Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991) was a notable photographer and teacher, educated at City College in New York, where he earned a BSS in Literature. Siskind taught photography during most of his art career at the collegiate level. He taught first at Trenton Junior College, from 1947 to 1949, and then moved on to join the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, from 1951 to 1971.

Siskind contributed to the Abstract Expression movement early on in his career; he took part in the New York Photo League in 1932, before overseeing the League''s Feature Group from 1936 to 1940. This group created documentary photo-essays of political importance, including The Harlem Document, Dead End: The Bowery, Portrait of a Tenement, and St. Joseph''s House: The Catholic Worker Movement. In the 1940s, Siskind began to exhibit some of his work, which was first featured at galleries like the Charles Egan Gallery in New York, NY. In the 1950s, Siskind focused on architecture; he photographed the Adler and Sullivan buildings in Chicago, which lead to one of his most famous pieces, Chicago 59. He also published The Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation during this time period, which was mainly shot around Lake Michigan near Chicago, and featured subjects like divers and dark shapes among a white background that depicted the sky.

Siskind had a well-known friendship with painter Franz Kline, which led to Siskind’s creation of an homage after Kline''s death, which was symbolically called Homage to Franz Kline. The piece included photographs of landmarks visited on a trip Siskind took throughout Mexico that reminded him of his dear friend. Siskind died in Providence, RI, in 1991, at the age of 87, but he has certainly not been forgotten. The Aaron Siskind Foundation distributes US$10,000 per year in grants to aspiring art students, while organizing displays that showcase some of his artwork in various galleries around the world.


Born in NYC
Bachelor of Social Sciences, College of the City of New York, NY
Received his first camera as a gift
Documentarian, the New York Photo League, New York, NY
Oversaw New York Photo League’s Feature Group in creation of documentary photo-essays; Harlem Document, Dead End: The Bowery, Portrait of a Tenement, and St. Joseph’s House: The Catholic Worker Movement
His imagery shifted to abstract
Befriended Abstract Expressionist painters: Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, and Mark Rothko
Taught high school English, NY Public Schools, New York, NY
Exhibits at Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY
Succeeded Harry Callahan as Head of Photography Department, Institute of Design, Chicago, IL
Co-Founded “the Society for Photographic Education”
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (Rome, Italy)
Teaching: Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Chicago, IL
Professor of Photography, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Died in Providence, RI
The Aaron Siskind Centennial Celebration, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago (travelled).


Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
First solo exhibition at the Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY


Rhem, James Louis. Aaron Siskind. New York: Phaidon Press, Inc.
Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971. Edited by David Travis and Elizabeth Siegel. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago/The University of Chicago Press
Siskind, Aaron. Aaron Siskind: Toward a Personal Vision 1935 -1955. Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts: Boston College Museum of Art
Siskind, Aaron. Road Trip: Photographs 1980-1988. San Francisco: The Friends of Photography
Chiarenza, Carl. Aaron Siskind, Pleasures and Terrors. Boston: Little, Brown and Company
Siskind, Aaron. Aaron Siskind: Photographs 1932-1978). London: A. Zwemmer Limited