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The Photographer's Eye Paperback – March 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Szarkowski is director emeritus of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. As director of the department from 1962 through 1991, he oversaw the presentation of more than 100 exhibitions. He also oversaw the publication of more than 30 books and catalogues, the inauguration of the Museum's first photography collection galleries in 1964 and their expansion in 1984 and the establishment of endowments to support the department's programs. Throughout his tenure, he supervised the development of the collection, which now includes more than 25,000 works spanning the history of photography. Szarkowski was born in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1925.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Reprinted edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087070527X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870705274
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 8.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Hillringhouse on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When John Szarkowski recently passed away at the age of 81, the world lost one of photography's most important figures. He was the "Stieglitz" of the 1960s and 70s, changing the way audiences look at photographic images and he shaped the way future audiences will come to appreciate the pioneering work of Arbus, Eggleston, Friedlander and Winogrand. When he took over the reins of curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from Edward Steichen, photography's early twentieth century grand master, Szarkowski promoted a "new" photography that incorporated the everyday moment as it was unfolding on the streets around cities and towns across America.

His great gift to all of us who love photography besides his championing of new talent, was his incredible skill at writing texts, essays, criticism, books on photography. With his talent as a writer, and his background as a photographer, he was able to open a window onto this two-dimensional world of form and tone, shape, texture and composition, explaining the ins and outs, the subtleties, and the intuitions of image makers, their techniques and their medium in all its finesse.

Having simply tried to take a good photograph all his life, he simply knew a good photograph when he saw one. It is what made him such a great curator. His own best known books of photographs, "The Idea of Louis Sullivan" published in 1956, contains photographs of the architecture of Chicago, and his other, "The Face of Minnesota" published in 1958, contains haunting landscape images of his home state. He wrote the way he carefully crafted his own images. He framed each paragraph paying close attention to his ear, to diction and to all the elements of style.
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I agree with some of the reviews that expressed surprise at the fact that the amount of text is less than the blurb leads you to believe. I too was expecting a commentary on each of the photos in the book hoping to gain insight into the authors opinions about each photo. In fact the commentary is not so tightly linked to the individual photos, instead groups of photos illustrate each of the five main themes of the book.
However, the essay by the author is pretty deep and to the point, there is no fluff here. After reading it I thought what he was saying seemed kind of obvious and true. You could take this as a criticism, but for me I have found that it has been very helpful to have these fundamental things articulated. In summary, for me this is a deceptively concise but classic statement of some of the "truths" behind the photographic process, accompanied by some stunning black and white photos.
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This is a book with many images and a few words. But the small text is of seminal importance for the understanding and the future of photography.
Firstly, John Szarkowski draws a parallel between the art that forged photography - painting - and photography in itself. A comparison between the inclusion of a painting canvas and the exclusion of a camera viewfinder.
He does not dismiss the photograph as something lost in the space and time, but as something in motion, even if only for 1/30 of a second. A Cartier Bresson's "decisive moment", not in the sense that is commonly accepted by most(a dramatic climax), but a visual one.
The author emphasizes that this is a new art and needs to be still discovered in many senses. The photographers need to discover new meanings and ways to express themselves in new images.
John Szarkoswi was the curator of photography of the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for many years. In the exhibits he put into action his thoughts, inclusively promoting color photography.
As a photographer, I have learned a lot in those few pages.
One of the conclusions that I draw is that the film and digital controversy is innocuous. Whatever image you capture through the viewfiender is photography.
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Format: Paperback
I've been a professional photographer for 35 years, (with a BFA from RISD) and this it the book that got me really juiced! Spend some time reviewing the images and concepts within. The magical nature of recording light in our physical world is very clear. I've loved this book for 35 years. I have purchased many copies for others interested in photography and can fully recommend this for anyone who will take the time to see what is really contained within.

Cheers,
Gary
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... which this book will help you learn to do, I think you will conclude that this is a straightforward but rather deep book. People who are disappointed in it have either not read it carefully or had quite unrealistic expectations. In most ways it foreshadows what Stephen Shore later did in the Nature of Photographs, a book that is also worth reading but that does not add a great deal to Szarkowski. Both of these books help us to think through (as Shore's title suggests) what a photograph, as a photograph (two dimensional, bounded, stopped etc.), can and cannot do, and some of the main ways it does so. If this seems elementary, well, it's apparent from most people's photographs that they haven't grasped the messages of these books. I suggest that most people's photos would be a lot better if they would spend more time with these sorts of fundamentals and less with the more technical works (not that technique can be ignored either).
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