What is it?
John Szarkowski (b. Ashland 1925–2007 Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
Winesap from Barn
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 in.
Lent 2013, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona
About the Work
Few names are as important to the history of photography as that of John Szarkowski. After succeeding Edward Steichen in 1962 as director of the photography department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, he was instrumental in mounting exhibitions that identified directions in the medium and for helping legitimize the form as an important field of collection for museums. The museum was his platform until 1991, but he additionally taught at Harvard, Yale, New York University, and Cornell.
But Szarkowski wasn’t always a curator and he was not always associated with the Eastern seaboard. He was born in northern Wisconsin, and even as a young boy, developed an interest in photography. He became a photographer and began exhibiting his work in 1949—his first solo show, at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center. Beginning in 1958 up until his appointment to MOMA, he was in rural Wisconsin.
This late photograph is a testament to the lifelong attraction the Wisconsin landscape held for Szarkowski. A blooming apple tree fills the photographic field—others follow behind. In the center, trunk and limbs form a jagged, angular, graphic pattern in contrast to the delicate, floating blossoms; a ladder propped against the tree signals an eventual harvest. The simple subject offers Szarkowski an opportunity to show the strong, harsh, growth of years and the graceful, ephemeral, brief drift of a season. The result is a strong and immediate sense of place.