December 6th, 2016 … Reflections of a Shooter … Harry Callahan



What I do have is over 50 years as a shooter. Uh oh, didn’t realize youse alls was here.  Anyway, to get ya’s caught up….we are discussing the reflections of my reflecting inner self. Oh, scuse me again. I should introduce who be having this chat. There’s yours truly, there’s my reflection and we are both reflecting on my inner self that comes out for photography.

It is said and I do believe that every photo is a self portrait of the shooter. It does not imply a selfie only as a self portrait. What i mean is that if we are awake and in touch with ourselves at exposure, then all that we were or all that we are is present at exposure and thus the photo is a reflection of the self. Whatever your thinking or feeling is present in the photo. Of course the old adage of …There are none so blind as those that will not see, applies always.




We were heading to the McDowell Colony to see Harry Callahan. I was invited to make a Portrait of Harry. So Harry & I talked a little and I asked him to sit on the steps leading to the entrance to the  house. I set up my 8×10 Deardorff with the 420mm Red Dot Artar. I frame and focus, lock the camera, put in a film holder and start chatting with Harry. He looks at me and smiles holding fast in position as a shooter would. CLICK! I pull the holder out ant put it in my bag. All the sudden a voice of the Photography Angel, Anne Tucker says, Don your going to make  a few more exposures aren’t you?

Immediately Harry says, He’s got it, he knows what he’s doing. I pack the bag and Harry comes over to me, puts a hand on my shoulder and says, let’s walk and talk a little. We walk a little and Harry says, your a cocky fucker aren’t you? I said, you really think so? He smiles and says, nah… I’m the same fucking way. Harry says, if your not in it 100%, where are ya.

We go back to the porch and harrygoes into rest. In a minute, Barbara comes to me. Don, as you know, Dad always made portraits of Mom and me. He says he’s to old to do it with that camera and ask if you would make it for him?  It’s an honor to meet, chat & do a portrait of Harry. The to make a portrait of Elizabeth and Barbara is beyond comprehension.  Ya see, only Harry ever made a photo of his beloved Elizabeth and daughter Barbara. I make the photo with all that I am, all the attention and spirit I have.

Barbara gives me their address and ask me to send prints. Elizabeth comes to me and holds both my hands between hers. She says thank you. My Harry has never asked anyone to make this photo and please respect his wishes and not send them all over. I looked her in the eyes and said, it was never an issue my lady.

I made some portraits of Anne Tucker, Robin McNeil and some I may not mention. The platinum prints went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

As we were walking, Harry said some things. Don, I watched you work, make the photos, even pack Margaret away. ( My Deardorff is named Margaret) You have a focus that is all of you at once and that’s what’s required. Don, as serious as you are there is a mission you must undertake. Making photos is great but teaching is all the more important. You have to carry on the love and chart of being a photographer.

Harry and I looked at each other and both knew we would never be in each other’s company again. Harry turned around and lowered his head and walked to the house. I got in the car and everyone was excited but I was so sad. I felt I lost my dad again.



Life without photography for me is suicide daily. Life with photography keeps me here. Photography & Life go hand in hand. Without one, the other ceases to exist.

31 thoughts on “December 6th, 2016 … Reflections of a Shooter … Harry Callahan”

  1. Always enjoy reading your shared memories Don. The shot thru the window is very cool! A solitary figure juxtaposed against the building with multiple dwellings – but nobody else to be seen. Love it!

  2. Great story Don! Harry’s book was one of three photography books I kept taking out of my local public library when I was getting into photography. Ernst Haas and Alfred Eisenstadt were the other two. That was about all they had, and the Life series on photography. I kept renewing them until I couldn’t, waited a couple of days and started all over. The librarian was a friend’s mother. She always gave me the eye bacause I kept taking out these three books. No one else had ever done so.

    I actually got to meet Harry, Eleanor, and their daughter Barbara. I worked at Camera Barn selling darkroom equipment when I was a student. They came in and wanted to set their daughter up with chemistry and other stuff. She was a student somewhere in New York City at the time. Unfortunately it was a short conversation due to the store manager standing nearby. He couldn’t care less about who anyone was. As long as they were a paying customer and you took care of them quickly. But I’ll never forget the three of them standing before me on the other side of the counter!

    1. Keith, what a small world. Camera Barn was my fav store. In fact I used to meet Garry in front when we met. As you say, they didn’t care about who you were just what they could sell you. Olden’s was the same. Now I think there’s a diner or something at that spot. Not sure, haven’t been to NY in a while. Perhaps Harry infected you with some magic energy…… nice

      1. Keith, interesting. Ya know, forget about who you were. It’s nice you had the energy from those you met. What’s more important is who you are now and even more important, who you will become, that part still allows for shaping.

        1. As long as I live and breathe Don! I got a lot from those days and everything inbetween then and now. There are still teachers, people, events, etc., just life moments, that resonate with me today. There’s a reason I found Streetshooter! Dialogue and an occaisional “ok” are part of what I need these days. My imagery lets me know where I am. I have lots to live for and still much to learn!

          1. Keith, nice reply but from my eyes and those inside my heart and head, your doing very well. I see ou in every photo you make, if there’s something else more important, I fail to understand that my friend.

  3. don –
    that was a very special story and it did me a lot of good to read it just now. it’s a sad time with some hard family stuff these days (well, for a long time past and probably forward, too), but your story reminds me how much magic there can be with those special moments that have no big bang and flash, just connection. so, thanks…
    – marke

    1. Marke, thanks much for your comment. I guess I live for the magic and as I grow older, I appreciate it more but find it less. I think the Magic control tower is doing the Inverse Square Law again.
      cheers, don

  4. Hi Don, if you don’t mind I would have a question. Today I got a message from one guy on instagram ( I didn`t ask, but he gave me a photograhy advice….

    “Quick tip: try to get closer to your subjects, make others feel how they are feeling on the frames you capture”.

    What do you think? Should I follow his advice?
    I must say I am struggling with this idea. I heared this advice many times. Statetments like “when you think you are close enough, make two more steps ahead”.

    It sounds like a good advice to me….but, should I push myself to step ahead? Should I use 24mm instead of 14mm mm lens?

    Hope you don’t mind…


    1. Pavel,
      From my point of view, you seem to have your Natural FOV working fine. I also see your framing fine. The subject matter is entirely your decision.
      So if we put these elements together and see the equation, you need not listen to anyone. Well, listen but follow your heart and mind.
      Whatever you do, don’t listen to anything i might say because I don’t believe in sugar coating anything.

      Make photos my friend, it’s something your good at already.

    2. are you kidding me, don’t every change your style , follow your own road brother, love your work, you inspire me!

      1. Thanks Robert. You should know I don’t listen or follow directions worth a shit. Just ask my wife….um, or Olivier

        But I listen to your compliments.
        Thanks Brother

  5. Very cool story. Harry was bang on the nail too, I love and relate this snippet so much “if you’re not in 100%, where are ya”.

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