About the Photographer
Arthur Siegel crafted intricate photograms and graphic documentary photographs early in his career. In the late 1940s and 50s, he introduced creative methods of back-lighting and projecting light onto surfaces, as well as an innovative use of color in both experimental and documentary photographs. Photogram 1 from 1973 is characteristic of Siegel's later photograms in its simplicity and conceptual nature. All of his explorations – with photograms, applications of Polaroid film, and combination printing – were designed to explore the singular characteristics of a medium based on light.
Arthur Siegel was born in 1913 in Detroit. He studied at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, Detroit (BA, 1936), then taught photography at Wayne State. In 1937 he was awarded a scholarship at the New Bauhaus (later renamed the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology) to study photography with László Moholy-Nagy and Gyorgy Kepes. Returning to Detroit in 1938, Siegel worked as a freelance photographer for such important publications as Life, Fortune, and Colliers, and also worked for the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, and the US Army Air Corps. Through the Detroit Camera Club he met Harry Callahan. In 1945 Moholy-Nagy hired Siegel to head the newly formed photography department at the Institute of Design, and to develop the pioneering course "New Visions in Photography." He served as head of the program from 1946 until his resignation in 1949. After nearly two decades pursuing commercial work, photojournalism, and color photography projects, he returned to the Institute of Design when Aaron Siskind rehired him in 1967. He became chair of the photography department in 1971 and continued to teach for the rest of his life. Siegel died in Chicago in 1978.