Brunelleschi, looking through a hole at a street in florence, makes a depiction of it from a fixed viewpoint.... The photographic process is simply the invention in the 19th century of a chemical substance that could ‘freeze’ the image projected from the hole in the wall, as it were, onto a surface. It was the invention of the chemicals that was new, not the particular way of seeing.... So the photograph is, in a sense, the end of something old, not the beginning of something new.
You can’t look at most photos for more than, say, thirty seconds. It has nothing to do with the subject matter. I first noticed this with erotic photographs, trying to find them lively: you can’t. Life is precisely what they don’t have—or rather, time, lived time. All you can do with most ordinary photographs is stare at them—they stare back, blankly—and presently your concentration begins to fade. They stare you down.
When is the present? When did the past end and the present occur, and when does the future start? Ordinary photography has one way of seeing only, which is fixed, as if there is kind of an objective reality, which simply cannot be. Picasso...knew that every time you look there’s something different. There is so much there but we´re not seeing it, that’s the problem.
The best portrait photographs are those that capture in a fraction of a second a period of time that looked as though it had been longer. Yet this also results in a certain static aspect to the face. The face must not be caught in a bearing that is too suggestive of a short period of time... for over an hour and a half, I tried to include a variety of looks, glances and expressions, all of which might synthesize into a living portrait of that person.
The camera is a medium is what I suddenly realized. It’s neither an art, a technique, a craft, nor a hobby—it's a tool. It’s an extraordinary drawing tool. It’s as if I, like most ordinary photographers, had previously been taking part in some long-established cultures in which pencils were used only for making dots—there’s an obvious sense of liberation that comes when you realize you can make lines!
I think we are moving into a more electronic age, there’s no doubt about it. In a way, storing information digitally is storing abstractions. I find that quite fascinating, as it’s now becoming quite clear that the distinction between abstraction and representation is a false concept. It was a critic’s idea, not an artist’s concept. It’s all one thing.