Quote Originally Posted by Maris View Post
A sharply perceptive comment! I've seen the curatorial side of things and there is nothing more certain than the professional curator and the creative photographer inhabit different universes.

The curators priorities are:

Job security: Don't rock the boat; praise what others praise, condemn what others condemn.
Get promoted: Organise popular exhibitions; borrow famous works.
Get funding: Schmoose millionaires, philanthropists, and government for buckets of money.
Build the collection: Buy famous pictures or promote cheap stuff to make it famous.
Advance personal status: Go to conferences, write scholarly articles for curators and academics, get cited by others in exchange for citing them.
Grasp more responsibility: If photography is too small then swell your department by absorbing video, movies, "digital media", photo-realist painting, works on paper, anything.
Become essential: Know where the bodies are buried, who's on the take. When funding cuts come they'll sack someone else or you will squeal...publicly.

On the other hand if you ask a curator to critically assess the aesthetic merit of a photograph out of context (no history, no provenance, no author) you rarely get anything of value. Telling the good ones from the bad ones is not part of the training, not part of the job description.
To this outsider this is true. John Szarkowski was a conspicuous example. His own photographs are bland. His comments in Ric Burns' film on Ansel Adams were superficial when compared to the more knowledgeable contributors in the earlier Ansel Adams film directed by John Huszar. His Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art smells more like an attempt to justify some acquisitions of his museum rather than a perceptive analysis. Perhaps I would enjoy some of his other books more, but time spent on this site is more productive.

Curators with artistic ability can be a powerful and positive influence: Steiglitz, for example. Rarely can such artists afford to be curators. Rarely can curators be such artists.