Sunday, 14 December 2008
John Szarkowski, Photographer, Critic Extraordinaire
John Szarkowski, London 2002 ©Lalo Borja
He would have been 83 years of age had he been alive on December 18th 2008. Those of us who admire his writings, his sensitivity and his photographic eye, must remember him as the pioneer critic of photography for the second half of the Twentieth Century. He championed Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, at a time in which there were still remnants of a bygone era when photography was thought of as an inferior sibling to painting.
He inherited the director's chair of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from Edward Steichen, and for the next thirty years his output as a critic and curator were a constant flow of spirited discourse and brilliant argumentation.
"In the photographic forum of the 1960's to the 90's, he was the equivalent of Aristotle or Socrates, arguing which gods should be revered, and which deposed. Szarkowski's views raised the ire of many photographers, but he had more photographic intelligence in his little finger than his fiercest critics had in their entire bodies", according to the writer and photographer Bill Jay.
His unfailing intelligence in all things photographic gave us the Photographer's Eye and Photography Until Now, two major texts to guide our search for answers in a world that is rapidly evolving when it comes to visual arts and not always for the better.