“A photographer’s eye” : thanks, Eva and Niv

I traveled to Munich, Germany in early-autumn of 2009 to visit a number of friends in town.  I stayed with Eva and Niv in Schwabing a few metro stops north from the city centre proper.   At the time, Eva and Niv were working at the MPE institute in nearby Garching; they’ve now moved to bigger and better things in Mexico City.

On a warm late-September evening in Munich, we spent a memorable evening talking about art and about photography.  From Niv’s collection of photography books, one of them has stayed with me : “The Photographer’s Eye” by John Szarkowski, who was the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City from 1962 to 1991.

Why this book has become important is described by the book’s publisher (MoMA):

The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski is a twentieth-century classic – an indispensable introduction to the visual language of photography. Based on a landmark exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1964, and originally published in 1966, the book has long been out of print. It is now available again to a new generation of photographers and lovers of photography in this duotone printing that closely follows the original. Szarkowski’s compact text eloquently complements skillfully selected and sequenced groupings of 172 photographs drawn from the entire history and range of the medium. Celebrated works by such masters as Cartier-Bresson, Evans, Steichen, Strand, and Weston are juxtaposed with vernacular documents and even amateur snapshots to analyze the fundamental challenges and opportunities that all photographers have faced. Szarkowski, the legendary curator who worked at the Museum from 1962 to 1991, has published many influential books. But none more radically and succinctly demonstrates why – as U.S. News & World Report put it in 1990 – “whether Americans know it or not,” his thinking about photography “has become our thinking about photography.”

Shortly after Szarkowski’s passing, Philip Gefter wrote an article in the New York Times, and Sean O’Hagan wrote about Szarkowski’s lasting influence on modern photography in the Guardian last year.

Fast forward to January 2011, I’m back in my hometown, and in the Chapters bookstore in downtown Vancouver.   I had been thinking about the book for some time, and I headed eagerly and swiftly up to the photography section to find a copy.

Not surprisingly, spending a week in the city where I was born and raised put me into a comfort zone where I could feel moved, moved to push forward into a place I’d been moving inexorably for the last two to three years.

So, thanks, Eva and Niv, for letting me stay with you for a few September nights in Munich.  We had a conversation that, unknowingly to you, might have helped me to an important decision which had been brewing for a long time.

HL, 0020h GMT, 4 June 2011.

Initially published on Posterous, this post has moved and now appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-L.

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