Tuesday, July 10, 2007

John Szarkowski

"John Szarkowski," Richard Avedon, All rights reserved

It's yesterday's news now, but I want to note the passing of John Szarkowski (see his obit in the Times). As a photographer, writer & curator, Szarkowksi shaped & presided over the expansion of straight photography's purpose -- from documenting social problems to also understanding the self & the world. He kept this expansion honest.

"Monticello, MN," 1957, John Szarkowski, All rights reserved

I revered him in the idealistic way one can, having never met someone. My admiration was primarily for his brilliant prose. I didn't really know him as a photographer --I remember seeing somewhere his clear & direct portrait of a U of Minnesota football player & thinking, oh, well, I guess he shot enough to know what he was talking about. But it would be impossible for me to overestimate the importance of his lucid prose to the way I think about pictures. Last year I happened to look at a book of his photos (I'm sorry I missed his retrospective show ). The pictures are as clear-eyed as the words. Like his writing they show a genius for revealing depth & complexity in utter simplicity.

Rest in peace.

No comments: