About the Photographer
American, b. 1928
The issues in my work are often of a similar nature with an abstract edge. Though I build on past experience, I attempt to eradicate previous habits of seeing and thinking. I keep searching for what is visually new to me while always hoping that a fusion of form and content will take place.
— Barbara Crane, Artist Statement, 2002
For the past fifty years, Barbara Crane worked as a photographer, creating highly formal, often abstracted images of people and the urban landscape. For Human Form, from the series Human Forms, Crane, at the time a recently divorced single mother, paid her children thirty-five cents an hour to pose for her, on their condition that their faces were not recognizable. Because of the limitations this condition placed on her photographs, Crane began to abstract the images of their bodies, playing with line, shadow, and light, to create the series' elegant forms. In Pigeons, Whole Roll, from the series Chance, Crane explores the patterns that emerge from the seemingly innocuous events of life, taking her "mistakes," as well as chance occurrences, and molding them into a complex study of the subject matter (in this case, the pigeons). To photograph this series, she lay on her back in Chicago's Grant Park as her assistant poured pigeon feed all around her, waited for the pigeons to land, and then ran back to scatter them. Crane then cut out the individual negatives, arranged them without looking at them, and contact-printed them. In People of the North Portal (1970-71), Crane photographed people exiting Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, recording a wide variety of expressions and reactions. Some full-body shots, others focusing simply on the faces of her subjects, the photographs beautifully depict a large spectrum of human experience. With an extremely broad range of subject matter behind her, Crane now focuses mostly on nature in her photographs.
Crane, who studied at Mills College in California, completed her BA in art history at New York University and later received her MS from the Institute of Design (at the Illinois Institute of Technology). She taught for 28 years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Photography grant, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award in Photography, Crane has participated in 170 group exhibitions and mounted 75 solo exhibitions; her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; and Museum of Contemporary Photography.