Let’s leave him out of it, for the moment, because this isn’t really about him. Or if it is, it’s about the influence he had on these forty years of photographs. Influence is impossible to map; it’s impressionistic, repetitive, deceptive. It eludes us, as he does. We begin in the company of strangers. A pool of light splits open the middle third of Harry Callahan’s Chicago, Fall 1958. We seem to be moving toward the scene in the distance, perhaps because we must actually step toward the picture to see what it depicts. People are moving along the sidewalk, under the unnatural night light of an enormous sign that says PARK. At the sight of this mirage in the wilderness, an urban wilderness, we feel we’ve been away too long from the society that gathers under street lamps. We’re not there yet; we are still a few steps out in the dark. But still the scene is like a hall light under a child’s bedroom door: a promise of wakefulness, attention, care just beyond the threshold. Its distance evokes a passing feeling, the sense that only a moment ago the darkness was menacing. And it says: nothing can be so wrong out here if everyone is okay up ahead. Still, it will be better to be with them and not alone. Can a photograph evoke a sense of relief? This one seems to.
more from Kathryn Crim at the Threepenny Review here.