Every once in a while, an individual seizes a moment in time and bends it to his will. In recent times, Einstein did it, Dylan did it, and Ghandi did it. They, amongst others, took what came before and irrevocably changed it forever.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the single reason that we have the discussions we do here on The Landscapist is because of one visionary individual who took what came before and irrevocably changed it forever - 'it' being photography. That one individual, John Szarkowski, single-handedly grabbed the medium by the throat and elevated it to the status of Art. Period. End of discussion.
I never met the man or heard him speak but his shadow has followed me like a ghost throughout my photography life. While he never influenced me directly, the pictures of those he 'ordained' into the ecclesiastical hierarchy of photography certainly opened my eyes to new possibilities. So I was deeply saddened to learn of his death on July 9 at the age of 81.
An obituary can be found here.
I won't go into all his accomplishments as I am certain that much will be written in the coming days but I will leave you with this from his introduction to “The Work of Atget,” published in conjunction with a series of exhibitions at MoMA from 1981 to 1985 -
'One might compare the art of photography to the act of pointing, It must be true that some of us point to more interesting facts, events, circumstances, and configurations than others ... The talented practitioner of the new discipline would perform with a special grace, sense of timing, narrative sweep, and wit, thus endowing the act not merely with intelligence, but with that quality of formal rigor that identifies a work of art, so that we would be uncertain, when remembering the adventure of the tour, how much our pleasure and sense of enlargement had come from the things pointed to and how much from a pattern created by the pointer.'