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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Szarkowski and My Practice

“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.”

– Szarkowski

Szarkowski was concerned with what photographs look like and why they look that way.  Szarkowski’s view was that the photograph is seen either as a mirror, giving us a romanticised expression of the sensibility of the photographer; or as a window, giving us a way to view and explore the world around us.

When reading Szarkowski’s The Photographer’s Eye, it is apparent to me that he had little, if any, patience for images that had been obviously manipulated using a computer.

I realise that Szarkowski would probably turn in his grave when viewing my work and refer to my work as ‘pretentious failures’. In contrast to Szarkowski’s writings, my photographs are very much made and not just taken.  Creating and developing narrative within the image is an important aspect of my work. He thought that creating narrative in photographs had never been very successful and this would have given him cause to critique my work, I believe, quite harshly.


Szarkowski, J. From 2017.  ⁄  john szarkowski. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 February 2017].

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