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Ben Shahn
Date: American (b. Lithuania) 1898-1969
Biography:

Ben Shahn was born in Kovno, Lithuania, and immigrated with his family to New York at the age of six. He first worked as an apprentice to a commercial lithographer, acquiring skills that would later support him financially while he pursued his ambition to be a painter. Shahn's initial interest in photography stemmed from his use of the medium as a reference tool for his paintings.

In the 1930s, Shahn was employed as an artist at the Resettlement Administration in Washington DC, where from 1935 to 1938 he also worked in a part-time position in Roy Stryker's photography department. Shahn exploited the portability of the 35mm camera to capture his subjects in an informal and spontaneous manner; he used a Leica with a right-angle viewfinder that enabled him to photograph subjects without their knowledge. In addition to his photographic work for the FSA, Shahn established a reputation as a leading American realist painter. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947, and he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1954.

Phillips, Christopher, and Vanessa Rocco, eds. Modernist Photography: Selections from the Daniel Cowin Collection. New York: International Center of Photography and Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2005, p. 110.

References:

Edwards, Susan. Ben Shahn and the Task of Photography in Thirties America. New York: Hunter College, 1995.

Kao, Deborah Martin, Laura Katzman, and Jenna Webster. Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times. Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, 2000.