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John Szarkowski, who served as the director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for nearly 30 years, died Saturday in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at age 81. According to Peter MacGill of the Pace/MacGill Gallery, Szarkowski died of complications from a stroke.
A very good case could be made that Szarkowski changed photography fundamentally and set the stage for the world we live in now—a world in which photography is commonly acknowledged to be a full-fledged art and a supple, fulsome form of personal expression. The New York Times has a very good obituary about him in today’s edition detailing his long career as both curator and photographer. Happily, it also reveals his acute wit. Unhappily, it did not put on display his genius as a writer, and for me that is where Szarkowski left an indelible mark. Indeed, now that I’m thinking of it, what a marvelous thing it would be to do an entire special issue of American Photo devoted to Szarkowski.