Photo Op: John Szarkowski's Art Vision

Detail from 'Mathew Brady in the Back Yard I' i

Mathew Brady in the Back Yard I, 1952, gelatin silver print. John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hide caption

itoggle caption John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Detail from 'Mathew Brady in the Back Yard I'

Mathew Brady in the Back Yard I, 1952, gelatin silver print.

John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Detail from 'Young Pine in Birches' i

Young Pine in Birches, 1954, gelatin silver print. John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hide caption

itoggle caption John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Detail from 'Young Pine in Birches'

Young Pine in Birches, 1954, gelatin silver print.

John Szarkowski/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Detail from 'From Country Elevator, Red River Valley' i

From Country Elevator, Red River Valley, 1957, gelatin silver print John Szarkowski /Museum of Modern Art, New York hide caption

itoggle caption John Szarkowski /Museum of Modern Art, New York
Detail from 'From Country Elevator, Red River Valley'

From Country Elevator, Red River Valley, 1957, gelatin silver print

John Szarkowski /Museum of Modern Art, New York

Photographer John Szarkowski worked as photo curator for New York's Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1991. In that role, he became a huge influence on how photography is perceived as an art form.

Szarkowski was himself a photographer, yet he never made it the focus of his life. Now his own photos are the subject of an exhibition that opened last week at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art.

Chris Rainier, a staff photographer for the National Geographic Society, talks with NPR's Alex Chadwick about the retrospective and Szarkowski's continued influence on the aesthetic of photography.

Rainier says Szarkowski, maybe more than anyone else, created the notion that photographers are not merely technicians or observers — they are artists.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exhibit of Szarkowski's work runs through May 15.

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