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News Release — September 4, 2020

Works by renowned photographer Aaron Siskind donated to The University of Texas

A collection of 35 gelatin silver prints by photographer Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991) has been donated to The University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center to enrich the study of photography. The collection, through the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Fine Arts, is gifted to the university by Adam and Susan Finn, noted Houston-based photography collectors. Adam Finn is also an alumnus of UT Austin.

“The gift underscores the role of private donors in contributing to the university’s research holdings, providing new materials for scholarship and discovery in the arts and humanities,” Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss said.

A photographer and educator, Siskind holds a distinguished place in the history of American photography. From his early career as a social documentarian with the New York Photo League in the 1930s to his later work emphasizing the photograph as an abstract form of expression, Siskind transformed the medium of photography.

“As Aaron Siskind was previously represented in the Ransom Center’s collection by only a few photographs, this gift is transformative,” said Jessica S. McDonald, the Ransom Center’s curator of photography. “It also dramatically expands our holdings of examples of photographic abstraction.”

The 35 photographs were created by Siskind between 1947 and 1990 and join other prints by the photographer already at the center, as well as materials by influential post-war artists such as Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Robert Heinecken and Joan Lyons. Siskind’s works are held in other major collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Currently UT Austin’s Photography & Media program is led by Professors Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. Hubbard and Birchler are internationally recognized for their collaborative work in photography and filmmaking, and they have been instrumental in the acquisition of this donation.

“We are thrilled about Adam Finn's generous gift of the Aaron Siskind photographs to the Photography & Media Area,” Hubbard said. “In our program, there is a long-standing relationship to documentary photography and the Aaron Siskind Foundation. Over the years, a number of the program’s graduate students and faculty members have been recipients of the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship. This portfolio is an exciting teaching and research tool for our students working in photography.”

Once cataloged, the Adam and Susan Finn Collection of Aaron Siskind Photographs will be available for research in the Center’s reading and viewing room.

Scrap metal objects

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991), Chicago Scrapyard 2, 1948. Gelatin silver print, 18.2 x 24.1 cm (image); 20.2 x 25.2 cm (sheet). Harry Ransom Center Photography Collection, Gift of Adam and Susan Finn. 2019:0028:0002 © Aaron Siskind Foundation.

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