John Szarkowski
[Curator, critic, historian, and photographer, b. 1925, Ashland, Wisconsin, d. 2007, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.]

 When pictures have a great deal of information, that information has to have a shape of its own, even a shapeliness. 
 Much of the best energy of photographers during the past seventy years has been dedicated to the task of thinning out the rank growth of information that the camera impartially records if left to its own devices, in favor of pictures which have been—for lack of a better word—simpler. (1973) 
 I come from long-lived stock, and expect at least forty years after forty to practice what my education will have presumably taught me. As a crusty octogenarian, I shall hobble about and point with a trembling, Elon-stained finger toward the direction in which my carrying-boy should set up the camera. And all the while chuckling quietly at the unreasonable beauty of things. (Written at age 29; Szarkowski met his own expectations: he died at age 81) 
 The invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process—a process based not in synthesis but on selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made... but photographs, as the man on the street puts it, were taken. 
 A long generation ago photographers still worked under great black focusing cloths, which hid not only their faces but (it seemed) their magic secrets. Old photographers smelled of hypo, and had fingernails black to the cuticle, and were surrounded by an aura of esoteric alchemy. 
 In practice a photographer does not concern himself with philosophical issues while working; he makes photographs, working with subject matter that he thinks will make pictures. 
 From his photographs [the photographer] learned that the appearance of the world was richer and less simple than his mind would have guessed. He discovered that his pictures could reveal not only the clarity but the obscurity of these things, and that these mysterious and evasive images could also, in their own terms, seem ordered and meaningful. enormously larger number of photographs have been made by dumb amateurs, commercial drudges, half-sober news photographers, celebrity merchants, real-estate salesmen, etc., than by photographers with clear and clean artistic intentions—which suggests that the former groups have likely made a great many pictures that might appeal to those of us interested in what photographs can look like, and in how they may contain and convey meaning. 
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