I am enormously pleased to pass along the news that the long-awaited, on-again off-again reprint of John Szarkowski's great book Looking at Photographs is available once more.
If I have one single favorite book about photography, this would be it. It's a modest and simple book: Szarkowski, the longtime Director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art and a great connoisseur, picked one hundred photographs from the collection and wrote short essays about each one. The pictures are on the right-hand page, with the essays facing them on the left. None of the essays fill more than a single page. The book is a paperback, not thick and not expensive.
The essays are, if anything, as beautiful as the pictures: brief, eloquent, measured, specific, declamatory and often poetic. Reading each essay has the effect of getting you to look at the corresponding picture repeatedly, adding to the richness of your experience of it. Oddly enough, the critical perspective is not what I'd call crucial—in many cases the essays are personal, elliptical, touched off by the photographs rather than constrained entirely by them; they are not even the final word on these specific pictures, never mind all of each chosen photographer's work. And yet, strangely, after finishing the book, and reading it again, and thinking about it, you realize that a great many of photography's concerns, glories, and riddles have been touched upon along the way. Think of it not as anything definitive, but as a way of tagging along as one one sensible, erudite and articulate observer experiences great work. It's the best guided museum tour of photographs ever locked into ink.
Assuming I can get permission, I'll publish a sample image and picture from the book in a day or two, so you can get a taste of the book and decide whether you might like it.
In the large literature of photography, there are only a handful of books that photographers of every level and type could read and look at with pleasure; there are fewer that deserve the attention even of general readers. This is one, in my humble opinion. I'm very pleased it's back in print.
(Thanks to dolphin)