John Szarkowski, 1925-2007

Sadly, we have lost one of our greatest contributors to our field.

His obituary , written by Philip Gefter, is a wonderful tribute to John; it is posted on the New York Times website.

I hope all of you had the pleasure of seeing his retrospective exhibition JOHN SZARKOWSKI: PHOTOGRAPHS organized in 2005 by SFMoMA which traveled to the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Milwaukee Art Museum, MoMA in NYC and ended the tour at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in September of 2006. Bullfinch published the catalogue. I attended a booksigning for John at MoMA during the exhibition and when it was time for him to sign my book, he said “you know, Swanee, if I sign just my name it will be worth more money” to which I replied “I’m buying it for love, John, not for money!”

Keri Pickett, photographer and friend from Minneapolis, was with me that day, and shot this great photo of John. She’s out of the country right now but posted it here. ©Keri Pickett,2006.

I had the good fortune to meet John early on in my career, when I was fresh out of grad school, heading education programs in Carmel, California at The Friends of Photography. I was seated next to John at Ansel’s 80th birthday bash, and as a midwest gal, I knew that talking fishing and our mutual love of lake country would be in order. Later, when he’d retired from MoMA he visited Tucson in the 1990’s to photograph and to research in the Archive at the CCP, he would drop by our humble Swanstock offices (sharing space with Etherton Gallery in those days) and join my colleague Gordon Stettinius and I for lunch next door at Bowen & Bailey. Nothing but the fondest of memories, John. I will miss you.

A few other resources:

David Schonauer wrote a nice piece on John today on the American Photo blog “State of the Art.”

In 1999, Checkerboard Film Foundation produced a documentary on John called “A LIFE IN PHOTOGRAPHY” which is available in DVD and VHS formats.
From the Photo-eye website:
Featuring extensive interviews with John Szarkowski, Joel Meyerowitz, Thomas Roma, Peter Galassi, and Maria Morris Hambourg, this film boasts an in-depth discussion of the influential curator’s life and work covering several of his most essential publications and exhibitions. The first to champion the purely photographic properties of the medium, Szarkowski moved well beyond the age old debate over photography as art, securing instead a rigorous catalogue of twentieth century masters. Rewards repeat viewing. 47 minutes.”

To commemorate the centennial of Ansel’s birth, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized the exhibition “ANSEL ADAMS AT 100” by guest curator John Szarkowski. Don’t miss the website for this show, with an interactive feature. From the website: “Saturday, August 04, 2001 – Sunday, January 13, 2002: To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ansel Adams — one of San Francisco’s favorite sons — SFMOMA is proud to present an exhibition featuring over 100 images by the beloved photographer and naturalist. Organized for SFMOMA by guest curator John Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100 is the first important critical reevaluation of Adams’ art since his death in 1984; the exhibition presents an aesthetic reappraisal of Adams as artist and working photographer, highlighting his achievement as one of the century’s great modern artists.”

In 2005, Checkerboard Films also produced “SPEAKING OF ART: ANSEL ADAMS, JOHN SZARKOWSKI ON THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANSEL ADAMS” a 50-minute documentary film available in DVD format.

On February 10th, 2005, photographer Chris Rainier had a conversation with NPR‘s Alex Chadwick about John’s extraordinary vision; click here to enjoy this dialogue.

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1 Comment »

  1. tedsfriend said

    Mary Virginia – this is Henryka. We knew eaich other when I worked with Ted Hartwell at the MIA. Would like to connect. H

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