John Szarkowski: Mirrors and Windows

John Szarkowski, head of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) assigned two types of labels to photographs.  Photographs as mirrors and photographs as windows.  According to Szarkowski the photographs classified as mirrors are those that contain information about the artist’s intentions, self discovery and signs of identity whereas the ones classified as windows explore the reality and presence of the world (see press release Mirrors and Windows).

Photographers work that can be seen in Mirrors and Windows are Diane Arbus, Paul Caponigro, Mark Cohen, Judy Dater, Bruce Davidson, William Eggleston, Elliott Erwitt, Lee Friedlander, Ernst Haas, Robert Heinecken, Les Krims, Ray Metzker, Joel Meyerowitz, Tod Papa- george, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, George Tice, Jerry Uelsmann, and Garry Winogrand.

Practioners of the “mirror” approach are Paul Caponi- gro; Jerry N. Uelsmann, Robert Heinecken; and painter Robert Rauschenberg while those of the “windows” approach are Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Ray Metzker, and Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Joel Meyerowitz.

Szarkowski States that although those photographers’ work are classified as two different types; what unites them is their common pursuit of beauty.

Bibliography / References:

Press Release (1978). Mirrors and Windows American Photography since 1960 [online]. Available from: [Accessed 27 November, 2016]

Rafael Roja.  Monthly Essay: Windows and Mirrors [online].  Outdoor Photographers. Available from: [Accessed 27 November, 2016].

Slade George. The Window or the Mirror [online].  Fotoblog. Available at: [Accessed 27 November, 2016].

Stockdale Doug (2008).  Windows and Mirrors by John Szarkowski [online].  The Photobook.  Available from: [Accessed 27 November, 2016].


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