I thought for today’s Saturday spotlight I’d focus on an incredible individual that helped build the reputation of fine art photography.
He is credited with being one of the most influential visionaries of the 20th century who recognised the importance of transgressive fine art photography and nurtured emerging photography talents who are now hailed as modern masters.
A critic, writer and curator, John Szarkowski elevated the status of photography from a purely documentary pursuit to the recognised fine art status it enjoys today.
For Szarkowski, photography was so much more about meaning than documentation and was an important medium of expression; a photograph was as relevant as any work of art.
With an established photography background, Szarkowski began his professional curatorial career in the 1960’s as Edward Steichen’s successor to be Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At the time, the world had widely failed to recognise art in the image; photographers and curators worked tirelessly throughout the 20th century to change outdated perceptions.
Through his chosen photographic exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Szarkowski’s authoritative, passionate voice championing fine art photography was heard (and seen). Master photographs such as Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand were exhibited and encouraged by Szarkowski to push past photographic comfort zones and explore even further. He recognised the importance of the emerging transgressive work and was a sole champion of William Eggleston’s colour photography.
“In the past decade a new generation of photographers has directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends, their aim has been not to reform life, but to know it.” John Szarkowski
A talented photographer himself, I thought I’d spotlight a couple of his own shots.