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Untitled, 1930s

Untitled, 1930s

Luke Swank (1890-1944) was born in Johnstown, PA and attended Penn State Agricultural School. He then worked as a cattle breeder, police dog trainer, and finally as a clerk in his father's hardware store. After returning from service in WWI, Swank took up work as an auto mechanic and began to photograph.

In 1930, Swank took photographs of Bethlehem Steel's millworks and sold them to his friends at the Johnstown plant. Two years later, he took his steel mill photographs to Julien Levy's art gallery in New York, where the work was exhibited in 1932. That same year Swank contributed a 12-foot photomural of Pennsylvania steel mills to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for an exhibit which focused on this new format. By 1934, Swank had exhibited in several prestigious galleries in New York and San Francisco.

In 1937 Swank opened his own studio in downtown Pittsburgh with financial help from department store magnate, Edgar Kaufmann. Swank's photographs of Kaufmann's house, "Fallingwater," were subsequently exhibited at MOMA. Also during this time, Swank taught a photography course at Duquesne University.

Swank sold his photographs to such publications as Vogue, House & Garden, Fortune, Life, and The New York Times. During the 1940s, Swank worked with the H.J. Heinz Company and his photographs were used to illustrate Heinz Company cookbooks.