Sam Abell from Stay this Moment
A mad, keen photographer needs to get out in the world and work and make mistakes.
I believe in the resonance and staying power of quiet photographs.
Spiritually driven work constitutes the core of photography’s contribution to culture.
A tripod allows me to linger over a composition for more than a moment.
Photography produces pleasure by simplicity.
Photoshop is a dark art. Improvement is not photography; seeing is photography. (from a talk in NYC 2015)
Compose your picture, and wait.
Bad weather makes good pictures.
My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.
Photography makes the moment enduring and eloquent.
There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
It is imortant that the photographer has a clear conception of what he is aiming for in his work, and that he reduces every element of his equipment and method to the most simple and efficient degree.
A good photograph is knowing where to stand.
Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer, and often the supreme disappointment.
There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
You don't take a photograph, you make it.
The "machine-gun" approach to photography - by which many negatives are made with the hope that one will be good - is fatal to serious results.
There are no rules for good photographs; there are only good photographs.
No one has the right to dictate what others should perceive, create, or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions, and emotions and to build confidence in the creative spirit.
The artist must have a clear and complete conception of the final effects of the print before he operates the shutter of his lens. The photograph is completed before it is taken.
The so-called rules of composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant, immaterial.
Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.
I think all war should be shot in black and white. It's more primitive. Color tends to make things look too nice.
The most powerfuil weapon in the world has been, and can be a photograph. Military weapons can only destroy. Cameras in the hands of photographers with hearts can capture love – hope – passion – change lives and make the world a better place.... And it only takes 1/500th of a second. Life goes on – we photograph it. But it's much better with love –
Making photographs has to be, then, a personal matter; when it is not, the results are not persuasive.
Show affection for the world without lying about it.
William Albert Allard
(Pearls from a Leica Akademie workshop in Los Angeles, 2018)
The difference between a good picture and a really fine picture is very often a matter of inches. It's how you're putting that space together and that's where your sense of grace and balance come in. It's how you see. You're responsible for every little bit of space in that picture, but it's intuitive.
Leica M6. That's what a camera should feel like.
Pick a bird. A hunter will miss if he fires his shotgun into a flock of birds. He has to pick a bird. When a subject is visually rich you have to pick a bird.
It's always around the edges where you find the most interesting things. [from a podcast (Photo Banter Jan 22, 2021) referring not to the edges of a photograph, but to the edges of life]
The aim of art is to represent, not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
The contemplation of things as they are, without substitution or imposture, without error or confusion, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.
A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.
You will make your strongest images with subject matter that means the most to you.
If it looks manipulated, the viewer loses interest.
The photograph you end up with is your creations, even though the thing you photographed had nothing to do with you. Something attracted you, but that something was simply the starting point for your photograph, your creation, your statement, your art.
I cry on every assignment.
I never look for a photograph; the photograph finds me.
I am trying to project myself into the mind of the Japanese and to understand their way of life from their point of view. A big story never pays, that’s right. I am precisely one of those who likes to make big essays of this kind, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing so because these big essays give me a sense of what a country is really like.
Always be immersed in your work. A big part is simple discipline, to be on top of your craft and always take the time to look, and be ready to receive, ideas from your work.
When Kodak killed T-Max 3200 I transitioned to digital.
It's more than the film or the sensor or the processing or whatever. It's a certain kind of light that you take pictures in. I've always loved "bad light." Most of my pictures are taken right in the middle of the day.
A writer would never turn over his notes to an editor and say, "Here, write my piece for me." So, why should a photographer do that? It's about authorship.
For a lot of photographers the photograph is the ultimate goal, but for me it's the start of the process. It's not the individual photograph, it's what you do with it and who you engage with it that makes it powerful.
Chris Boot (Executive Director, Aperture)
You've got to have a new idea. You've got to have a new way of photographing something. You've got to offer people something new that gets them excited. You can't just work in the style of _____, and expect to build an audience. There's got to be something above and beyond just, "these are good street photographs."
An image is not made by a camera, but by your soul and heart; the camera is only 5% of the image, the rest is about creativity, about us.
Whatever happens in the real world is going to outdo anything you could create in Photoshop.
Each of us can be an incremental cog in the wheel of planetary improvement.
If you listen to music by the Beatles from the mid-1960's you can hear what a wondrous invention they created with just four tracks of analogue tape. They didn't need 96 technically perfect digital recording tracks and software and a bank of computers. They simply needed imagination and emotion, determination and belief. Technique is merely the means to help convey those ideas, not the be-all and end-all. Stating the obvious, so it can and should be the same with camera equipment.
I personally prefer (whether on film or digital) as simple as possible. The less distraction, the more basic, the more I like the camera and the more connected I feel in the moment. Maybe I'm just a technophobe, but I find all that extra stuff distracting.
The Wide-Lux is a fickle mistress; its viewfinder isn't accurate, and there's no manual focus, so it has an arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It's something I aspire to in all my work --- a lack of preciousness that makes things more human and honest, a willingness to receive what's there in the moment, and to let go of the result. Getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.
Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar settings, waiting only to be perceived.
When I photograph, what I'm really doing is seeking answers to things.
The urge to photograph comes in part from the deep desire to live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others to do the same.
You can expand your reality by developing new ways of perceiving.
I didn't want to tell the tree or weed what it was. I wanted it to tell me something and, through me, express its meaning in nature.
Whenever I find myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I tro to open my whole being to what it has to say.
There is nothing new in photography. What's new is your perspective.
What is that kernel that is making you create?
If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.
I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of my life.
[Capa was killed by a landmine in Viet Nam]
It's one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it's another thing to make a protrait of who they are.
I want to be free enough to see every day with fresh eyes.
In order to be a good photographer you need to work more on your emotions than your technique.
Just make the picture; you've got the rest of your life to figure out what it means.
from The Mind’s Eye
One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.
I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it.
Twenty-five years have passed since I started to look through my view-finder. But I regard myself still as an amateur, though I am no longer a dilettante.
In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject.
We photographers, in the course of taking pictures, inevitably make a judgement on what we see, and that implies a great responsibility.
Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
from Interviews and Conversations (Aperture)
Most pictures are beyond your comprehension at the time you take them - that is to say, you have no way of knowing their exact implications, when they will take on their complete meaning.
I believe photographs should be taken, and should be reproduced, for the masses, not for collectors.
I don't think you can take good pictures if you are taking them with a purpose in mind. For instance, stylization is the sad result of a systematic approach to composition, instead of intuition. The only art is in the humanity of your thinking, how you look at things, and the coincidence of being in a certain place at a certain time.
As long as human beings are alive and there are real problems that are vital, important, and someone wishes to express them with simplicity and sincerity, or with fun and humor, there will be a place for photographrs, just as there will be for poets and novelists.
A photographer must not run but walk, tirelessly.
The subject takes on importance and the photograph takes on strength only if you succeed in forgetting yourself.
We are passive when confronted with a world in movement; and our only creative moment is this 1/25th of a second when we press the button, this shifting instant when the blade falls.
We must think before and after, but never while taking a picture.
I flee from the dangers of the anecdote and the picturesque, which are very easy and better than the sensational, but quite as bad. To my mind, photography has the power to evoke, and must not simply document.
The most difficult thing for me is the portrait...you have to try and place your camera between a person's skin and his shirt, which is not an easy thing to do.
You have to forget yourself - the image becomes much stronger if you get completely involved in what you are doing.
You can't go looking for a structure, shapes, patterns and all that, but you will feel a sensuous pleasure, an intellectual pleasure at the same time, when you have everything in the right place.
I find emotion in black-and-white: it transposes, it is an abstraction, it is not "normal."
The secret is to always work with the same fast film, in slightly gray weather. Sunshine is very inconvenient in photography: it forces, it imposes. Slightly overcast weather allows one to circle the subject freely, it is a visually malleable weather.
I have had the same camera for years and years. I am a very bad customer.
I have one camera and one lens; you need an economy of means in order to get the maximum. It's intensity that counts.
When I see the amount of gear that some photographers have and then see their results, there is a bit of a discrepancy.
I own an old Leica that is indestructible. I have another one that is faster, but the first one is quite enough.
I love my old Leica, I am completely at ease with it and anything else hampers me. These [new] machines make me uncomfortable; I don't know how to work with them, too complicated, to many thingies. I have the automatic reflex within me.
You have to fully live in the instant, it is the only way to be present in what you do - which explains my passion for the Leica. It is a camera that favors the instant. Reflex cameras on the other hand are noisy, they create a disturbance, that changes everything.
My friend Sebastiao Salgado makes extraordinary pictures that require an enormous amount of work. They have not been conceived by the eye of a painter, but that of a scociologist, economist, and activist. I have the utmost respect for what he does, but he possesses a messianic side that I do not have.
Composition is born of chance. I never calculate. I have a glimpse of a structure and I wait for something to happen within it. There is no rule. You should not try to explain the mystery too much. It is better to be available, with a Leica close at hand. It is the ideal camera body.
To me, the 50 mm remains the closest thing there is to the human gaze. You can shoot everything with it - streets, landscapes, or portraints. When you have the eye of a painter and a visual grammar, you work with a 50 mm.
Photography is an attitude, a way of being, a way of life. And suddenly, in front of a fleeting reality, you have an intuition. A whole visual organization clicks into place. It lasts for a fraction of a second. You hold your breath... you put your heart, your head and above all your eye into it. There, it's done.
We always talk too much. We use too many words to say nothing. The pencil and the Leica are silent.
HC-B from other sources:
We must take greater care than ever not to allow ourselves to be separated from the real world and from humanity.
What is photojournalism? Occasionally, a very unique photo, in which form is precise and rich enough and content has enough resonance, is sufficient in itself - but that's rarely the case. The elements of a subject that speak to us are often scattered and can't be captured in one photo; we don't have the right to force them together, and to stage them would be cheating... which brings us to the need for photojournalism.
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.
Shooting with a Leica is like a long, tender kiss.
You just have to live and life will give you pictures.
It is the photo that takes you.
It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.
To take a photograph is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.
It is putting one, head, one, eye, and one, heart on the same axis.
Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn't go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick.
To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.
The pleasure is here and now, to be alive, to be present. To feel the pulse of everything.
The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.
The invention of the camera will rank with the invention of the printing press as a dominating influence in human development... Like music, it is a language that all mankind can understand. Photography cuts across the boundary of illiteracy that isolates much of the world's population.
Photography can light up the dark corners of a tormented and difficult world.
The twentieth century belongs to the photojournalists. They have provided us with a visual history unduplicated by images from any comparable period of human existence.
Thomas Joshua Cooper
The art is in the thinking and the feeling and the seeing and the making. Not in the medium." (told to him by Morris Graves)
See Canyon taught me several important artist's lessons. The first was to relax into trying to see a place, be at ease if possible in the place, but attend to it well and very carefully. Secondly, be prepared to change your mind and to see what you do not expect to see or did not want to see.
For all of us, the Earth sustains our existence. In an otherwise inhospitable known universe, our little blue planet provides us absolutely everything. I've never understood why our societal and spiritual priorities as a species do not overwhelmingly demonstrate our gratitude by placing our planet at the pinnacle of the reverential order. (from Reverence)
Photographing nature is a very specific kind of exercise in mindfulness; to be out in nature with senses responsive, keenly aware of circumstances and completely receptive, yielding to the present. (from Reverence)
While the painter can scrape away and paint over his mistakes, the landscape photographer must make good decisions all the way through the process. Camera technique must be flawless, composition well-crafted and timing immaculate. It is the art form of good judgement, experience and clear vision. A fusion of science, craft and art, landscape photography is an activity that draws heavily on mind, body and spirit.
If you're a nature photographer, part of what makes a photograph believable is the rough edges and the imperfections. The moment you start cloning all of those out or smoothing them over then you take the truth out of it and the kind of believability out of it. (from On Landscape interview with Jack Dykinga)
Music is the space between the notes.
Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
The authentic portrayal of presence produces a masterpiece.
I have hundreds of thousands of images on my hard drives. They are my sketches. They are my work that gets me to the strong stuff.
If you take less of the bad stuff, that is only going to push you to take fewer risks and to, end the end, make work that is less like you and more like everyone else.
The photographs that really haunt me are the ones that nobody sees, the ones that for whatever reason don’t make the edit, don’t get published. Then you feel like you’ve let those people down, because they’ve entrusted you to take their photograph and it ends up in a folder somewhere.
People ask: can you change the world with your photograph and I would say, no, but maybe we can inspire the people who do.
There is no truth in photography. It’s all our interpretation. If you stick me in a room and I look in one direction and take a picture, it’s different from what’s behind me. So in a way, black and white is saying it’s not true. It’s saying, this is an artistic statement of it. When I see a lot of colour photographs of conflicts it’s saying: “This is exactly the reality.” But it’s not. A photograph is still a fake thing. It’s one second I’ve taken out of the whole day; my version of reality. Black and white for me is honest, it’s saying, this is obviously not reality.
I think we have to accept that there is no such thing as truth in photography, and that might sound strange coming from a documentary photographer. But I don't think there is truth. If I walk into a room, as soon as I point my camera in one direction and take a photograph, I've already put my signature on that because I've stopped taking the rest of the room. I've made a decision. You don't know the person I'm photographing. Is somebody pointing a gun at them? You don't know the context or the time of day. You don't know anything, so how can you say that is true? But what I do believe in is honesty in photography. And the honesty comes from believing somebody is there to try and help you understand the story. Somebody is trying to tell the story of the person in the image. That can be honesty, but I think we should get rid of the notion that there is such a thing as truth.
Photography is a gift. You don't take photographs. You're given them.
From an online interview with Tim Parking and Joe Cornish of On Landscape magazine:
The only way you're going to succeed is to perfect your own vision, maintain the highest level of quality and maintain your integrity.
To me the 4x5 [camera] is like Zen.
When you're younger, any art form tends to be about you, and therefore it's immature. Once you go down the road of being dishonest you spend the rest of your life fighting to be recognized as honest again.
It used to be a real craft to produce a technically good photography.
With digital photography there are so many amazing things you can do that sometimes it's difficult to resist them.
One of my big objections [of digital manipulation] is, going back to youth and sophomoric photography, when the photography becomes more about you than the place, to me that's a huge problem. Tell the truth and honor the place. When you do it in such a gimmicky way that it's about the photographer, I sort of question it.
If you keep it about documenting a place, there are still ways to do it. Just look for the intricate design or deal with the negative space in the composition and make a completely impressionistic photograph. It's always going to be your vision.
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.
The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
I think what makes a picture is a moment that is completely spontaneous and natural and unaffected by the photographer.
About the photograph of Robert Kennedy as he lie dying, his head cradled by Juan Romero, Eppridge said, "At a moment like that you stop being a photojournalist and you become a historian."
A new camera scrapes off the aesthetic assumptions that inevitably build up over time in an artist's mind and risks calcifying his approach and the resulting work. It isn't so much the new technical steps you must learn that revitalize your approach - though feeling like an idiot before a new machine does add a kind of irritating zest to your day. It is the new frame that obliges you to give a harder, fresher look at things.
All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.
It's not the camera that takes the picture, it's the photographer. You can take a picture with anything.
If it hasn’t been photographed it doesn’t really exist.
It’s about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby.
You don't need to know much in order to be a photographer; what you need to do is simply to look.
Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.
It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.
From Peter Fetterman interview:
The things that now seem to have value in galleries are the pictures that I took for my own interst, my own amusement, my own hobby you might say.
The gold standard in photography as far as I'm concerned is Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is my inspiration, you might say.
I have a general interst in photography, as long as it has something to do with the human comedy you might say. I particularly dislike conceptual photography, which seems to be on the current menu. But I don't mind people doing it, I think it's ok. It's just I have a narrow interest in other kinds of photography.
I see pictures when I don't have a camera. I think those are my best pictures.
A visual sense is something you have or you don't.
I suggest that people interested in photography find a niche, and explore that niche with relevant work. And my wish is that it would be in black and white, relevant to the time, and printed by the photography, not digitally but in the darkroom. I think work that's done from the beginning until the final print should be something that a photographer does or knows how to do. And is enough of a craftsman to do it. One of the problems with photography these days in the ease to accomplish anything. I think things should be a little bit challenging and I think if it does, it has a future.
I do regard photography as an extremely difficult act. I believe the achievement of a work that is evocative and mysterious, and at the same time realistic, is a great one and rare one. And perhaps, sometimes, almost an accident.
It's akin to hunting, photography is. In the same way that you're using a machine and you're actually shooting something and you're shooting to kill. You get the picture you want, that's a kill. That's a bull's eye.
In one way the depression was good for artists, because there wasn't any commercial work to do. I was innocent about government, about Washington, but I found that I could get a job there. I did it so carelessly, I just photographed everything that attracted me at the time. I rather unconsciously recorded that period. The work piled up and the sum of it now is looked at as a record that I wasn't even thinking of making.
The work produced in the depression looks like social protest. It wasn't intended to be. It wasn't to be propoganda in suport of any cause. I don't think I had the purpose of improving the world.
If you don't take a chance you don't get a chance.
I’ve been photographing for 30 years and I have 60 photographs in my portfolio.
Photography is not about the equipment, so anything you can do to minimize the amount of time you spend thinking about it and fiddling with it, the better. For example, I use only one lens. If I had more than one lens I would have to stop to choose which one to use – I would be thinking about the equipment. When you have too many choices it’s possible to be paralyzed by indecision. Ironically, giving up choice actually gives me more freedom.
Choose one subject and explore it deeply.
Stuart Franklin from The Documentary Impulse
Photographs form part of a complex surfacing of knowledge that inspires politicians, diplomats and cultural luminaries to lead action.
While photographers in the field may take a view about what is happening somewhere in the world, that view may become radically altered when editors assembling the material in London, New York or Paris wish to paint their own picture of events.
The only clear space where documentary photographers have felt free to set out their own stories - as authors - is in making photobooks, which is why photobooks have become, over time, the heart and soul of documentary practice.
Gianni Berengo Gardin
I believe in the ‘decisive moment’, but I don’t think it exists in the situation that is being photographed. It’s you, as the photographer, who decides when it is the decisive moment. And that moment depends on each individual’s point of view. Everything depends on the photographer, because after all it is their reality that they choose to interpret and show to other people. (Gardin was a great admirer of H C-B)
I see myself more as an artisan. I don’t feel like an artist. I’m a photographer; I document my time and the things I see around me.
My personal opinion is that photography should be exclusively about communication rather than art.
Humans are at the centre of everything. I realised that when I was photographing factory workers on the production line in the 1960s. I did it to tell their story, but underneath it all was a basic need to defend their dignity. That’s what really interests me. When Carla Cerati and I took some photos inside psychiatric hospitals, I learned how mental illness can humiliate people and rob them of their dignity.
I find digital to be too perfect if that’s possible. It’s not something I’m looking for in my photographs. I believe that film is still more flexible and, crucially, it generates a negative – something tangible that can be archived and will stand the test of time.
In today’s world, I may seem like I’m anti-digital, but it’s not something I’m against per se; it’s more some of the bad habits that digital photography has created, like excessive and disproportionate reliance on post-production. So many people take photos casually or half-heartedly because they know than always touch them up on Photoshop. I believe a photo should be created immediately, right from the moment you look through the lens.
I love telling a story – it’s something Koudelka taught me. He and Salgado are great friends of mine, and while he taught me that a photo should always have a story to tell, Salgado taught me that content should go hand in hand with form.
If you cut me open, I would bleed black and white.
Every image has to be part of an ongoing project. Otherwise you don't have a body of work, you just have a box of photographs.
A visual signature is a combination of a number of intensely personal ingredients, which takes some time for the photographer to understand. What is it we are trying to express? If you want to be a landscape photographer you are assuming a role in the oldest history of photography in American art, and you are making variations on a previously announced theme. This is what landscape photography is. But the photographers we admire most intensely are the ones who have kicked open a door and announced their own personal theme, as opposed to making variations on previously announced themes.
I see the Leica as my Stradivarius. I will never get to the end of the capability of this instrument. Deciding in 1961 that the Leica was going to be my camera for the rest of my career was one of the best decisions I ever made. I continue to learn new moves with the camera.
Focal length is the grammar of photography. It's how we determine what we want to say, and how it's going to look once we say it.
Once you have something you want to say, you will find a way to say it.
Reality is to photography, what melody is to music. You can take away melody and you just have sound. You can take reality away, and it might be a photograph, but reality is one of the most defining characteristics of the medium.
I wanted to make a kind of photograph that was reflecting my own personal concerns, and in pursuit of a kind of imagery that fulfill my requirements I found myself moving closer to the subject. A big aspect of the way I would see things had to do with what is not in the frame as much as what is in the frame.
Visual tension is something I strive for in all my compositions.
I really don't like wide-angle lenses because they show don't do anything except show everything, with no particular reference. It's the ideal modernist idea of composition.
Perhaps I have a visual signature, which means that whatever lens or medium I am using my point of view comes through, my way of seeing. My need to understand what I'm looking at is essentially what I'm photographing.
Ambivalence is my old friend, because if I'm not ambivalent I'm repeating myself. And if I'm repeating myself it means I know what I'm doing. And I believe that any artist who knows what he or she is doing is a fraud.
I'm not the music, I'm the radio. I'm something through which photography speaks. I just get to share in the making of these photographs.
It's always been the photograph that educates me. I don't inform the photograph; the photograph informs the photographer.
The photograph is better than the photographer.
Photography is like electricity. We know how to use it, but we don't know what it is.
We have this vision of what Nature should be, and people are producing those images, but it's not like that at all. As time goes on and more of us are getting disconnected from the natural world, we have this false sense of what nature is and I don't think we're doing her any favors at all. (on a podcast regarding extreme post-processing of landscape images)
Be in the moment.
Photography isn't so much a job as much as a life.
Photography can turn every day into an adventure.
You have to find out who you are, and then go forward with that.
If you photograph yourself you're on the right track.
If you just starting out, young or old, and you love it, then do it. Don't let anyone derail you from doing it.
You are what you see.
The limitations of your photography are in yourself.
The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances, a tiny relationship – either a harmony or a disharmony – that creates a picture.
There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.
You don't take pictures; the good ones happen to you.
A picture is the expression of an impression.
We can write the new chapters in a visual language whose prose and poetry will need no translation.
Living in a time of the increasing struggle of the mechanization of man, photography has become another example of this paradoxical problem of how to humanize, how to overcome a machine on which we are thoroughly dependent.. the camera.
Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. Without touching my subject I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken. Without a descriptive caption to justify its existence, it will speak for itself–less descriptive, more creative; less informative, more suggestive; less prose, more poetry. (Magnum website).
I really think that the strength of photography lies in that it is undefineable. That means that you go into a state almost like a kind of sleep. You become things, you become an atmosphere. Which means you can put this feeling into a picture. And that I would call dreaming with open eyes.
I would shoot in color whenever I felt pure joy.
As children we learn everything. We learn to walk, we learn to read, we learn to write, but we really never learn to see, to be aware of our surrounding realty. To observe with delight.
Beware of direct inspiration. It leads too quickly to repetitions of what inspired you.
You can see when you dream, which is a kind of unaware, unconscious vision. But you can also dream while you see with open eyes.
Cultivate this sense of seeing. Look around, and you will find many worlds to discover, everywhere.
I want to be remembered more by a total vision than a few single pictures.
Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It is the extension of your personality.
Don't ever try to arrive. Arrival is the death of inspiration.
I still do not understand all these problematic discussions about color versus black and white. I love both, but they do speak a different language within the same frame. Both are fascinating.
Color does not mean black and white plus color. Nor is black and white just a picture without color. Each needs a different awareness in seeing and, because of this, a different discipline. The decisive moments in black and white and color are not identical.
There are three different factors which have to be realized and balanced: form, content, and color. The last does not always benefit the composition. It can even go against it, in which case it has to be overcome. To translate a world of color into black and white is much easier than to overcome the color, which so often runs contrary to its subject matter. There are black and white snobs, as well as color snobs. Because of their inability to use both well, they act on the defensive and create camps. We should never judge a photographer by what film he uses – only by how he uses it.
I also still believe that the normal development of a photographer should go from black and white to color. One should be able to do both well, in the same way as painters still learn to draw as well as to paint.
Personally, I don’t even believe so much in the value of a single picture anymore. I don’t really photograph for the wall. To compete with the painter is not really our destiny; we are on the way to speaking our very own language. With it we will have to create our own literature. you will have to decide for yourself what kind of works you want to create. Reports of facts, essays, poems—do you want to speak or to sing?
It is the photograph’s frame that keeps the fluid border between what we want and don’t want; it also keeps the balance between values that we think we have found. We select and change through the frame with one eye, which really means that we identify ourself with the lens. We search with both eyes, but we work and correct on what we have found with one eye.
Ask yourself if you would do it [your art] if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it. If you come to a clear “yes,” in spite of it, then go ahead and don’t doubt it anymore.
For me, photography became a language with which I have learned to write both prose and poetry. I want to be remembered much more by a total vision than a few perfect single pictures.
For environmental portraits, choose your background first, and avoid vertical lines coming out of the subject's head.
Most of photography has very little to do with technical capability and everything to do with understanding what your voice can and should be.
Our ancestors are whispering to use every time we press the shutter. It is so much more than making something that looks good after some Photoshop and Lightroom. The history of who you are, who your parents were, what has made you, what has forged you into the person you are today has to come through in your image. It has to.
I see light as a human being, as a person that I am forever courting, taking this person to dinner. It's a sort of celestial being that floats through life. I see light as a woman with ungodly powers, that we should yield at a glance, and at a glance this woman of lights can start or end a war. As image makers we hope she gazes upon us, even momentarily, so that we can see the fidelity that light brings to all of us.
The universe has a way of listening to you when you're truthful.
I shoot in black and white because there are nuances between the highlights and the shadows that are universes in themselves.
You can't defend yourself against a good black and white image. It gets into the parts of yourself that you threw the key away a long, long time ago.
I certainly don't think we will earn much money on this, but at least it will allow us to take pictures for free.
A photo should not be complicated; it should reflect reality.
David Alan Harvey
Don't shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.
Squeeze the lemon, squeeze the lemon, until there's no more juice. And then, there's always another drop.
One camera, one lens, one film. You really have to put yourself in a position of danger to be creative.
The late, great Eddie Adams said, "It's never too late to be the photographer you could have been."
As anyone who has experienced it will know, war is many contradictory things. There is brutality and heroism, comedy and tragedy, friendship, hate, love and boredom. War is absurd yet fundamental, despicable yet beguiling, unfair yet with its own strange logic. Rarely are people 'back home' exposed to these contradictions — society tends only to highlight those qualities it needs, to construct its own particular narrative.
I can understand the satisfaction of producing these wonderful photographs of waterfalls and streams etc, but It’s a bit like painting by numbers. There’s nothing essentially wrong with that, but what you tend to get is another lot of the same pictures. What you really need, to use a cliched photographic word, is exposure to other ideas.
Photo enthusiasts are always being told to be creative but most people seem to think that means photoshop.
What you point your camera at is, of course, crucial but it is only the starting point on what could be a journey of self discovery, rather than an exercise in making decorative clichés.
The problem with a lot of conceptual work is that you have to have a certain education, not only to produce it, but also to understand it. Many times the idea may have been great, but the visual representation of that idea is not very engaging.
There must be humanity in art. If you feel nothing when you click the shutter you give the viewer nothing to respond to, and you have nothing to convey.
I used the lens to write, instead of a pen. It changed my whole life.
I will not click the shutter if it does not touch my heart.
Don't throw away your old negatives. You may find some treasure from your past. When you are older your philosophy of life may change. You may change your viewpoint. You may change your understanding of the world.
Photography is my passion; I enjoy playing with it.
Sometimes I push reality a certain distance and leave the viewers some space for imagination.
You are lucky if you take one, maybe two good pictures in a year.
Iam not an artist. I am an image maker.
Earlie Hudnall, Jr.
I seldom ask someone to pose. I just try to take the situation that's presented to me. Each day that I wake up, I'm just trying to photograph life as I see it. You have to walk around and respect what is about to happen in front of the camera. It's a sacred moment.
Brooks Jensen (from his extensive writings and podcasts)
Precision in the craft is simply not the same challenge that fueled so much of my early efforts in photography. A shift in priorities might be useful. Perhaps the great challenge in photography today is not the precision required to make a great print, but rather the precision required to make a meaningful one.
If the purpose of artwork is to connect with other people then fine art photography is about understanding people.
I’ve photographed all my life with everything from a 4x5 camera to an iPhone. This is what I’ve learned: The experience is always more important than the photograph. It’s the experience that exposes our soul; that changes our vision. It’s our vision, not the camera, that makes the image extraordinary.
The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.
The trouble with photographing beautiful women is that you never get into the dark room until after they’re gone.
Photoshop is where photography ends.
As a photographer, we always come back to the M.
When you have a Leica M in your hand you are connecting with the history of photography. That can be a burden, but on the other hand it's not a burden. You try to capture the moment the way you'd like to capture the moment.
Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.
Sometimes the most interesting visual phenomena occur when you least expect them.
Confining myself to one particular area or one particular time period is, I think, self limiting.
Art is essentially indefinable. Who is to say that one image is better than another?
We reflect our inner being while documenting what we might consider to be an exterior scene.
The presence of absence is an integral aspect of my work.
Essentially, I become a hunter of images and try to extract simplicity from complication.
I find that I work best when there are no time limits, nobody watching or asking questions, no phone calls or emails to answer.
When I go to a location I don't know if I will be there for five minutes or five days.
Inspiration depends on many factors including light, atmosphere and a personal response.
Being creative often means following a lead, working on half chances, fragmented thoughts, coming up to dead ends and re-tracking.
Being creative implies an attempt to photograph in ways that might seem ordinary at the time but which may turn out to be extraordinary later.
Being creative also demands an openness to just wait and listen, and pay attention to what comes from both within and without.
The usual combination of hard work and good luck, combined with a bit of talent, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
I enjoy slowly setting up, considering, observing and thinking before I photography. I love the long exposures where I wait and contemplate.
I am satisfied with always being unsatisfied while I photography, as I don't yet know the results. This makes me experiment and explore even more. I am very happy to wait to see the results weeks or months later. After all these years, the negatives never fail to surprise me.
My images are quite intimate. They are not there to impress or awe people. They don’t describe details.
I find B & W to be more malleable and mysterious than color; it is more an interpretation of reality than a reflection of reality. I am not interested in describing and copying what I see. I am interested in a collaboration with the subject matter. Color for me is too specific. We see everything in color all the time. I look at color photographs and they don’t appeal to me. I also print the negatives myself in a traditional darkroom, so I can work with an image when it’s B & W. I have found the B&W medium to be an integral part of my creativity over the years.
If we strive for perfect, digitally processed images and prints, the further away we might get from our own fallibility and accident prone humanity.
From the Frames podcast (Episode 1, March 18, 2020):
One of the keys to photography generally is that we don't want to get too comfortable.
I often feel that the camera has very little to do with one's photographic journey.
I don't think one's passion for photography has much to do with the camera. I think it has much more to do with one's inner drive: to discover, to be curious, to be constantly investigating and exploring. I can see using the same camera for the next 200 years and finding sufficient material to keep me motivated for many lifetimes.
Life is so amazing. The journey is so amazing. There are so many fantastic places to go photograph that it's difficult for me to understand a kind of lack of inspiration, a lack of drive. I think there's so much out there.
When it comes down to the instrument you're using it has to be a part of your body almost, a part of your creative function.
I have no interest in the gadgetry as such.
I have a proclivity towards the monochromatic spectrum. Most of the artwork I appreciate is monochromatic. It's just a personal thing. We see in color all the time, that's our world. When you reduce something to black and white it means it becomes more of an interpretation, it's a little more mysterious, more calming. For me it's more meditational.
I prefer my work to be more of a haiku poem, with just a few elements, a lot of simplicity but a great amount of suggestion. As opposed to an encyclopedia with huge amounts of facts and description. That is not what I'm interested in doing.
I just find black and white allows you to use your imagination much more than color, but that's a personal thing.
You strive for perfection all the time but hopefully you never reach it. Because if you reach perfection the image probably wouldn't be that interesting. The reason I resist the digital revolution is that it's so easy to make things so perfect, so clean so tidy that (sigh) they kind of lose their ability to evoke a reaction, to evoke emotion. It becomes a little antiseptic, I think.
When I'm out and I see something, I think, "This is going to be amazing; this is going to be the best photograph I've ever made," it's often predictable, somehow. It doesn't quite translate the emotion I felt when I was photographing. And often it's the photograph I made a little bit before or a little bit after that turns out to be more interesting than the one that I predicted would be the best one. So I've come to fill myself with doubt at all times when I'm photographing. I never accept that I've got a good photograph or the best photograph or the best that I could do. I continue to work through something to the point of exhaustion almost, because I always realize the best photograph may be around the corner.
It's usually at the times of greatest crisis that you have the greatest breakthroughs. You just have to work through it.
I try not to make conscious decisions about what I am looking for. I don’t make elaborate preparation before I go to a location.
Essentially I walk, explore, discover and photograph.
One shot, one life.
For this is what the art of archery means: a profound and far-reaching contest of the archer with himself.
Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.
In my own work I am an amateur, and I intend to remain one.
Events and mood are more important than good light and the happening is what is important.
Peter, go to medical school.
Every photograph we make is a self portrait.
The purpose is not to make a lot of pictures and select the best. The best one is made by thinking.
Sometimes when you want to say something about people, you do it better when people aren't there.
I am not a photographer. I am a collector of my photographs.
You have to find the place where the photograph is waiting for you, and then go there as long as it takes to get it.
I am happy if people like to look at my photographs and if they get something out of them. But I can't really influence what they get. We all see things differently.
You can't make good photographs all your life. You have a period when things go well, and a period when they don't.
I have never been interested in documenting reality. I select from it only what interests me.
What matters most to me is to take photographs; to continue taking them and not to repeat myself. To go further, to go as far as I can.
I don’t pretend to be an intellectual or a philosopher. I just look.
I would like to see everything, look at everything, I want to be the view itself.
The most important thing is to enjoy taking photographs.
I no longer need to carry with me 35 kilograms, only about 10 kilograms, and I don’t need to go through the X-ray machines which I really dislike. So the digital camera makes it easier, and also more interesting. I am 77 and I can say, Vive la Revolution! [Regarding digital cameras]
The transitional style in Czechoslovakia between reportage and essay was created in the course of the 1960s by Josef Kouldeka on the topic of the Gypsies. That is where he was already turning away from the facticity of reportage and its non-aestheticism was manifest, in the use of the reportage method, in the move towards art and a non-documentary quality. In other words, from description to reflection, from primary information to subjective and artisitic intepretation of that information. [Anna Fárová, quoted in Returning]
When you're working well it is, first of all, a process of getting lost.
Beauty appears when one feels deeply.
Art is an act of total attention.
There are moments when time stands still. You hope it will wait for you. That fraction of a second captured on that tiny piece of sensitive film.
I've got a day job. I just love taking photographs. That's the only reason I do it.
I never crop; I think it's a conceit. I always loved that Henri Cartier-Bresson showed you the whole image."
I like photographing in black and white because it defines things more, with greater precision. Color is distracting.
It's the theatricality of the moment that interests me. It's the light, some gesture, the context or some other special aspect that gets my attention and makes me waht to take that photograph, tell that story.
I love taking photographs at night. There are things that only happen at night and there's something about the night that makes people behave differently and the atmosphere different.
I started to carry a camera with me wherever I went. It was like an antidote to my work as an actress. When I’m acting, I always have lots of people around me, there’s always a huge crew. But, with photography, I found a wonderful way of being alone because photography is a very personal, very solitary act. It’s almost meditation and allows me to go to the other side. When I photograph, I’m the one observing, while when I’m acting, I’m the one being observed. When I realised that, I never left the house without my camera, even when I don’t have time to use it.
Leonardo da Vinci
Learn how to see.
Photography is about finding something and painting is about making something.
I happen to believe in the beauty of simple things. I believe that the most uninteresting thing can be very interesting.
We live in a world full of expectations, and if you have the courage, you ignore the expectations. And you can look forward to trouble.
Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
Images force us to contend with the unspeakable. They help humanize clinical statistics, to make them comprehensible. They step unto the breach.
If you are working on a project and you are thinking it is time to put it out into the world, make sure you have already started your next body of work. Not just started, either. You should be well along on it. You will know that the first project is finished when you find yourself joylessly going through the motions to eek out a few more pictures while, like a forbidden lover, the new ones call seductively to you.
It is easy to take good pictures, difficult to take very good pictures, and almost impossible to take great pictures.
By choosing a precise intersection between subject and time, the photographer may transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and the real into the surreal.
Grain is the brush stroke of photography.
To make good photography you have to think about what you want to do, what subject matter you want to treat, how you want to approach it, what you want your pictures to look like.
A good photograph is an idea.
Photography is suffering from the fact that it has become too easy to take a picture, rather than make a picture.
A beautiful picture is like a great poem. If you take one word out, you destroy the poem, because it's a perfect thing.
A picture should be far less about the photograph and more about the subject.
Photography is a craft.
Mary Ellen Mark
Digital or analogue doesn't matter; it's the pictures you make that matter.
There are so many famous photographers and great images that have come before... The subject matter comes with it's own visual legacy... The point is, you can't let the legacy paralyze you. You must be your own person and contribute to the legacy. Don't worry about style and separating yourself from others shooting the same subject matter too much; the pictures will happen by shooting from your own personal point of view. Worry more about getting a great picture.
Let the photograph be one you remember - not for its technique, but for its soul. A part of your life, a part of your past to help shape your future.
No author would seek to identify as someone who can make marks on paper and so it is now withi photographers. With all the new tools that are available to us and with a literate audience ready to receive our work, it's time to raise our eyes beyond the craft and to define ourselves instead by what we have to say.
Don McCullin from his autobiography
Photography is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.
What I hoped I had captured in my pictures was an enduring image that would imprint itself on the world's memory.
If you look in newspapers today all you see is narcissim, really.
To be free and alone on the edge of an unfolding landscape is a therapeutic, possibly even a spiritual, experience.
I'm a photographer. Period. People call me an artist, but I'm not an artist. I'm a photographer, and I'm very happy with that title.
It [photography] is a dangerous mistress, and it’s one of those love affairs that never ends, you know. It just never ends. You’re totally captive to photography once it gets a grip of you.
Black and white is not truthful, is it? I mean, we don’t live in a black-and-white world. We use black and white as a weapon because it will shout and scream at you. You won’t miss the black and white, but you could walk past a colour picture.
If I can haunt people with my pictures I have done my job.
Photojournalism has had its day.
The word “art” – I absolutely hate it being associated with photography. Most American photographers now want to be called artists.
If you want to be a war photographer, there are plenty of social wars. There isn’t a city in England you can’t go to and find some poverty and unhappiness and tragedies.
You should not waste a single day of your life. You should be out on the streets everyday.
You should not be governed by rules, which I think should be broken.
If you take a digital camera and do an autumn shot, it’s so sickly. The colours are totally false, they’re not real colours from digital cameras.
I use a camera the way I would use a toothbrush. It's a necessity. I need a camera to work with, but I don't work with a camera, I work with my feelings and my eyes.
The majority of the last 50 years of my life has been wasted, photographing wars. What good have I done, showing pictures of suffering? War is completely out of your control. When a person is dying, injured badly or in shock, does he need you looking over him with a camera? You're the last person he wants to see. He wants to see medical people rushing towards him, not me.
Even thick skin can’t stop you from losing a little bit of faith in humanity when you spend even a little time scrolling on Facebook.
Getting rid of choice makes my life easier, and my creativity stronger. (referring to using one lens)
Go early, stay late and then go back again. The harder you work in the field the more respect you will get from the people in your photos. You prove that your work is not just a hobby.
Photographs should ask questions, not describe.
There are too many half-assed projects being done where the photographer doesn’t understand their place in history or how their work fits in. Photographers spend two weeks shooting a project and two years trying to sell it. If you don’t know what’s been done before the work won’t have the impact or longevity you are looking for. Modern photographers want to be instantly relevant, so studying history isn’t high on their priority list.
Clarity is not what photography is about.
I don't think of my photos as a series. Rather, I think of the photographs that I have taken from my youth to the present as one series.
Behind the camera there must be a man's eye, and a soul.
The direction of a war photographer's lens reveals what he is thinking – his censored negatives, what he is trying to tell the world. (quoted by W. Eugene Smith)
A photograph can enter the mind and reach the heart with the power of immediacy. It affects that part of the psyche where meaning is less dependent upon words and makes an impact more visceral, more elemental, closer to raw experience.
What allows me to over come the emotional obstacles inherent in my work is the belief that when people are confronted with images that evoke compassion, they will continue to respond, no matter how exhausted, angry or frustrated they may be.
from the documentary War Photographer
Why photograph war? Is is possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? Portions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance, yet that very idea has motivated me. For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war. And if it's used well it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.
Everyone cannot be there and that is why photographers go there, to show them, to reach out and show grab them and make them stop what they're doing and pay attention to what is going on; to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference; to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest.
The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefitting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It's something I have to rectify with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's predicament.
The day you let go of what you existentially think and feel, you make the picture for yourself. That's the beginning of the journey and that journey will go on for years and years. You make the pictures for yourself because you want to feel something. For get the camera, forget what other people say – connect with what you feel. If this feeling is sincere and genuine, and you're really connected with something that's original, then people will eventually look at your pictures. (Medium Format Magazine Jan 2021)
There are two courses open to the photographer. He can make the uncommon common. Or he can make uncommon the common.
Amateurs tend to follow the camera.
I like to be vulnerable in the presence of an amazing animal, being able to create art and change peoples perceptions all at the same time.
(interview on podcast f8 The Photographer's Perspective July 26, 2019)
I'm not afraid to completely change an image. I'm just trying to keep the base content real. I'm not dropping in skies or creating total composits or anything. But I'm also not afraid to take what nature gave me, which may be just this little tiny bit of light that may not be contrasty, and push it to emphasize it. But I always want the end result to be realistic or believable. I think that taking it too far in post-processing is just breaking the fourth wall. You've ruined the experience for someone when they know it was just a slider in photoshop.
I work a lot with light very precisely because I want to take what nature gave me, in terms of light, and emphasize it without it looking painted on, without it looking forced globally on the image. You really want to focus it on where you want the viewer's attention, and where the actual light would be in the scene. That's what I use luminosity masks in Photoshop for.
If I like a moment - I mean me, personally - I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
(interview on Matt Payne's podcast #124)
Large format changes the way you work. Beyond anything to do with resolution, it's a way of working.
People miss out, quite often, how the physical aspects of the camera they use mediates what they create in their photography.
Chance favors the prepared mind.
A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it.
Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.
I photograph for the thing itself - for the photograph - without consideration of how it may be used. Some critics suggest that I make photographs primarily to promote conservation, but this allegation is far from the truth. Although my photographs may be used in this way, it is incidental to my original motive for making them, which is first of all for personal aesthetic satisfaction.
Ultimately, to be successful as a work of art, a photograph must be both pleasing and convincing. It must not leave the viewer in doubt about the validity of its subject, whether representational or imaginary.
For me the stereotype is the least interesting aspect of nature, and the one I most often reject as a color subject.
The photograph is an abstraction of nature - a fragment isolated from a greater implied role, missed but imagined, a connection which assists in holding the viewer's attention.
You make much better photographs when you think.
Every photographer has a line where it changes over from empathy or sympathy to disgust for its own sake, and it's really hard to know when that is. And you tell yourself that whatever you're showing, as bad as it looks, it isn't nearly as bad as it really was. Do you need to show it all? No. That's just common sense. But you're not telling the complete story.
The revelation of the image is located in the telling, not just in the evidence of what has been told.
The term "digital photography" doesn't have very much to do with photography.
We've handed digital image making all the aura of analog photography and it's a camouflage. We know digital image making is not photography as it has been in the past; it has been made for other, new uses.
The photographic community has done very little to preserve the credibility of the image. My sense is that the photograph is a quotation from appearances. It's supposed to be a recording, if you're using it journalistically. If you're not doing that, the reader needs to know. Just like if you're quoting someone and you put it in quotation marks, that's what they said. If you want to paraphrase, you don't use quotation marks so the reader knows the difference. With a photograph, the reader assumes it's a quotation and if it's not, you have to tell them. If you don't do it, it's illegitimate in terms of journalism. You can manipulate all you want, but just let people know you're doing it.
Following is from After Photography
Given the major dilemmas facing humanity and the planet, the harnessing of media to help us comprehend our transitional universe and to intervene in its evolution is less a luxury than an urgent requirement of citizenship. We should be looking to create more useful, exploratory images, not just the flamboyant, shocking ones.
In the analog world the photograph of the photograph is always one generation removed, fuzzier, not the same; the digital copy of the digital photograph is indistinguishable so that "original" loses its meaning.
Digital media...stimulates other logics and ultimately new philosophies of life, moving from the authority of the Newtonian to the probabliity of the quantum, and from the visualization of the phenotype to a preference for the coded genotype.
If a photograph is said to be worth a thousand words, very few of those words generally come to mind after a caption tells the reader what the photo is supposed to be about.
Spending time with the subject of a portrait is the most important thing. That interaction is the value of the portrait, If that person is not present there in that image, then it's not valuable to anybody.
It's nice to be acknowledged, nice for your work to be acknowledged. But it's not what you do it for. You do it for the work. And if you're doing it for the prizes, you're in big trouble.
My first thought is always of light.
I adore photography, taking photographs, holding my camera, choosing my frame, playing with the light.
There comes a moment when it is no longer you who takes the photograph, but receives the way to do it quite naturally and fully.
When you go to photograph, you have to understand what it is you are photographing. When you go to a country, you must know a little bit of the economy of this country, of the social movements, of the conflicts, of the history of this country—you must be part of it.
This is where I came from, and when I made my pictures, when I show the people from my side of the planet in my pictures, I show their dignity. I show that they work like we work, that they love like we love, that they live nice lives like we have nice lives here. That we can understand that we are the same.
Lélia was studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the school of architecture, and it was necessary for her to buy a camera to take pictures of architecture. We bought this camera, and I looked inside it, and my life completely changed. It became my camera. I started to use it and photography made a total invasion in my life. Probably if she had not bought this camera, it would never have happened, because that was very late in my life. I was 27 years old when I first looked through the viewfinder of a camera and took a picture.
I worked with Leicas. Small camera, few lenses—a Leica doesn’t need many lenses. With the viewfinder camera, you have three lenses—I had a 28-, a 35-, and a 50-mm. Two cameras, three lenses, my film: that’s it. I was free, for months.
You take a photo in a fraction of a second, but you need time to arrive there. Time, commitment, experience and infinite curiosity.
We are having a big misunderstanding about photography. What we are doing with the cell phones is not photography. It's a new language of communication. Photography is memory. Photography is the mirror of society.
Photography will most likely disappear.
I spend a long time doing my stories. I will spend months at a time living with the people. It's a pleasure to be there. This is very important. You are not capable to go there and take 3 or 4 pictures and leave. You must live, you must smell, you must know people, you must respect people, they must respect you. You must become part of their community.
I have a big problem to come to digital because all my life I work with negatives. It became very difficult to work with negatives with the number of x-rays in airports. Each time through an x-ray effects the film a little bit, and it adds up. Eventually, it affects the grain. The film started to be not as good because of less silver in the emulsion.
Photography is a way of life. It's my life.
Photography is a language, a strong language. With music, it's the only language that does not need translation. What you write with photography you can read in Japan without any translation. The first look and you understand it completely.
Photography is a recent language, maybe 150 years old. Probably not to stay for long because the tools you use to photograph are the same tools that you use in computers to change everything
Photography was a kind of cross-section of reality that was in front of you. In a fraction of a second we were capable to freeze something that was movement. In that way it was a kind of mirror of society.
Not everyone has this instinct of photography. You must have instinct of the image. The image happens in front of you just in a fraction of a second.
You must be awake to the phenomenon and in this fraction of a second of interaction you must have a nice composition, you must deal with the light, you must have the history that you are photographing. This coming to gether your own history, your concept of ethics, your concept of society, of solidarity, of respect. Everything is there. You must condense this in a fraction of a second.
All my life I go into the light.
Small things are even more beautiful.
The final print is the most important thing for me.
Limited editions are for the art business, not for the art.
Luck is decisive. All the pictures of which I am happy, it's a matter of good luck. But to be a photographer you have to know when you are lucky.
When I'm photographing I try not to think too much, I try only to see.
I wait for a photograph like a pointer dog. It's a matter of luck and circumstance.
You don't take photographs; you receive them.
The challenge is the constant struggle to make work that you find meaningful and that does what you want it to do. If that wasn't there, if there wasn't that tension, photography would be pretty boring. It's the thing that makes you motivated, and it's the thing that makes you want to quit sometimes. That the beauty of any creative pursuit, is overcoming that.
W. Eugene Smith
From his Autobiographical Statement
I don't think there is anything that has replaced Life.
I generally try to become so accepted into a community that they more or less forget about me as a photographer and as a journalist.
I truly at all times try to have consideration for the people I'm photographing.
I've never been satisfied with the work I've done. My work is a failure as far as the height I'd like to reach with it.
I much prefer to have my photographs add this other element, so that possibly they will stir someone to action, do something about something.
I have no conflict between journalism and my artist self. At one time I did, but then I realized that to be a good journalist I needed to be the finest artist that I could possibly be.
I just very quietly accept photography as an art.
Sometimes - just sometimes - photographs can lure our senses into greater awareness. Much depends on the viewer; but to some, photographs can demand enough of emotions to be a catalyst to thinking.
Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.
I'm an idealist... I'm always torn between the attitude of the journalist, who is a recorder of facts, and the artist, who is often necessarily at odds with the facts.
The first word I would strike from the annals of journalism is the word objective."
From Shadow and Substance, by Jim Hughes:
If only the bad were killed in wars, then perhaps wars would be worthwhile, but unfortunately the good die also, and even the women and babies.
Bear no intolerance towards any man, woman, or child because of race, color, or creed, and towards those same persons remember that they have every right that you have. The only intolerance that you must have is against intolerance – and even here you must search out and understand the reasons for that intolerance, and eliminate it by example and education. Try to understand everyone that you disagree with, it will give you more strength. [This and the quote immediately above were written on October 19, 1944, just prior to Gene Smith going ashore in the Phillippines with MacArthur's army. It was a farewell letter to his children, because he fully expected to be killed. He wasn't.]
There must be a realization that photography is the best liar among us, abetted by the belief that photography shows it as it is.
Photography is not just a job to me. I'm carrying a torch with a camera.
Journalism, idealism and photography are three elements that must be integrated into a whole before my work can be of complete satisfaction to me.
In the building of a story I begin in my own prejudices, mark them as prejudices, and start finding new thinking, the contradictions to my prejudices. What I am saying is that you cannot be objective until you try to be fair. You try to be honest and you try to be fair and maybe truth will come out.
I have personally always fought very hard against ever packaging a story so that all things seem to come to an end at the end of a story. I always want to leave it so that there is a tomorrow.
The search for truth may yet throw me into an insane asylum.
I think that two pictures, three pictures, four pictures, can say things that single pictures, full page, full bleed, cannot. And they say it by what is not said, like selences in music, like silences in staging. And two pictures with their two separate thoughts can cause another quite different thing to happen, quite off the page, in the mid of the beholder.
If you are going to make your communications and your art work, you do have to be pushing at boundaries.
In unadulterated photography the form and content have to be rhythmed into an optical cohesiveness at the exact instant of exposure, and on the one negative, with little chance for other than minute revisions during the printing of it. I might ask how many times da Vinci scraped, altered and repainted details of that canvas [Mona Lisa]. It could be that the number of times he reworked that single canvas might just equal the number of exposures made in the taking of any single photograph of mine. The repetitive effort of revision done for the purpose of improving the ultimate result is frequently criticized when it is applied to photography, while with a writer, or composer, or any other artist, it would be lauded or ignored.
I think that one of the rewards that make this an interesting profession, and is, as well, the gravest responsibility of the photo-historian or journalist is the search through the maze of conflictions to the island of intimate understanding.
Superficiality to me is untruth when it is of reportorial stature.
I don't believe photography has to do with realism. Because form is recognizable does not mean it is realism.
Facts just do not tell truth without poetry and drama.
Photography has very little of reality in it, and then only on the lower level of simple recognition. Beyond that, in transmission of the inner feeling, I feel that everything that is honest to the situation is honest to the photograph.
From the Aperture monograph, 1969
Superficiality to me is untruth when it is of reportorial stature. It is a grievous dishonesty when it is the mark of any important subject.
My cameras as note takers for my mind, so I may place evidence before others.
And never have I found the limits of teh photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold...
I made brash, dashing, 'interpretive' photographs which were overly clever and with too much technique... with great depth of field, very little depth of feeling, and with considerable 'success.'
From Let Truth be the Prejudice
It is far more satisfying to make fewer but finer photographs.
Photography, and to me this is photo-journalism, is a serious matter, and my integrity and sincerity might be called my religion. This is not a new attitude on my part, and most of the researchers and editors with whom I work, if not always in agreement with my attitude, at least are aware of it. In fact, I have had the word "idealistic" tossed sneeringly into my face on more than one occasion. when I give myself to a story I give myself to it completely–until publication do us part–and then frequently I grieve (and without exception for the failure that is Smith's), and never quite forget.
I photographed, not with a camera, I forgot it was there, I photographed with my heart, and I was trying to capture his soul upon film. (British PM Clement Attlee)
This is the effort I strive for finally, to see beyond the physical characteristics.
The highest function is to make people see things they have not seen before.
It's hard to photograph through tears.
You can't photograph if you're not in love.
Than again out of it all there comes a moment relaxed by a reward, a feeling of warm contentment rather than happiness. This reward... comes mostly from within and is the understanding winthin myself that something I have tried to create, or to interpret to others with my pictures, has been at least fairly well accomplished.
Jacob Aue Sobol
The most difficult thing for me is to take pictures from far away.
Every image I create is a picture of how I feel that day – my experience of a place. It has become my ability to isolate my emotions and communicate them through the camera and into the mind of the viewer. From the beginning, I got used to this close connection between my emotional life and my pictures. In this way, my aim has always been to reach layers in people, which are not immediately visible, but nonetheless shape who we are and add substance to our lives.
Snapshot photography is a form of expression that is closely related to our emotions – pictures we take of people we care about and moments we want to keep. That’s why I try to use my pocket cameras as much as possible; they support the feeling of something unpredictable and playful.
My ambition is not to invent something new, but to live and experience the world and the people I love, and to tell this story by using photography as a diary.
When I photograph, I try to use my instincts as much as possible. It is when pictures are unconsidered and irrational that they come to life; that they evolve from showing to being.
from On Photography
In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.
Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one - and can help build a nascent one.
The most enduring triumph of photography has been its aptitude for discovering beauty in the humble, the inane, the decrepit. At the very least, the real has a pathos. And that pathos is - beauty.
Socially concerned photographers assume that their work can convey some kind of meaning, can reveal truth. But partly because the photograph is, always, an object in a context, this meaning is bound to drain away; that is, the context which shapes whatever immediate - in particular, political - uses the photograph may have is inevitably succeeded by contexts in which such uses are weakened and become progressively less relevant. One of the cental characteristics of photography is that process by which original uses are modified, eventually supplanted by subsequent uses - most notably, by the discourse of art into which any photograph can be absorbed.
The aesthetizing tendency of photography is such that the medium which conveys distress ends by neutralizing it.
Photographs are often invoked as an aid to understanding an dtolerance. In humanist jargon, the highest vocation of photography is to explain man to man. But photographs do not explain; they acknowledge.
The reason that humanism has become the reigning ideology of ambitious professional photographers is that it masks the confusions about truth and beauty underlying the photographic experience.
Although photography generates works that can be called art, photography is not an art form at all. Like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made.
The force of photographic images comes from their being material realities in their own right, richly informative deposits left in the wake of whatever emitted them, potent means for turning the tables on reality - for turning it into a shadow.
Every photographer should try lots of different kinds of photography, and then listen deep down to what feels right; what's really resonating within them.
I think that if we looked at the percentages in photography then the success rate would be really low: the point at which you’re doing everything technically right, and then you’re also presented with perfect subject matter and situation, and all of the elements (weather, light, etc.) come together – that’s a pretty magical thing. One of the main lessons that experience has taught me is that something like that is exceptionally rare.
The camera need not be a cold mechanical device. Like the pen, it is as good as the man who uses it. It can be the extension of mind and heart.
I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything.
By showing a picture, you're showing an x-ray of your heart.
The picture has to be more interesting than what it describes.
Making a photograph is like making love.
Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees.
Above all, look at the things around you, the immediate world around you. If you are alive, it will mean something to you, and if you care enough about photography, and if you know how to use it, you will want to photograph that meaning.
Now, in an age in which we are inundated with imagery, the image bears the burden of grabbing the reader and pulling them into the story.
Josef Sudek from Poet of Prague
A photographer should never impose restrictions upon himself.
Photography is not safe. If you want to produce work that is memorable it needs to challenge and provoke.
Zen finds its inevitable association with art but not with morality. Zen may remain unmoral, but not without art.
Photography, when practised creatively and expressively, may offer the photographer not only means of recording views, but also views into his or her self.
The possibilities and challenges of self-expression in photography, as one encounters and overcomes them, also prompt the seeking of yet more, more personal, and more interesting things to express.
Practice photography until the mechanics are intuitive, then put it all aside. Enter the space of not knowing. Let the photo show you where it is. All those tools you practiced are part of your subconscious and will not fail you.
If you're doing reportage you have to think about the assignment or what the editor thinks, but you can still put your head there.
The images of what something should look like follow all the rules and look like the same image 100 other good photographers would make. Sunset, rule of thirds. Those are learned behaviors and they will create repetitive stereotypical images because anybody can do them. But the image that nobody else makes is the one that comes from your intuitive response. You have to work with no thought of the rules because following the rules makes us all the same.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself as a photographer is to find the space where you don't have a voice in your head, or you don't have an agenda or an assignment.
[from podcast The Candid Frame #463 with Ibarionex]
My success is no longer measured by the length of my resume, but rather by how I feel about the art that I create.
You don't create a masterpiece by following the rules.
What's the best way to make money from fine art photography? Sell your equipment.
When you get inspired you must act, because you never get another chance.
Henry David Thoreau
It's not what you look at that matters, but what you see.
I continue to hope and believe that the best stories and photographs are yet to occur.
Photography is about sharing a moment we have framed.
If you're going to make a photograph, make a photograph. Make a beautiful photograph. Do it.
The notion of a story is a complex topic. Good stories leave you wanting to know more.
Clarity and authenticity are important parts of story telling.
A little imperfection makes a photograph credible.
Let your subject have dignity.
A photograph should be sharp. Choose your aperture and ISO to have a shutter speed of at least 1/125 sec.
[above from a workshop in Seattle 2017]
I've never been particularly preoccupied with the boxes and compartments into which photographers can be too often conveniently boxed into such as photojournalist, fine art photographer, art photographer, street photographer, war photographer, etc. While I am proud to feel that I have made a contribution to each of those boxes throughout my career in one way or another, what I care most about simply is in being as engaged as possible in being a visual story teller, a photographer, perhaps a visual poet. In the determination of whether or not an image is to be seen in color or in black and white, in this digital age, I embrace the right as a storyteller to decide each day, how I'd Iike to share a story. What seems most important to me, in almost all, is that each day, as we arrive at that fork in the road, that I decide to take the road least traveled, and until now, at every juncture, that continues to make all of the difference. [Facebook post]
There are no uninteresting things. Only uninterested people.
Did you hear about the professor who dreamed that he was giving a lecture and woke up to find that he was?
Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself.
The camera is essentially a license to explore.
Pauline Vermare (Magnum website)
Street photography is the art of gleaning what is at hand – subjects, lights, shapes – to create beautifully composed and arresting images. It is an artistic form of hunting and gathering, a scavenger hunt led by a conscious or subconscious urge to collect patterns and scenes that offer themselves freely to the mind and eyes of the photographer. For some, like Cartier-Bresson or Sergio Larraín, street photography provides the highest form of awareness, and a complete presence in the world.
David von Drehle
On social media, the photograph has become a kind of existential statement: I am here! Can you see me? Power has shiftred from the photographer to the viewer, who has an almost infinite number of images to choose from. [I would add that power has shifted from the editor to the photographer to the viewer. -TF]
Vincent van Gogh
A feeling for things in themselves is much more important than a sense of the pictorial.
Art demands persistent work, work in spite of everything, and unceasing observation. By persistent I mean in the first place continued labour, but also not abandoning your approach because of what someone else says.
It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures.
The print is the photograph's rightly inheritance.
We must get over ourselves and not be too precious.
Immerse yourself, as deep as you can, into the whole landscape photograph making process.
Get friendly with clouds.
The manifestation of the beautiful relationship we have with the landscape is to be found within the print that we made of it. So when we produce a photograph it does have parity with what we felt. And by looking at that photograph, it invokes the experience we had at that time, and, hopefully, informs and illuminates and awakens the people who look at it.
Colour can be dangerous territory.
For me it matters that the image I made was of something that truly existed The moment the viewer feels unsettled or distrustful of the image the relationship between viewer and photograph is completely broken, so I don’t care really to manipulate my images and for the image to depart to a whole other place where the viewer has no belief in it.
It’s a very solitary thing, landscape photography. There’s nobody next to you saying this is going to be a masterpiece, so you have to use your own sense of judgment, your own understanding of composition, your own understanding of light, of shape, of pattern, of colour, of design. And ultimately, if you get them right you own the moment, you own the experience, and you keep it for the rest of your life.
Find your signature and specialize. Don’t be a jack of all trades. Find your way of seeing. And be memorable for your particular way of seeing. I was given that advice, and it’s a bumpy ride, like acting. It’s really not easy. It’s precarious and insecure, but there are many different ways of seeing, and many ways that are still to be found. Make your images have meaning. And practise.
Commune with, rather than consume, the landscape.
We can only make images that have an effect on others by being affected ourselves. Two or three different places to explore in a day is generally plenty. Any more and we risk forcing shallow responses.
One of my guiding ideas is to always try and make an image of something that moves me, regardless of whether it be in a positive or negative way. Landscape photography is often relentlessly cheerful, but other moods strike us as we walk and I'm keen to try and give voice to these.
It's hard to know when the inspiration for an image will strike us, the one thing that we can be certain of is that we should always obey its call.
The problem we try to solve is always personal. Bu choosing our subject and our composition we actually invent both the puzzle and solution. The answer we find one day may not please us upon another.
If we wish to be truly creative, we will forever walk on uncertain terrain without a map.
Technical perfection alone is not enough; it will never be inspirational, never make another human's heart beat faster, never bring a tear to another's face.
A photograph is transparent... We see through its surface to a slice of reality almost in the same way as if we were staring through glass.
The photographic image is perceived as a direct translation of reality... so that we may see it unmediated by the hand of an artist.
Look hard, think long and only then press the shutter release.
The enemy of art is the total lack of limitations.
The camera sees more than the eye.
Nature cannot be copied exactly even by means of a camera.
I want the greater mysrtery of things revealed more clearly than the eyes see.
The important and only vital question is, how much greater, finer am I than I was yesterday?
Picturesqueness... is an actual hindrance to work.
Any creative work should function as easily and naturally as breathing.
To photograph a rock, have it look like a rock but be more than a rock.
The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don’t know what to do with it.
If I have anything to give you through camera, it must be of myself. A gnawing burns inside, to make something of myself worth giving.
If you could stop the shouting of your own thoughts in your ears, you might be able to hear the small voice of a pine cone in the sun.
When we invent a subject we turn the photograph into a mirror of some part of ourselves.
Don't photograph what it is, photograph what else it is.
All photographs are self portraits.
Be open enough to be receptive when a photograph finds you.
Sources for the above photographs include books, magazine articles, websites, interviews (video and podcasts), documentaries, personal communication and other sources. I omitted listing the sources because that would have made this page difficult to navigate. Most of these quotes can be found by inserting a phrase in a search engine. Most are verbatim, however some of them are from memory and may not be exact quotes.
Another exhaustive source is found here.