Irish Dancehall, The Bronx 1954 ©George S. Zimbel 1954/2007
I was sorry to hear about the death of John Szarkowski, the retired curator of photography at MOMA. I am happy for him that he had returned to photography as a photographer. I am sure it gave him pleasure and completed the circle.
Another loss is Ted Hartwell. I have a story to tell about our limited but wonderful relationship. A few years ago at an AIPAD show I got tired and sat down on a bench. Next to me was another guy, somewhere around my age (I am now 78). We started to talk about how much there was to see, and the negative effect of the sheer volume of photographs to look at. He asked me what I did and I told him. I think it was a year or two after my IVAM retrospective. Then I asked him what he did and he told me he was Curator of Photography at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I commiserated about the pressures of such a job. The layman will never know what goes into creating an exhibit and getting it on the wall, not to mention establishing a distinguished photographic collection. I know.
Before we parted he asked me to send him my catalogue. Of course I took several years, but I recently started thinking about our meeting and finally sent it. That was two weeks before I heard he had died.
I have always had the feeling that a photographer must have a sense of premonition and that this sense makes him/her ready for what is about to happen,good or bad, in front of the lens or not. I have found this in my life, not only in regard to photography.
Which leads me to other observations since I am lucky to be here to make them. I remember coming down to MOMA to talk to John Szarkowski about Garry Winogrand’s multitudinous undeveloped rolls. He asked what I thought they should do with them, and I suggested leaving them undeveloped. My feeling was that if Garry had wanted them developed, he would have found a way to get that done. His profile was such that he could have managed that. Of course I was overuled and that’s ok. Now I understand that situation more clearly, but am still of that opinion.
On that visit to MOMA I met John in the hall of the photography department. He asked “Why aren’t you in our collection?” I answered “I don’t know, would you like me to send some prints for a look by the curators and acquisition commitee? Answer “Yes.” Several months later, they unanimously chose “Irish Dancehall, The Bronx 1954.” I was a very happy photographer.