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Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art Paperback – July 28, 1999
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About the Author
John Szarkowski is director emeritus of the Department of Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He is the author of The Photographer's Eye, Photography Until Now, Irving Penn, and many other works on photography.
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Comments? I can only echo some of the reviews already written about this important book, such as the review written by Vladimir Belomestnov and Damon Webster.
This is an amazing book, less for the quality of the photographs (Which are remarkable and marvelous!) than for what the author Mr. Szarkowski painstakingly wrote about each photograph.
John Szarkowski's brief essay about each photograph truly opened my eyes to the subject photograph. First, I would look at a particular photograph in an effort to see what made the photo outstanding. Next, I would read John Szarkowski's discussion of the piece, and I would see aspects of the photograph that I had not previously seen.
-1 for the segmented feel, some descriptions are nondescript, i.e. there seem to be photographs that should precede the next but are not there.
Most likely the missing photographs were part of someones estate, copyrighted and/or otherwise not available for publication in this compilation.
This book discusses 100 photographers (100 shots with no artist twice). They are in approximately chronological order. The author discusses why the shots are the way they are in terms of technological limits, expectations/assumptions/conventions of the time, and composition; though not often all three for a single photo.
Following up on each photographer via wikipedia and image search was my roll-my-own version of a History of Photography. (but only up to 1969, which is the date of the last photo in this book.)
When I started, I didn't know that this was what I wanted, but it was.
The subjects of the discussion of each image is not identical for each one. In most discussions we learn about the history of the photographer. More words are probably used to discuss each photographer's history than anything else. The curator's discussion of why the image is significant, why it works etc, is less even with some images getting a greater discussion about this than others.
If indeed I had had a long private tour of these images with Mr. Szarkowski I would have asked more questions about why the individual images "worked" than what the author covered in his discussions. OTOH, since I'm somewhat lazy about visiting museums (and I live in NYC!) reading this book is equal or better than a long day trip to the museum. I certainly came away knowing more than when I started this book.