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On Photography, Film

Berenice Abbott: “I see the photograph as a statement of affirmation, built of wonder and curiosity. By choice of subject and special treatment given a subject, it is as personal as writing or music.”

Ansel Adams: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Robert Adams: “What a landscape photographer traditionally tries to do is to show what is past, present, and future at once. You want ghosts, and the daily news, and prophecy.”

Maggie Anderson: “Any photograph is a record made by a person who was shifting around something shifting that they saw. When we look at a photograph, we shift around what they have made to stand still.”

Diane Arbus: “For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture [itself], and more complicated.”

Alice Boughton: “The photographer must first of all have ideas.”

Wynn Bullock: “The mysterious forces that lie beneath the surface of the object world are as real to me as the objects themselves. I feel them. I love the medium of photography for with unique realism it has the power to evoke a sense of the unknown through the known, the invisible through the visible.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Above all, I look for an inner silence. I seek to translate the personality and not an expression.”

Imogen Cunningham: “You must be able to gain an understanding at short notice and at close range of the beauties of character, intellect and spirit — so as to be able to draw out the best qualities and make them show in the face of the sitter.”

Thomas Demand: “I don’t have to give myself a label. What I can do is say ‘no’ to certain things. For example, if I’m invited to do a photography show, I tend to say no. The medium itself, I find, is a relatively boring context. You would never see a show about acrylic paint. If it’s that kind of understanding of the medium, it’s completely uninteresting on an intellectual level. I make art.”

Rineke Dijkstra: “I think photography really lets you examine how a person is changing.”

Jessica Dimmock: “The two inform each other: I think the patience of photography, and the patience that you learn in photography to get something exactly right is really helpful. Had I not come from a photography background, I’d be a lot more rushed in filmmaking. And because filmmaking requires so much connective tissue and so you just have to collect so much more, means that the amount of time your eye is looking through a lens is much greater compared to photography. I realized after doing it, my eye was much sharper. It’s a muscle, and it was strong.”

Robert Doisneau: “We must always remember a picture is also made up of the person who looks at it.”

Nan Goldin: “Taking pictures is for me a way of touching someone — a form of tenderness.”

Gertrude Käsebier: “From the first days of dawning individuality, I have longed unceasingly to make pictures of people, not maps of faces, but pictures of real men and women, as they know themselves, to make likenesses that are biographies.”

Algimantas Kezys: “Form attracts me more than content. … It does not matter to me whether the picture is of a man, or of a bird, or of a rock. Each subject gets equal attention and is equally exciting if it happens to be in a meaningful form. … The world is so full of beauty and meaning that there is enough of it for everybody — to explore, to relish, and to transform, each in his own way.”

Lynda Koolish: “As an artist, a photographer paints with light. How the subject looks psychologically and visually is determined by how the light falls, the way shadows form, creating and reflecting a sense of inner luminescence. I try to photograph at the moment of spontaneous convergence of what is visually exciting and what moves me emotionally. Sometimes, the photograph, like a poem, becomes a window filled with light.”

Victor Kossa Kovsky: “Film when you aren’t sure if you hate it or love it. Doubts are critical for making art. Film when you hate and love at the same time.”

Dorothea Lange: “The camera is a great teacher, and the more people who use it the more aware they become of the possibilities of the visual world. The disciplines and the difficulties of this are immense . . . You live it. You breathe it. You’re cut off from the moorings of the people around you. You actually are nourished and sustained by your eyesight. You look into everything, not only what it looks like but what it feels like. On that sort of attention, great photographs will be made, and the best of the photographers have it once in a while.”

Mary Ellen Mark: “Sometimes the photograph works because of what’s left out. Sometimes it doesn’t work because what’s necessary in the frame is not there.”

Maaza Mengiste: “Photography is about much more than taking pretty pictures, just as writing is about more than writing pretty sentences. In each, there is the narrative that should become more complicated as we look, and read, and consider.”

Marie (nee Menkevicius) Menken: “There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try.”

Joel Meyerowitz: “In a way, as an historian and an artist, I had to try to deepen the field of my observation and my interest, which meant sometimes letting go of a big dramatic image up close in order to let the background speak as well as the foreground. I found myself opening up and maybe even reinventing a way of looking.”

Michael Moore: “I also don’t understand why so many documentary filmmakers think that the politics or the message of their films is the top priority, rather than the art of cinema, and making a good crackerjack of a movie. The art of the movie is more important to me than the politics . . . Why? Because if I make a shitty film, the politics aren’t going to get through to anyone.”

Dorothy Norman: “My photography . . . encompassed nature, people and architecture — subjects I felt passionately about and loved. In size, my prints always remained small, but I tried to make the images as large and bold and as beautiful as life itself.”

Man Ray: “Photography is not limited to the role of copyist. It is a marvelous explorer of those aspects that our retinas never record.”

Muriel Rukeyser: “The work with film is a terribly good exercise for poetry . . . the concept of sequences, the cutting of sequences of varying length, the frame by frame composition, the use of a traveling image, traveling by the way the film is cut, shot, projected at a set speed, a sound track or a silent track, in conjunction with the visual track but can be brought into bad descriptive verbal things and brought into marvelous juxtapositions.”

Kathy Ryan: “I think photography is 100% about asking questions. Pictures with the most staying power transcend literal meaning. There’s poetry.”

Agnès Sire: “In the duel of the portrait, how do you face the gaze of the other? Which of you is giving and which of you is taking?”

Susan Sontag: “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.”

Alec Soth: “That’s what photography does. It’s very related to poetry. It’s suggestive and fragmentary and unsatisfying in a lot of ways. It’s the art of limitation. Framing the world. It’s as much about what you leave out as what you put in.”

Otto Steinert: “Only a photography sympathetic toward experiment can provide the means to the shaping of our visual experiences.”

Audrey Tautou: “My composed self-portraits are in the middle of nowhere: I’m not a character, I’m not a person, I’m in the middle. I’m a person in mutation, in movement, in transformation.”

Guillermo del Toro: “The way you color-code a movie, the way you carefully lay out the textures and shapes, is an act of narration, and I do treat it like that.”

Larry Wilder: “Photography is all about light, composition and, most importantly, emotion.”


Last updated: 1.21.2019

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