Peter Galassi
[Curator and writer, b. 1951, Washington, D.C., lives in New York.]

 ...ordinary photographs, especially when uprooted from their practical functions, contain a wealth of unintended, unpredictable meanings. The attempt to harness this centrifugal, obstreperous force forms a central tradition of modern photography. 
 Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition. 
 ...photography is equally capable of recording everything and revealing nothing. (On portraits by Thomas Ruff) 
 Alone, the Surrealist wanders the streets without destination but with a premeditated alertness for the unexpected detail that will release a marvelous and compelling reality just beneath the banal surface of ordinary experience. His every act is calculated to disrupt the conventional pattern of life, to invite irrational obsession. 
 After many years of getting very little attention from anyone but a handful of cheerleaders, photography got injected into the high-art tradition. And after that it never went away. 
 The dominant histories of modern art have been written virtually without reference to the work of Walker Evans (or of any other photographer), because they are histories of painting and, to a lesser degree, of sculpture and drawing and printmaking. These histories generally ignore photographers for the very good reason that painters generally have done so. 
 One of the great adventures of modernism began when painters closed the window of Renaissance perspective and contemplated the shuttered field of the picture plane. In theory, the medium of photography—a perfect, mechanical embodiment of perspective—would seem to have had no role to play in such an enterprise. But the photograph is a picture too, and photography’s modernist adventure might be described as a dialogue between the transparency of the open window and the impenetrable surface of the image.