Born and trained in New York, he joined the Film and Photo League in 1933, using documentary photography to highlight social conditions, for instance in his Harlem Document. From 1941 he turned to more abstract art, such as in the Tabernacle City about Bucks County architecture. After leaving the League, he was supported by Mark Rothko and Franz Kline for his sense of arrangements and picture planes and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He worked at the Institute of Design, where he became Head of Photography Department. In 1971 he moved to join the Rhode Island School of Design, where he remained for five years until his retirement.