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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Aaron Siskind

Dates:  1903, 4 December - 1991, 8 February
Born:  US, NY, New York
Active:  US
American documentary photographer whose early series "Dead End: The Bowery" and "The Harlem Document" (ca. 1935-1940) captured the stark complexity of urban America. He later moved into abstraction and created series such as "Gloucester", "Chicago", "Jerome" where the graffiti and peeled paint of each location created intriguing patterns.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
A member of the New York Photo League through the 1930s, Siskind’s early projects such as Dead End: The Bowery and The Harlem Document are rich contributions to the social documentary tradition. In the 1940s he developed enduring connections with artists of the New York School and his work was transformed by a growing interest in abstraction: A visceral and metaphorical abstract expressionism evolved in his richly textured black and white images of found objects, graffiti, peeling posters, and other urban detritus. He became a renowned educator at Chicago’s Institute of Design (1951–1971) and Rhode Island School of Design (1971–1976) and a founder of the Society for Photographic Education. 
(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Bill Jay
Aaron Siskind 
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Exhibitions on this website

20th century masters
ThumbnailAaron Siskind: The Egan Gallery Years 1947-1954 
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Visual indexes

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Visual indexes for this photographer are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 

Internet biographies

Terms and Conditions

Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website

Internet resources

Terms and Conditions

Aaron Siskind - Harlem Document Negatives ... 
Aaron Siskind - Pleasures & Terrors Portfolio ... 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.176 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.465 
• Coke, Van Deren with Diana C. Du Pont 1986 Photography: A Facet of Modernism (New York: Hudson Hills Press, The San Francisco Museum of Art) p.184 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.228 [Includes a well written short biography on Aaron Siskind with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.235 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.260 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.206-207 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Aaron Siskind are included in this classic history.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.156 [Analyzes a single photograph by Aaron Siskind.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Aaron Siskind was represented in 100 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 


The wit and wisdom.

"Both the object and the idea are in the varying degrees of harmony and dominance... Almost inevitably there are tensions in the picture, tensions between the outside world and the inside world. For me, a successful picture resolves these tensions without eliminating them."
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