“Whether the Americans realize it or not, his [Szarkowsky] approach to photography has become ours.”
U.S. News & World Report
Forty years after being published in the United States, L’Œil du photographe (The Photographer’s Eye) by John Szarkowsky, a key work in the history of photography, is at last available to French readers.
This book aims to investigate how photographs are presented and the reasons they are what they are. It explores photographic styles and traditions and the possibilities a photographer encounters during the course of his work. The invention of photography introduced a completely new way of producing images a process no longer based on synthesis, but on selection. The difference is crucial. Paintings are createz pieced together using a whole array of compositional principles, skills, and traditions while photographs are snapped, as the saying goes. This difference raised a completely new type of creative problem: how can this mechanical and soulless procedure be made to deliver pictures that have a meaning in human terms, pictures that are clear and coherent and deliver a point of view?
L’Œil du photographe, based on an exhibition held in 1964 and published in 1966, is an excellent introduction to the art of photography. It brings together works by acknowledged masters and those of unknown photographers, precisely outlining the features of the visual language of the artist as photographer and revealing this medium’s extraordinary potential.
One of the decisive choices an artist has to make when his tool is a camera: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and the vantage point.
John Szarkowsky was a photographer and Emeritus Director of Photography at NewYork’s Museum of Modern Art and one of the chief architects of the emergence of the medium as a cultural force over the past forty years. He was the author of several books on photography, including Looking at Photographs and Photography until Now.