John Szarkowski Understood Us

I will miss John Szarkowski (pictured at left as a younger man by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, whose work he first championed) as much for his brilliant photographic criticism as for his curatorial acumen. What made his writing special was that it drew from a deep understanding of photographic process and its direct, profound role in any photographer's work. Given the mechanical nature of our medium that understanding is essential to good criticism. I often feel embarrassed for photo critics and cura

I will miss John Szarkowski (pictured at left as a younger man by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, whose work he first championed) as much for his brilliant photographic criticism as for his curatorial acumen. What made his writing special was that it drew from a deep understanding of photographic process and its direct, profound role in any photographer's work. Given the mechanical nature of our medium that understanding is essential to good criticism. I often feel embarrassed for photo critics and curators who seem to know little about how pictures are made. (I certainly never felt that way about Szarkowski.) When these critics aren't treating photographs as if they were transparent, they are characterizing them with a fudged, arch language that gives the writer a pass on studying the craft behind the art in which he or she is a putative expert.