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Saturday, 11 April 2009


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Nice review, Mike. I bought this book several years ago -- probably on your recommendation -- and it's everything you say.

Szarkowski brings a humility to his task that is inspiring to me. He is an opener of doors, a sayer of first words, not last words. I hope I won't embarrass our host by saying that I think they have that in common.

Reprints love to see this.....looking for a copy of Storylines by Robert Frank at a reasonable price

This is one of the books I was happy enough to buy immediately after having seen it recommended here, and it definitely is a book to read and come back to repeatedly.
For me Szarkowski's style of writing has that wonderful balance of intellectual decisiveness without a invidious acerbity that sometimes made me reading Sontag's essays a bit bitter.

Crushingly, neither of the Canadian on-line sources - Amazon and Chapters/Indigo - have it available as yet. Dang!

Two other works by Szarkowski are worth acquiring. "Mirrors and Windows" uses photographs since the 1960s to support his thesis on art as mirror of the artist or as a window onto the world."The Photographer's Eye" has brief essay on style and tradition of photographs.

OK. Nailed it via yr so suggestively placed link. Will prowl around the mailbox till it comes.

Keep up the good work. Shows even an old guy can still be of some use. What a relief! I'm only 63 and I was already getting worried. But you are a beacon to us all.

As of 12:20 GMT, amazon.co.uk describe this as 'Temporarily out of stock' - hopefully your site has already benefited from some click-through sales, Mike.

I got a copy after reading one of your previous raves about it on this site's predecessor some time back and I love it. It's a great pleasure and an education—thanks.

I read this book (well most of it) a few years ago in the hopes that it would help me understand what makes a good photography. I was disappointed. Being a new photographer I'm willing to accept that most of what is written is over my head. Perhaps my approach to the material was wrong. I read the book as a "best of" book. Put another way I don't get it but I'm willing to have another go. The worse that can happing is that I confirm what I suspect, Mr. Szarkowski and I just have different taste.

Hmmm, apparently not available from Amazon.ca

Thanks, Mike!

an essay and image from the book constitutes fair use as part of a review.

I have a copy and seem to look through it at least once a month.

Mike, I just ordered a copy of this (through your portal). Don't know how I've avoided having it in my library all these years. Thanks for reminding about it.
Everytime I order something from Amazon I surf through my "wish list," and I'm amazed that after all these years Weston's Daybooks are still out of print. My copies are now over 40 years old and, unfortunately, softback which I'd love to replace with hardbacks.
Of all the photography books which have ever been printed, these should NEVER be allowed to go out of print.
End of rant.
Bill Mitchell (Sarasota)

Agreed. Also Gisele Freund's "Photography & Society." I actually looked into trying to get that reprinted when I was at Photo Techniques. The guy I talked to at Godine said it was nearly impossible, because so many people split so many different rights, and permissions would have to be secured anew for each one of the illustrations. A shame.

If I ever win the lottery, one of the top jobs will be to make a series of reprints that comprise an "essential library of photography" and keep them all in print and available. I can think of at least two dozen books off the top of my head....


Thank you. Barns and Noble here I come.

Bill, Mike,

Weston's Daybooks (at least the paperback version) is still available from Aperture.


And now on my list. Thanks.

I'm with Karl - I just returned this book to our local library - I had requrested it on Mike's recommendation. Frankly, I don't see what the fuss is all about. The cover photo is about the best image in the book, and while a quite nice photo, it's no masterpiece, IMHO.

I found some of the essays mildly interesting, but for the most part, the photos didn't move me enough to read the accompanying text.

My bottom-line reaction to the book: Of all the great and historic photographs out in the world (many of them featured on Mike's excellent website), why did MOMA choose to buy these?

Best regards,

"Of all the great and historic photographs out in the world (many of them featured on Mike's excellent website), why did MOMA choose to buy these?"

If a hundred essays by one of the best writers in photography's 170-year history can't tell you, I certainly can't.


"...If a hundred essays by one of the best writers in photography's 170-year history can't tell you, I certainly can't..."

As I mentioned, I didn't read most of the text, as my initial reaction to most of the photos was extreme underwhelderment.

But because I respect your opinion and appreciate your blog (after all, I *do* keep coming back almost every day,) I'm gonna go back and really *read* the book. It couldn't hurt, and it may just open my eyes to something I can't see right now. I may have totally misunderestimated the book.

Best regards,

"I'm gonna go back and really *read* the book."

Good for you Steve. Give it some soak time. I really hope you get something out of it, and I *believe* you will. Hope so, anyway.



Mike, another fine recommendation; now I'm in danger of buying altogether too many photography books just because you recommend them! I just received my copy a couple of days ago (along with the Turnley's McClellan Street and Parisians), and as far as I can tell, the book is everything you say. I've never read Szarkowski before, but I find his writing lucid, erudite, graceful, gracious, generous, and just plain funny at times. I got a good chuckle out of his comment that David Hill's painting of Scottish clergy "established Hill as one of the first artists to have converted good photography into bad painting."

Anyway, thanks again, and Steve, good on you for giving it a second go. I don't think you'll be disappointed, and I'm not even finished reading it yet!

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