RIP John Szarkowski

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by jtdnyc, Jul 9, 2007.


    "John Szarkowski, a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography?s
    status in the last half-century to that of a fine art, making his case in
    seminal writings and landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New
    York, died in on Saturday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 81..."

    Undeniably, Szarkowski's promotion of such photographers as Winogrand and
    Eggleston moved art photography in a certain direction. However, I tend to
    agree with the the critics' skeptical reactions when these photographers' MoMA
    shows were first mounted, rather than with the new orthodoxy in the art world
    that seems to have arisen since then.

    In any event Szarkowski, through the photographers he chose to exhibit, may
    have had almost as great an effect as HCB on how Leicas are actually used today.
  2. His was a great contribution to the art.
  3. Szarkowski was hugely influential on photography -- especially for someone who was primarily a curator, not a photographer.

    In addition to introducing young talents like Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus to the public, he helped establish photography as a respected fine-art form and gave voice to the evolution in documentary photography.

    Szarkowski was also a good writer on photography. His introduction to Winogrand's "Figments of the Real World" is a first-class piece of work, IMHO.
  4. Szarkowski was a great curator, writer and good photographer. Most of the photo icons have departed this earth. Who will take their place?
  5. He was definately a huge figure in the course of photography and he interacted in the careers of many famous photographers.
  6. 'Szarkowski was also a good writer on photography. His introduction to Winogrand's
    "Figments of the Real World" is a first-class piece of work, IMHO.'

    Absolutely agree -- it is a tiny masterpiece.

  7. A tremendous loss. He was active right til the end doing what he loved. I had met him a few times and heard him speak with vibrancy and passion. His stories kept me on the edge of my seat. Anyone who can spot talent like William Eggelston and put it all on the line to show him is ok in my book.
  8. jtk


    That he had hits and misses showed he was stretching out, wasn't a mere commentator on the passing scene.

    He was considered relevant by people who dote upon photo books and the literature of photography, and by gallery operators and curators, perhaps not by many active photographers.

    A writer's first job is to produce something worth reading, and that's especially rare among writers on any aesthetic matter. Szarkowski did his job well, which is high praise.
  9. I don't know John. His writing is one thing, but in the last few decades of last century he was more important than that. As photography curator at the museum of Modern Art, He greatly helped and impelled the careers of many of the most important photographers of those days, including Arbus, Winograd, Friedlander and
    Eggleston just to name a few that jump into my head. This was due to his vision and really his courage as much as his ability to comment on the scene. In the 50's, 60's and 70's he was really a major player in the develpment of the photography of those days.
  10. jtk



    We know him primarily through MOMA. MOMA hires the best: Szarkowski was preceded there by Steichen, and Nancy Newhall was one of theirs. Erwitt on Szarkowski

    Most of the photographers to whose names his was attached were already having or long had their impact. He promoted them, others had noticed them. Is it worthwhile to elevate photographers to celebrity? I've no clear opinion. I wouldn't have known of Weston except through San Francisco exhibit in 1966 and Daybook II, edited by Nancy Newhall...another MOMA eminence. Maybe I should rethink the importance of curators :)

    "Impelling" of careers is marketing, certainly important to the photographers who are impelled. I don't think Eggleston would be remembered on the basis of the images without it (IMHO) .

    Arbus is worthy of Magnum. The "postmodern" label used to characterise Szarkowski's photographers diminishes her (the postmodern affectation has also produced a tremendous amount of already-passe' architectural kitsch).

    Mary Ellen Mark is one of my favorites. Again, someone worthy of Magnum. Her vision was recognized in the early 60s, while she was still studying photojournalism. I remember the exhibition of "women photographers" from about 1970 in which I first saw her work and came away enthralled. Szarkowski did write about her later, but some give him credit for her prominence, as they do with Arbus, which is extremely unfair.

    Nothing I've said diminishes Szarkowski.
  11. I am truly saddened. Now he is with Atget.

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