David Galenson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, takes a typically economical approach to the arts: the best photographer must be the one whose work appears the greatest number of times in art textbooks. The same approach has helped Galenson determine that the greatest woman artist of the 20th century was Cindy Sherman, Picasso was the greatest artist of all in the 20th century, and his painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” was the greatest individual artwork of the century. Following that very logical logic, Galenson has determined that Alfred Stieglitz (pictured, as photographer by Edward Steichen, who came in at number 8) was the best photographer of the previous century.
The rest of the list features all the predictable names, in order: Walker Evans, Sherman, Man Ray, Eugene Atget, Dorothea Lange, August Sander, Steichen, Edward Weston, and John Heartfield. More importantly, what other ridiculous conclusions could we reach by following Galenson’s research method of “most images wins”? Jeff Koons is the greatest sculptor of the 21st century? JFK was the best U.S. President of the 20th century? PBR is the best beer ever?