Magazine article New Criterion

"John Szarkowski: Photographs"

Magazine article New Criterion

"John Szarkowski: Photographs"

Article excerpt

"John Szarkowski: Photographs" Museum of Modern Art, New York. February 1, 2006-May 15, 2006

As MOMA's director of photography from 1962 to 1991, John Szarkowski steered the appreciation of fine-art photography from its fledgling years, to the inauguration of MOMA's first photography galleries in 1964, to its maturity of the last few decades. Along the way, he has championed the careers of photographers such as Ansel Adams, Minor White, Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and many others.

Were it not for the dates alongside Szarkowski's own photographs in this show (the earliest is from 1943), a viewer might be tempted to overestimate to what extent Szarkowski's picture-taking has been informed by the work of the photographers he showed. For those who don't know his photographs, the exhibition offers an introduction to his distinguished work behind the lens.

Looking at Children, Bloomington, Minnesota (1957), one can't help but think of William Eggleston's suburban street scenes. In Screen Door Hudson, Wisconsin (1950) one sees the play of light and shadow reminiscent of a Walker Evans. The vertical expanses of his Chicago architecture series (1954) suggest Winogrand. One finds the abstractions of Minor White in Nymph Cases, Crooked Lake (1961), and Lake Trout, Kahshahpiwi Lake, Ontario (1962), and the association is immediate between Young Pine in Birches (1954), and Ansel Adams's Aspens, Northern New Mexico (1958).

Yet the dates of the photos tell a different story. In the case of Young Pine and Aspens, the Szarkowski predates the Adams, and all the above-mentioned works predate Szarkowski's appointment at MOMA. Still, his work clearly shows the influences of Adams, Edward Weston, and others, and Szarkowski himself acknowledges his debt to August Sander, to John A. Kouwenhoven's Made in America, and to Walker Evans.

A strength of the exhibition is its arrangement. …

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