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Posted June 8, 2001
Although this book has much less female nudity than many photographic books, there are two such pages in the book. If this type of representation is offensive to you, either skip this book or avoid those pages. This book has modest purposes. 'This is a picture book, and its first purpose is to provide the material for simple delectation.' Beyond that, it is 'a visual interim report [as of 1973] on the results of collecting photographs at The Museum of Modern Art.' These purposes are magnificently fulfilled, and your eyes and mind will be filled with many useful new perspectives and thoughts as a result of your delectations here. Your life will be expanded by seeing much more, both in photographs and in life, as a result. Mr. Szarkowski, head of the photography collection at MOMA, points at that photography 'has received little serious study.' As a result, a language and analytical framework for considering photography are not yet developed. To overcome that limitation. Mr. Szarkowski has provided a number of perspectives in the one-page essays that accompany each page of photography. These perspectives include the utilitarian purpose of the image, the style of the photographer, the technology of the methods used, and the significance of the subjects or subject. He also draws your attention to detail or information that expand your knowledge. It is like having the best docent's photography tour of your life, as you go through the images. These essays are modestly described as simply 'an attempt to describe photography from a somewhat more liberal and exploratory perspective.' Well, they are much more than that. They are like turning the light on to see the photographs for the first time, unless you are a talented photographer already. In creating this book, a great decision was made to limit each photographer to one page of work. In this way, you get to see more types of images and styles. I think this added greatly to the knowledge and enjoyment that can be gained from this wonderful book. A great benefit of this approach was to allow selecting photographs that would reproduce well in this page size format. I heartily approve of that approach! In the book you will find portraits, sketches for painters, ways of recording far away places, Civil War reporting, aerial reconnaisance, methods of encouraging connections, insights into the physics of life, and efforts to be a successor to painting. As the author says, 'Photography has remained . . . radical, instructive, disruptive, influential, problematic, and [an] astonishing phenomenon of the modern epoch.' Here are my favorite images: D.O. Hill and W.B. Johnston, David Octavius Hill, Celotype, c. 1845; Baron Isadore Taylor, Nadar, Woodbury type, 1872; Madonna with Children, Julia Margaret Cameron, Albumen print, c. 1866; Sugar Bowl with Rowboat, Wisconsin Dells, Henry Hamilton Bennett, 1911; Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Paris, Jacques Henri Lartigue; Georgia Engelhard, Alfred Stieglitz, 1921; Torso of Neil, Edward Weston, 1925; Babe Ruth, Nikolas Muray, c. 1927;Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.