Mounted, overmatted, signed in pencil on the mat. 1956, printed no later than 1967 (el Mochuelo, pl.102; MOMA p.13)
Harry Callahan was a self-taught photographer, who transcended school, movement and classification. In 1976, John Szarkowzki considered Callahan's practice in relation to purely formalist concerns. Callahan's photographs do have a certain graphic coolness, but close attention reveals a charged form of meditation: calm, intense and intimate.
This vintage print, Multiple Exposure Tree, taken in 1956, is emblematic of Callahan's landscape and nature photography. Although there is a concern for the formal qualities of the precise depiction of the tree against the stark white background of the snow, equally this image with its multiple exposures can be understood for its sense of rhythm, movement and alternation. Callahan said, 'I want to reveal subject matter in a way so as to intensify it.' In this photograph, the representation of the tree as a formal object is perhaps secondary to the true subject of the image, the wind and its interceding force upon nature. Although varied in his approach to photography, Callahan approached all his subjects with a reflective poetic gaze that transcends the medium itself.
Susan Butler, the creative director of Creative Camera, describes the sensation of looking at a Callahan photograph. She writes, One has the sense with Callahan, with viewing his work, of a kind of visual listening, which yields more to the perception the longer it is sustained. It is like listening to silence in the dead of night and discovering exactly what the sound of another person's breathing or the rustling of bedclothes is actually like, and that something which goes habitually unremarked can fill one's sense once attention is given to it.