Billy M. Jackson, Art Sinsabaugh with Camera, 1962, Polaroid. ©2004, Billy M. Jackson
“At some point I became aware of the unbelievable infinite detail on the horizon; this is what drew my attention. So I set about to pursue the distant horizon.”
-Art Sinsabaugh, 1967
Trained at Chicago’s famed Institute of Design, Art Sinsabaugh (1924-1983) made his artistic breakthrough in the early 1960s with a giant “banquet” camera that produced 12 x 20-inch negatives. He developed a unique methodology that utilized the extra-large-format contact prints cropped (sometimes dramatically) to evoke the sweeping horizons he saw in nature. He was a landscape photographer in the broadest sense: he photographed the spaces—both rural and urban—that we inhabit.
Sinsabaugh developed sophisticated picture-making skills combined with an innate sensitivity to the visual possibilities of the American landscape. His cool, clear aesthetic has been described as a mixture of the great expansive vision of nineteenth-century landscape photographers with mid-twentieth century formalism.
Working in large series, he sought to create an all-encompassing “census” of the American landscape—the rural midwestern farm (Midwest Landscape Group), the urban cityscapes of Chicago and Baltimore (Chicago and Baltimore Landscape Groups), the mountains and resorts of New England and the barren deserts of the southwest (American Landscape Group). Rather than focusing on individual people and places, Sinsabaugh captured the rhythms of human life and our relationship to the land through the formal elements—the buildings, silos, bridges, highways, homes, skyscrapers, trees, and gravestones—that punctuate our horizons. Taken as a whole, Sinsabaugh’s remarkable photographs capture a richly nuanced sense of place and the ever-changing face of the American environment.
Sinsabaugh’s photographs possess a remarkable quality of timeless beauty, while at the same time documenting a specific time and place. His straightforward, detached viewpoint and inclusion of “ordinary” scenes foreshadowed the environmental concerns of the “New Topographic” photographers of the 1970s.
Notes to Photographs:
Measurements are given in inches, then centimeters; height precedes width. Image and sheet size are the same, unless indicated. Unless otherwise noted, all works are gelatin silver prints and were printed by Art Sinsabaugh. Inscriptions on prints and in the artist’s ledgers are transcribed as written, without any attempt to correct punctuation, grammar, or spelling; line breaks are indicated by a slash mark. Locations: U=upper; B=bottom; C=center; L=left; R=right. All works are from the Art Sinsabaugh Archive in the Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington (ASA); the Indiana University Art Museum’s general collection (works acquired prior to acquisition of the archive) (IUAM); and the Hallmark Photographic Collection, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri (Hallmark). Print designations assigned by the artist are indicated when known. These photographs constitute the checklist for the traveling retrospective exhibition.