Harry Callahan’s Ireland

Combing through our collection in search of some images to share on the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, I must admit I was looking for something that would stereotypically evoke “Ireland”—clovers! fields of green! potatoes!

Harry Callahan quickly put an end to my search for clichés. Among other Callahan photographs in our collection is a series from 1979, Ireland, an anonymous gift made in honor of the late Robert Sobieszek, former curator of photography at LACMA. So, rather than present you with symbols of Ireland, here are photographs, simply and beautifully, of Ireland.

Callahan’s photographs are spare. The geometric nature of the streets, buildings, doors and windows come to the fore while the hustle-bustle of whatever must inevitably happen inside these buildings is suppressed. Callahan’s m.o. was to wake up and take photographs during his morning walk. Apparently it was early enough that no one else in town had yet risen! The result is a solitary set of images, sometimes downcast, sometimes peaceful. Some images feel as if Callahan had just missed seeing another soul—an open gate, perhaps just passed through; others feel as if only ghosts walk the streets.

Scott Tennent

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