the world than they are found abstractions. He’s often called an Abstract Expressionist photographer, and his pictures have been compared to paintings by Willem de Kooning. They’re not totally abstract, though. The sources of the images are usually recognizable. A ripped advertisement on a brick wall will have an urban feel, while a close-up of a lava flow will have a natural one. But these associations become a kind of background—the real emphasis is on texture, line, and visual rhythm.

  • Aaron Siskind (1903–1991), _Untitled_, 1949. Gelatin silver print, Sheet and Image: 13 3/8 x 10 3/8in. (34 x 26.4cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Alice and Leo Yamin 92.50. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt
  • Aaron Siskind (1903–1991), _New York 7_, 1950. Gelatin silver print, 10 7/8 x 13 7/8in. (27.6 x 35.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee 96.63. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt
  • Aaron Siskind (1903–1991), _New York 2_, 1951. Gelatin silver print, 19 7/8 x 16in. (50.5 x 40.6cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Ronay and Richard L. Menschel in honor of Leonard A. Lauder 99.66.1. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt
  • Aaron Siskind (1903–1991), _Martha's Vineyard 5_, 1949, (printed later). Gelatin silver print, 13 7/8 x 11in. (35.2 x 27.9cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Manny and Skippy Gerard 2003.401. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt