Collection Theme

Luke Swank

Luke Swank, who is regarded as one of the major American photographers of the 20th century, only became interested in photography when he was 40 years old.

Self-taught, Swank made images from the mid-1920s through his early death in 1944. His photographs reveal a unique appreciation for bold composition, geometric elements, and creative use of intense highlight and shadow while simultaneously capturing familiar people and daily scenes from the steel industry, the visiting circus, and more. Beginning in 1935, he was the official photographer for the University of Pittsburgh. In his lifetime, his five-part mural “Steel Plant” was included in Murals by American Painters and Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the first exhibition at that institution to include photography. Also in New York, he joined the ranks of Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Walker Evans, and others who were championed by the influential Julien Levy Gallery. Little known at the time of his death, his work has since been recognized through recent scholarship, which led to a major exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Art in 2005, Luke Swank: Modernist Photographer. Carnegie Museum of Art ownsover 300 works by this signature American artist.