< Speculators

PhotoWings Interview With Douglas Nickel

Success In The Photographic Art World: Reality Check
photowings.org (2007)

PhotoWings: Is there a common thread among photographers who have become successful? 

Doug Nickel: That's an awfully good question. I don't think so. I wish there were a kind of simple answer to this. 

People used to accuse John Szarkowski of being too powerful a curator - a tastemaker - because if he anointed you, if he gave you a show you would presumably go from a nobody to one of the most important photographers in the world. I remember his response to this charge was, "No, what a curator does is really put the work up for consideration, as a blind ad, and let the world decide whether it's worth paying attention to. I might like William Eggleston. But if I put Eggleston up and everybody thinks it's a lot of hooey, we'll never hear of Eggleston again." 

There are two moving targets, which is what the photographers do and how receptive the soil is to what they've done at any one time. Sometimes [the soil] is not ready for somebody until much later, sometimes it's never ready, and sometimes it's ready right then. 

Szarkowski did put up a lot of people that disappeared. They never went anyplace. John Szarkowski liked Bill Dane's photographs and Jeffrey Fraenkel represents Bill Dane, so no one can say his work did not receive support. There are people, including me, that really thought of his work as interesting. But Bill Dane is not a name that a lot of people will pull out of their hat when describing the most important photographers working today - for reasons that can never be fully explained. He was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. This mechanism was thrown behind him, but John is probably right in this regard, the world was not ready for Bill Dane, so it didn't happen.