What is a good photograph? I cannot say. A photograph is tied to the time, what is good today may be a cliché tomorrow. The problem of the photographer is to discover his own language, a visual ABC. The picture represents the feelings and point of view of the intelligence behind the camera. This disease of our age is boredom and a good photographer must combat it. The way to do this is by invention – by surprise. When I say a good picture has surprise value I mean that it stimulates my thinking and intrigues me. The best way to achieve surprise quality is by avoiding clichés. Imitation is the greatest danger of the young photographer.
The personality and style of a photographer usually limits the type of subject with which he deals best. For example Cartier-Bresson is very interested in people and in travel; these things plus his precise feeling for geometrical relationships determine the type of pictures he takes best. What is of value is that a particular photographer sees the subject differently. A good picture must be a completely individual expression which intrigues the viewer and forces him to think.
The photographer, if he is to maintain his integrity must be responsible to himself, he must seek a public which will accept his vision, rather than pervert his vision to fit that public. Unfortunately many fine photographers never find this public and are virtually unemployable in the commercial field.
Every photographer must discover his own personal ABC— imitation is dishonest. We must have the courage to accept or reject our thoughts and desires. Art education can be dangerous. It often kills individuality and establishes a mould. Certainly youmust know the fundamental tools and materials and how to use them, but you must do the discovering yourself.