IN MEMORIAM: Charles Harbutt, 1935-2015


©Estate of Charles Harbutt, “Sarah in Window,” Cushing’s Island, Maine, 1968, from his book, “Travelog,” MIT Press, 1973

“I first met Charlie Harbutt at a workshop in 1972 when I was 20. Right away I realized this man understood photography like no one I’d ever encountered. It wasn’t so much what Charlie said directly, for his comments often seemed to be cryptic asides about one element in an image, or how a given photograph reminded him of some other photograph. No, more often than not, it seemed that what Charlie didn’t say was as meaningful as anything he said. His pauses conveyed worlds. Thinking back about this contradiction, I wonder if his understated way of talking about photography was somehow echoing photography itself—for isn’t it often what’s left out of the frame that’s key to a photograph’s power and resonance? I consider Charlie’s afterword to his book Travelog to be one of the most insightful pieces of writing about the process of photography I’ve ever read.

What I find fascinating about much of his work —from the early Blind Boy series to his last book, Departures and Arrivals — is a deep, dark, metaphysical quality. His best photographs seem to suggest both the enigma of life — as well as its weight.

I will miss Charlie. I will miss his sense of irony, keen intelligence, and off beat humor. I will miss the surprise of his contrarian views as well as his generosity. My only consolation is that at least we are left with his unique and remarkable photographs.”—Alex Webb

Link to Charlie Harbutt’s last book,  Departures and Arrivals (Damiani, 2012) on Amazon.


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