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Aaron Siskind
© Jonathan Williams · Portrait of Aaron Siskind
Aaron Siskind
Aaron Siskind

Aaron Siskind

Country: United States
Birth: 1903 | Death: 1991

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 Memorial Fellowship.

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.
 

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Russell Lee (July 21, 1903, Ottawa, Illinois – August 28, 1986, Austin, Texas) was an American photographer and photojournalist, best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). His technically excellent images documented the ethnography of various American classes and cultures. Lee grew up in Ottawa, Illinois and went to the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana for high school. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.(Source: en.wikipedia.org) He gave up an excellent position as a chemist to become a painter. Originally he used photography as a precursor to his painting, but soon became interested in photography for its own sake, recording the people and places around him. Among his earliest subjects were Pennsylvanian bootleg mining and the Father Divine cult. In the fall of 1936, during the Great Depression, Lee was hired for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic documentation project of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He joined a team assembled under Roy Stryker, along with Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Walker Evans. Stryker provided direction and bureaucratic protection to the group, leaving the photographers free to compile what in 1973 was described as "the greatest documentary collection which has ever been assembled." Lee created some of the iconic images produced by the FSA, including photographic studies of San Augustine, Texas in 1939, and Pie Town, New Mexico in 1940. Over the spring and summer of 1942, Lee was one of several government photographers to document the eviction of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, producing over 600 images of families waiting to be removed and their later life in various detention facilities. After the FSA was defunded in 1943, Lee served in the Air Transport Command (ATC), during which he took photographs of all the airfield approaches used by the ATC to supply the Armed Forces in World War II. He worked for the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1946 and 1947, helping the agency compile a medical survey in the communities involved in mining bituminous coal. He created over 4,000 photographs of miners and their working conditions in coal mines. In 1946, Lee completed a series of photos focused on a Pentecostal Church of God in a Kentucky coal camp. While completing the DOI work, Lee also continued to work under Stryker, producing public relations photographs for Standard Oil of New Jersey. Some 80,000 of those photographs have been donated by Exxon Corporation to the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In 1947 Lee moved to Austin, Texas and continued photography. In 1965 he became the first instructor of photography at the University of Texas. In addition to the materials at the University of Louisville, other important collections of Lee's work are held by the New Mexico Museum of Art,[6] Wittliff collections, Texas State University and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
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