Ben Lifson

American, 1941-2013

Ben Lifson was among the most influential minds in late-twentieth-century photography criticism. He taught at Yale, Harvard, Bard College and the International Center of Photography in New York, and founded the photography department at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles in 1970. He was the photography critic at New York’s Village Voice from 1977 to 1982, the peak of its prestige.

During his career, Lifson wrote for Art in America, October, Artforum, Art on Paper, and Art News. He also published catalog essays on Samaras, John Coplans, Garry Winogrand, Frank Gohlke, André Kertész, Eugéne Atget and others. Lifson also produced prolific amounts of his own photography, some of which was published in magazines such as Look, Ramparts, Saturday Review and New York. He is best remembered for his criticism, however, which helped to establish the then-new medium of street photography as genuine art in the eyes of academia.