We are only beginning to learn what to say in a photograph. The world we live in is a succession of fleeting moments, any one of which might say something significant. When such an instant arrives, I react intuitively. There is, I think, an electronic impulse between my eye and my finger. But even this is not enough. I dream that someday the step between my mind and my finger will no longer be needed. And that simply by blinking my eyes, I shall make pictures. Then, I think, I shall really have become a photographer.
He (newer photographer) should never become conceited just because he has something published. It can go away tomorrow and then he has to try again and again. Whatever I have accomplished over the years, whatever I am, I am not egotistical, and a big ego in a young photographer will only hold him back.
I was all set to to photograph the Prime Minister [Winston Churchill] from the best side and at the best angle, as he sat in an armchair in his library. But Churchill shook his head. ‘Young man,’ he called me ( I was fifty-two at the time). ‘I know how to take pictures. You have to do it from there.’ In order to please the great man I photographed him ‘from there’, and then discreedtly skipped back to the opposide side and got the picture I wanted.
The way I would describe a pictorial is that it is a picture that makes everybody say ‘Aaaaah,’ with five vowels when they see it. It is something you would like to hang on the wall. The french word ‘photogenique’ defines it better than anything in English. It is a picture which must have quality, drama, and it must, in addition, be as good technically as you can possible make it.
With photography, everything is in the eye and these days I feel young photographers are missing the point a bit. People always ask about cameras but it doesn't matter what camera you have. You can have the most modern camera in the world but if you don't have an eye, the camera is worthless. Young people know more about modern cameras and lighting than I do. When I started out in photography I didn't own an exposure meter - I couldn't , they didn't exist! I had to guess.
It's important to understand it's OK to control the subject. If most editorial stories were photographed just as they are, editors would end up throwing most in the waste basket. You have to work hard at making an editorial picture. You need to re-stage things, rearrange things so that they work for the story, with truth and without lying.
Today's photographers think differently. Many can't see real light anymore. They think only in terms of strobe - sure, it all looks beautiful but it's not really seeing. If you have the eyes to see it, the nuances of light are already there on the subject's face. If your thinking is confined to strobe light sources, your palette becomes very mean - which is the reason I photograph only in available light.
My style hasn’t changed much in all these sixty years. I still use, most of the time, existing light and try not to push people around. I have to be as much a diplomat as a photographer. People don’t often take me seriously because I carry so little equipment and make so little fuss... I never carried a lot of equipment. My motto has always been, “Keep it simple.”
I once asked Eisie if he had ever felt awed by any of the hundreds of famous people he had photgraphed. “Never when I had a camera in my hand” he said. “I always remembered what Wilson Hicks, the picture editor of LIFE, said to me when I was on assignment photographing the most glamorous stars in Hollywood: “They may be queens in their profession” he said ‘but you are a king in yours.” This has helped me with anyone and everyone.”
...I don’t use an exposure meter. My personal advice is: Spend the money you would put into such an instrument for film. Buy yards of film, miles of it. Buy all the film you can get your hands on. And then experiment with it.
That is the only way to be successful in photography. Test, try, experiment, feel your way along. It is the experience, not technique, which counts in camera work first of all. If you get the feel of photography, you can take fifteen pictures while one of your opponents is trying out his exposure meter.
I'm often asked how I go about an assignment - well, I was always good with people. I'm no dumbbell; I read a great deal and treat people the same way I wish to be treated myself. When I enter a room, I can talk to almost anybody - no matter if they are an astronomer, a physicist, a philosopher, an astrologer, anything adn everything. It's important for a photographer to remember they may want to return later on, as a friend.
People will never understand the patience a photographer requires to make a great photograph, all they see is the end result. I can stand in front of a leaf with a dew drop, or a rain drop, and stay there for ages just waiting for the right moment. Sure, people think I'm cracy, but who cares? I see more than they do!
[I was following the sailor] running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make any difference. None of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then, suddenly in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse.