Henry's career in photography began in Bloomington, Illinois, where he was born in 1909. He bought a camera from a schoolmate, and began developing and printing his own film.
He graduated from Ohio State University in 1933. At about that time, he encountered two forces that helped to set the course of his career. One was Moholy-Nagy's New Vision and the other was the photographs of Francis Bruguiere.
In 1937, Henry set up his darkroom in Bloomington, began intensive work on dye transfer printing and developed a theory of three-color synthesis from colorless objects. He helped plan the photography installation at Moholy-Nagy's New Bauhaus (now the Institute of Design) in Chicago and taught there until the school closed in 1938.
He was associate editor of Minicam until being inducted into the U.S. army in 1942. He was discharged in 1945, having served in the Gilbert Islands and Iwo Jima. Returning to Bloomington, Illinois, he began color experimentation and light studies, now the core of his vintage work. One print from this period appears in this presentation.
In 1947 Henry taught the first photography class at Indiana University; the next year he offered study in the history of photography, one of the first in the United States. In 1949 he spent a summer of research at Eastman House with Beaumont and Nancy Newhall (he later described his and Beaumont's attempt to make plum jelly).
He also consulted with Paul Vanderbilt at the Library of Congress, spending an afternoon browsing in the Library's attic, where a huge collection of photographs was stored.
In 1956 he organized the first Indiana University Workshop; staff members included Minor White and Aaron Siskind. In 1960, he was appointed regional editor of Aperture. He organized and installed eleven exhibitions in conjunction with the 1962 Indiana University Summer Teaching Conference, including Jack Welpott, Art Sinsabaugh and Oliver Gagliani. Also arranged was a group show including Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Ruth Bernhard and Wynn Bullock.
In the summer of 1962, the Society for Photographic Education emerged from a lively conversation between Henry and Art Sinsabaugh on the Smith front porch in Bloomington. Art and Henry recognized the need for an organization of teachers of photography and a name for it was selected. With the support of Nathan Lyons, Clarence White, Jr., and Aaron Siskind, this organization still flourishes today. Henry organized and chaired the first regional SPE meeting at the University of Illinois in 1966.
In 1968 Henry was awarded the Herman Lieber Distinguished Teaching Award from Indiana University and received the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. From 1975 to 1983 he served as a member of the Board of Trustees, Friends of Photography, Carmel, California.
Henry retired in 1977 as Professor Emeritus, moved to Incline Village, Nevada, and continued with color exploration and writing. Eventually, he and Wanda Lee lost patience with the snow and ice and moved to San Rafael, California, where he died in March, 1986.