Photographers see things. We walk around with invisible brackets before our eyes, constantly framing most anything which falls within our view. We are consciously aware of patterns and lines defined by light and dark, color and texture, physical objects and negative space. We see things we want to capture. Things we want to show other people.
John Szarkowski called it pointing. “One might compare the art of photography to the act of pointing,” Mr. Szarkowski wrote. “It must be true that some of us point to more interesting facts, events, circumstances, and configurations than others.” We aspire to be pointers. We strive to make our observations interesting.
Mr. Szarkowski, curator, educator, author, photographer, passed away on Saturday. His contribution to the world of photography, to those who capture images and those who gaze upon them, is respectfully chronicled in Philip Gefter's column in The New York Times. He curated some 160 exhibits of photography while at New York MoMA, and exposed the world to visionary photographers like Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. As Gefter says, he was "a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography’s status in the last half-century to that of a fine art".
Chris Rainier, a National Geographic staff photographer, told Alex Chadwick on NPR's occasional series Photo Op, Szarkowski, "maybe more than anyone else, created the notion that photographers are not merely technicians or observers -- they are artists."
From the perspective of one photographer in Belltown, it seems John Szarkowski helped create a generation of people who are willing to look, think about, and respond to what photographers want so much to share. They are willing to see.
Thank you, Mr. Szarkowski.