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Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Great Classic Reissued

For the first time in many years, very soon now you will again be able to buy The Photographer's Eye as a new book. John Szarkowski is arguably the best writer on photography of the second half of the 20th Century, at least in English, but he was also one of the most influential curators—especially early on in his career, when this was published. The Photographer's Eye is his visual textbook of how photographs function and why they matter. The plentiful illustrations are an invigorating hodgepodge, ranging all the way from avowed masterpieces to anonymous vernacular photography, and including snapshots, photojournalism, and historical documents; before this book, lumping all those together just wasn't done. Originally published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1966 and now selling used for up to $250, this is a book that was part of the background music for an entire generation of photographers, in one of photography's most fecund periods, the late '60s and the '70s.

It's a slim, slight, modest book with few words, probably Szarkowski's least verbal book. Personally, after a quarter of a century spent studying photography and working with and around photographers of every kind, from rank beginners to the world-famous, I can't think of a single reason why anybody who professes any interest in photography would not want this, or benefit from having it. The new reissue is not out yet—the link is to a pre-order—so I'm not sure if they've recreated the gravure reproductions of the original or not, but that's not really critical. The pictures are the crux of it. This is as close to a must-have and a mandatory buy as any recent reissue, for any photographer. Highest recommendation, and do note that the reissue won't be available forever, as is the nature of such things.

If you buy it through the links here on the site, we get a tiny commission, but that's not the point.

I'm going to be on you about this, so you might as well give in now.

Get it? Get it.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to Geoff


Blogger Robert Meier said...

You should mention that that's a Walker Evans shot on the cover.

11:18 AM  
Blogger John said...

$250 for a used copy? Wow! That sent me off to a bookshelf to see if my 41 year old copy was still there. It was, and in hardcover, too. Still, I don't think I would ever sell it.

12:21 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Wow. Between this and the Jeff Wall exhibition, I got to get to the MoMA!

12:39 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"$250 for a used copy? Wow!"

Actually, there's an EX-LIBRARY copy for sale on Abebooks for $250 (in the "Must Be Dreaming" category (s)). The most expensive copy through Amazon is $350. Haven't checked elsewhere.


2:53 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

(I see several copies on AbeBooks for around fifty bucks.)

OK Mike, I'll take your word for it, I've ordered it. (Without having a clue what's in it.)
(Sadly, so far as I know, Amazon's affiliate system only works in one store, and I ordered from the UK one.)

4:44 PM  
Blogger Amund Blix Aaeng said...

Damn, I suck at resisting temptation! I ordered one too..
At $16.47 what`s to loose...:)

5:15 PM  
Blogger Frank B said...

Thanks Mike. I have pre-ordered it. The $16.47 price was a nice surprise.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Not Walker Evans, although it has some of his style, but "the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, photographer unknown." Mike, what is it about Wisconsin that made its archives such a goldmine? I'm thinking of Michael Lesy's dark fantasies as well as the work of the studio in Baraboo, WI that specialized in summer visitors sitting in boats under the rocks at Wisconsin Dells (can't remember the name and can't find the pictures at the moment). Was there a person who brought that material to the attention of the Newhalls and Szarkowsky at some critical moment?


1:05 AM  
Blogger Roel van Lanen said...

The recently published "The Nature of Photographs" by Stephen Shore seems to be the contemporary counterpart to this book. I've never seen a copy of "The Photographer's eye" (just ordered it) but this one is another $26 well spent!

2:53 AM  
Blogger John said...


The Dells photographer was H.H.Bennett

11:37 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I've ordered it from Amazon, and it says "Estimated to ship June 3rd" so I assume that is when it will be coming out.

3:51 PM  
Blogger PlasmaBob said...

I just got mine from Amazon and some of the pages have the wrong prints, and/or are upside-down.

Any else have this problem? Should I send it back or is it destined to be a valuable collector's item because of the printing errors g>?

2:06 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Oops! Let us know if you get that taken care of, will you?


8:21 PM  
Blogger PlasmaBob said...

Well, I'm sure I could just return it to Amazon and get a new one, but:
a. It seems that the entire press run could have the same error (perhaps you could add a blog entry about this - page 61 for instance is upside down and not the photo it says it is. And
b. Could my copy be worth something in the future?

I'm curious to hear from others. I guess I'll also post a review/query at Amazon - Bob

9:15 AM  

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