Barbara Crane (March 19, 1928 – August 7, 2019) was an American artist photographer born in Chicago, IL. Crane worked with a variety of materials including Polaroid, gelatin silver, and platinum prints among others. She was known for her experimental and innovative work that challenges the straight photograph by incorporating sequencing, layered negatives, and repeated frames. Naomi Rosenblum notes that Crane "pioneered the use of repetition to convey the mechanical character of much of contemporary life, even in its recreational aspects."
Crane began her studies in art history at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1945. She transferred to New York University in 1948. In 1950, she received her BA in art history from New York University. After recommencing her career in photography, Barbara Crane showed a portfolio of her work to Aaron Siskind
in 1964 and was admitted to the Graduate Program in Photography at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Crane then studied under Siskind
at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, and received her MS from the Institute in 1966.
Crane’s master’s degree thesis focused on “sculptural patterns through abstractions of the human body.”
The images for this series depict bodies against white or black backgrounds – the overexposed, overdeveloped nature of the film turns these bodies into abstract outlines. John Rohrbach states, “each body almost dissolves, becoming a sinuous river flowing across a snowy landscape. This unnerving disconnect between what is seen and what is known would become a central theme of her career.”
In 1971, Crane visited Ansel Adams
at his home to show him a selection of her work. Adams
told an assistant “See I told you photographers could still do something different”
upon viewing her Repeats
series. After this encounter, Adams
hired Crane to teach workshops at Yosemite between 1977-1980. During Crane’s Guggenheim Fellowship
(1979), she collaborated with the Center for Creative Photography
in Tucson, Arizona to create a career retrospective of her work. During her time in Boston, she formed a relationship with the Polaroid
Corporation and through the Polaroid Artist Support Program she experimented with Polaroid black & white and color photographic materials in numerous series.
In 1995, Crane became Professor Emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Barbara Crane's work is represented in numerous public collections including the International Center of Photography
, New York City; the George Eastman Museum
, Rochester, NY; the Art Institute of Chicago
; The J. Paul Getty Museum
, Los Angeles; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts
, Houston; and the WestLicht Museum of Photography, Vienna, Austria.
Crane's archive resides at the Center for Creative Photography
at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.