Richard B. Woodward

  • Surface to Air

    Photography has recognized only a few prodigies during its history. Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894–1986) was certainly one of them. The action shots he took before the age of twelve—of early French car races, experiments with manned flight, a cousin leaping down the stairs—have seldom been equaled. Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882–1966) was another wunderkind. He could handle a 4 × 5 view camera when he was eight and was exhibiting with Frederick Evans and other Linked Ring artists at eighteen. Francesca Woodman (1958–81) began her series of self-portraits in earnest when she was fourteen, and her


    Never underestimate what a “tragic” death can do for an artist’s reputation. Who knows whether the romance of Jackson Pollock as cowboy existentialist would be intact if he had survived that car crash, entered AA, and continued to drip paintings while the art world tuned into Warhol and Koons. Or imagine a seventyfive-year-old Sylvia Plath on her third marriage, exhausted after thirty years of leading poetry workshops, reciting “Daddy” on Fresh Air. Autumn Rhythm and “Ariel” would rank as masterworks even if their creators had enjoyed a fuller measure of years. But by dying precociously, neither