[Critic, b. 1909, New York, d. 1994, New York.]
...there is about him and some of his disciples too much art with a capital A, and too many swans in his park are only geese. (1942, on Alfred Stieglitz)
The art in photography is literary art before it is anything else: its triumphs and monuments are historical, anecdotal, reportorial, observational before they are purely pictorial... The photograph has to tell a story if it is to work as art.
I myself happen to find, on the basis of experience and nothing else, that photography can be a high art.
[Edward] Hopper’s painting is essentially photography, and it is literary in the way that the best photography is. Like Walker Evans’s and Weegee’s art, it triumphs over the inadequacies of the physical medium. (1946)
[Edward Weston’s] camera defines everything, but it defines everything in the same way—and excess of detailed definition ends by making everything look as though it were made of the same substance, no matter how varied the surfaces. (1946)
Photography is the most transparent of the art mediums devised or discovered by man. It is probably for this reason that it proves so difficult to make the photograph transcend its almost inevitable function as document and act as a work of art as well.
Pseudo-modern art… little more than tinted photography. (On Georgia O’Keeffe’s work)
Photography is the only art that can still afford to be naturalistic and that, in fact, achieves its maximum effect through naturalism. Unlike painting or poetry, it can put all emphasis on an explicit subject, anecdote or message; the artist is permitted, in what is still so relatively mechanical and neutral a medium, to identify the “human interest” of his subject as he cannot in any of the other arts without falling into banality. Therefore it would seem that photography today could take over the field that used to belong to genre and historical painting, and that it does not have to follow painting into areas into which the latter has been driven by force of historical development.