Signed in pencil below image on recto. Numbered (#374) and referenced (HC 2222-C) in pencil on verso.
Upper edge with light undulations. Upper corners slightly worn. Visible
under raking light: tiny crease at the right edge away from the image.
In the nineties Harry Callahan, looking back at almost sixty years of practice, used the term « naive » in order to characterize his own work. This particular adjective, chosen by the artist with a benevolent irony in the light of his many years of experience, makes sense as we examine his photographic path.
At the beginning of the 40’s, Callahan stopped attending the amateur clubs of photography where he had developed his formal basis of composition. He chose to dedicate himself full-time to what was then just a hobby. What he identifies as naivety might correspond to his way of seeing abstract beauty in his surroundings, whether it is nature, the body of his wife or the faces of the passers-by.
This photograph brings together Callahan’s distinctive elements of composition and this touch of serendipity which made him loved by Moholy-Nagy. The body of the woman, framed by the rectangle of the beach towel, is receiving the last rays of sunshine. The woman, seen backwards from a low angle shot, becomes a small icon. She is strategically framed by the towel but the seaweeds bordering the fabric are fortuitous. The composition is enhanced by the strongness of the lines but does not boil down to it. The tanning session, which refers to surrealist solarization, becomes a game of forms and interpretations which blends in the natural elements of sand and seaweed.
By the end of the seventies, Callahan began to dedicate himself to colour photography. This print, which is dated from 1972, already bears witness of his searches on texture and tones. The strips of the drape and the satin of the skin seemingly come to life with a form of playfulness only Harry Callahan has the secret for.