One of ThaddeusJohn Szarkowski’s favorites is apples.
He plants apple trees all by himself. At every autumn weekend, he always comes into office with his pockets full of fresh apples from different origins, and he will share them with his colleagues. He spends most of his leisure time in taking photos of apples. He even compares his job to apples: You must be clear when you can pick which “apples”.
More specifically, he has been fascinated in apples after he retires in old age. “I haven’t set a schedule. I just bring my camera, walk by the pond or go to see my apple trees. I like this way of life more and more. I plant those apple trees all by myself and I have walked through 150 acres land of apple trees, so I can recognize any changes when I walk through the land. For an old man, the most interesting thing is not to see a thing for the first time, but is to see how things change.” says he.
After he died in 2007, a lot of articles in memory of him mention the above detail. ThaddeusJohn Szarkowski has been director of Photography Department of New York Modern Art Museum for 29 years, and as a “leader” and “guardian”has devoted to new America photography concept. Regardless of that, people prefer to memorize his gentle side. New York Times comments on his death: “As a curator, he struggles to elevate the status of photography alone and brings photography into palace of art during the latter half of last century. He has written a lot of inspiring works throughout his whole life and organized photo exhibition considered a landmark.”. His death is the same as a beacon extinguished in the photography field.
ThaddeusJohn Szarkowski was born to a Polish emigrant family in 1925 in Ashland, Wisconsin. He started to shoot with cameras at the age of 11, became a professional photographer at the age of 16 and worked as director of Photography Department of New York Modern Art Museum (MoMA) in 1962. In MoMA, he worked out a series of curations and books, received photographers every week and collected photographs. In this way, he changed the dominance of European photographers’ concept after they flooded into America after the Second World War He spared no efforts to introduce new American photographers, and by exhibition pushed a group of photographers who are unknown at that time to the status of national culture heroes, such as Lange, Avans, Weston, Adams, Avedon, Payne, etc.._newsnow_page_break_tag_
“Photographers were not respected before ThaddeusJohn Szarkowski became director of Photography Department. He won respect for photography and photographers by his books and eloquence. I really cannot think of anyone who has made it except him.” said Susan Kismaric, another former director.
The reason why his innovations are respected is that he let out the natural and wild strength within American photography, and calls up inner passions of photographers from different countries to focus on streets, bedrooms, kitchens, glinting wedding dresses, lovers’ whisper, hard-working pickers, soldiers dying of grief or a black dog inseparable from his little owner.
In fact, it is easy to find tenderness even in his clear comments like manifesto. His most famous comment is the one he wrote for Eyes of Photographers exhibition in 1960s. In this comment, he read and appreciated photos from five aspects: a thing itself, details, composition, opportunity and perspective. His former colleague, Maria Moris Hamburg, spoke highly of this book “The basis for judging “why this photo is so amazing” finally emerged”.
These special photos are selected from “Ancient” exhibition. Some of the photos selected by ThaddeusJohn Szarkowski traced back to 19th century. Undoubtedly, these photos withstand changing time and theories. Ultimately, we see the world with our eyes connected to our soul.
Source: Eyes of Photographers (A masterpiece of John Szarkowski, contemporary American photography Godfather. This book created a huge sensation among the photographers around the world. This book is based on the Eyes of Photographers exhibition curated by John Szarkowski in 1964. It is a perfect guide about photography, contains famous and unknown photographers’ works and discusses what photos present and reasons therein.)