John Szarkowski: Photographs
Szarkowski was director of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for 29 years, and soon he will be returning to it, this time as the subject of a retrospective exhibition traveling across the country. This book collects the exhibit’s photographs as well as snippets from his correspondence, a chronology of his career up to this point and a critical biographic essay by Phillips, senior photography curator for San Francisco’s MoMA. Before going to New York in 1962, Szarkowski was well known for two books, one on the architect Louis Sullivan (The Idea of Louis Sullivan) and one celebrating Minnesota’s statehood centennial (The Face of Minnesota). Numerous images from those efforts are included here, and they stand the test of time, particularly the sweeping Minnesota prairie landscapes where the stripes of grass, hills and sky pile up to resemble stratified rock. During Szarkowski’s years at New York’s MoMA, he presided over many shows for photographers whose names are now more familiar than his, limiting his own ability to work; only two photos from that period, both of apple trees on his farm, appear here. Much of his post-MoMA work is of trees and barns, and though some of the images are arresting, few match the grandeur of his early output. The accompanying letters provide an intimate sense of his career development as well as his sense of humor and personal grace. In one, he writes, «Being alive is getting to be such an unexplainably enjoyable thing.» This zest for existence is evident in the elegant photographs collected here. 84 tritone photos.
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