Ben Lifson joins

By Michael Tapes

Photograph by Bee Ottinger
Lubbock, Texas, July, 2003

I was introduced to Ben Lifson by a mutual friend, Furrukh Khan, who had been studying under Ben for a few months and recommended that I do the same. Well that simple email changed my life. I am thrilled to have studied with Ben in the past and look forward to resuming my student relationship with him soon, after about a 2 year lapse. However, I am blessed that our friendship has remained. As I conceived the new re-birth of into, I knew that I wanted a full photographic content. One that would provide a unique point of view. I will say more about Ben in the next coming weeks and months, but for now I will simply say that I am thrilled that Ben has agreed to share his considerable talents with the readers and visitors here at I am thrilled and I hope that you find Ben's insights inspiring if not controversial. He will contribute to the Visual Counterpoint Picture Review, as well as his monthly column aptly titled, Making Pictures.

Michael Tapes
May 23, 2023

For the record here is a quick Bio of Ben...

Photographer, critic (“Garry Winogrand’s Art of the Actual” in The Man in The Crowd: The Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand) and teacher, Ben Lifson currently divides his time between critical and historical writing on photography and the private teaching of photography (see

He has worked as a photojournalist for New York, Ramparts, The Saturday Review, Look, and other magazines, and as a free-lance professional for PBS, private corporations, research foundations, professional theaters, film companies, etc.. His photographs have earned him two National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship and have been exhibited at George Eastman House, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Akron Art Museum, the Oakland Museum, the American Museum of National Art (Smithsonian) and other U.S. museums.

He was photography critic for New York’s The Village Voice, 1977-1982, and has written criticism for Artforum, Art in America, Artpresse (Paris), Art on Paper, Connaissance des Arts (Paris), HG, MD, October and many other publications. In the 1990s he began to publish critical articles on contemporary painting and sculpture as well as on photography. He is the author of the Aperture monograph Lucas Samaras: Photographs and has contributed introductions and essays to over twenty photography monographs and catalogs.

He has been guest curator and guest scholar in photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and curated the American wing of the Second Israeli International Photography Biennial, Ein Harod, Israel, directed the Sol Mednick Photography Gallery, Philadelphia, and assisted in, and wrote three essays for the catalog of the Royal Academy of Arts, London’s 1989 Art of Photography exhibition commemoerating photography’s 150th anniversary.

Chosen by Richard Avedon as lecturer for the traveling exhibition of Avedon’s first Metropolitan Museum show, Lifson has lectured on Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander, Andre Kertesz, Robert Frank and various aspects of contemporary and historical photography at many prominent U.S. universities and museums, including George Eastman House (Rochester), the School for Visual Arts and the ICP (New York), the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Virginia Museum, and the Houston Museum of Fine Art. In 1988, as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Art America program he lectured on contemporary U.S. photography in Egypt, Bahrain and Israel and was photographer and critic in residence at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1998 he was guest lecturer and critic at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and in 2002-3 was guest scholar in photography at the Amarillo Museum of Art, Amarillo, Texas.

In 1970 he founded the photography department of the California Institute of the Arts and directed it for four years; in 1984 he founded the MFA photography program at Bard College and directed it for three years. He has taught photography and the history of photography at Harvard, Yale, the University of California at San Diego, City College of New York, Bard College, and Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus, where he founded and led the history of photography curriculum. He has also written television programs and documentary films on photography, and translates texts on art and photography from French. He is currently at work on a Critical History of Photography, 1839-1984.