Aaron Siskind (U.S.)
Sea Weed 26, circa 1950s
Gelatin silver print, printed 1950s-1960s
13 11/16 x 16 9/16 inches (35 x 42 cm), titled and annotated ‘4’ in pencil by artist on back
Courtesy of John S. Parsley and Nancy Nolan Parsley
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This image was gifted in the early 1960’s by Siskind to Chicago photographer Mickey Pallas, and
then to a private Chicago collection in the 1970s.
Aaron Siskind was born on December 4, 1903 in New York. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants
and the fifth of six children. After receiving his Bachelor of Social Science degree from the
College of the City of New York in 1926, he went on to teach high school English in the New York
public school system for 21 years. His first loves were music and poetry, but he took an interest in
photography after his 1929 wedding, when he received his first camera as a honeymoon present.
He began his career in photography as a documentarian in the New York Photo League in 1932.
From 1936 to 1940, he oversaw the League’s Feature Group as they created documentary photo
essays of political importance, fueled by a desire for social change.
On the invitation of Harry Callahan, Siskind joined the faculty of the Institute of Design in Chicago
in 1951, taking over as head of the photography program in 1961, when Callahan left. Siskind and
Callahan, famous for their synergy as teachers and photographers, reunited in 1971 when Siskind
left the Institute of Design for the Rhode Island School of Design where Callahan then taught. Siskind
continued to teach at RISD until his retirement in 1976. He traveled broadly, making multiple
trips to Mexico and Italy, including a stint in Rome, funded by his 1966 John Simon Guggenheim
Siskind died at age 87 in Providence, Rhode Island. The Aaron Siskind Centennial Celebration took
place in 2003 and 2004, with exhibitions at more than a dozen institutions across the country, each
devoted to a different period or theme of his life and work.