...there is guilt in every direction: guilt because I don’t practice religion, guilt because I was able to walk away, while this man was dying of starvation or being murdered by another man with a gun. And I am tired of guilt, tired of saying to myself: “I didn’t kill that man on that photograph, I didn’t starve that child.” That’s why I want to photograph landscapes and flowers. I am sentencing myself to peace.
Photography will screw you every time it gets a chance to screw you, every time you put a roll into the camera... Sometimes I come back and find that the film has been damaged or that the camera’s back has been leaking. I don’t get angry, I don’t smash the camera, I just laugh and think: “It didn’t respect me, I wasn’t meant to have it.”
The darkroom can be cruel. You have to talk your way through your printing, alone, sometimes you turn the radio on and listen to trash music. When I finish, I wash everything meticulously, I dust everything, it’s like paying a homage to the spiritual power that could destroy me. And I won’t let it. Something else will destroy me—but it won’t be the darkroom, it won’t be photography. I am very strong, nearly ninety nine percent of me is strong and fortified all around. But I am sure there is a crack, somewhere behind me, in my make-up, where the damage will get in and destroy me.
Although I take my work seriousily I cannot take myself seriously. When you think of it, everything has happened by accident. I have always believed that I don't own my photography, rather that it owns me. It gave me a life, an extraordinary life which could never be repeated. I feel as if the gift of seeing what is really going on in the world is mine only so long as I put it to proper use. There is nothing to be claimed and nothing to regret, except that we go on treating our fellow human beings so badly.
It's not important that I record every tragedy that goes on in the world. But I decided to try a couple of shots. And I did something despicable. I wound the car window down and took the photographs from inside. Then I hated myself for not having the decency and courage to at least get out and do something...
I don’t believe you can see what’s beyond the edge unless you put your head over it; I’ve many times been right up to the precipice, not even a foot or an inch away. That’s the only place to be if you’re going to see and show what suffering really means... I've spent fourteen years getting on and off aeroplanes and photographing other people's conflicts. I will never get on another aeroplane and go photograph another country's war.
A lot of people write to me, "I want to be a war photographer," and it sickens me in a way. The desire to view death and suffering as a spectacle or adventurous career opportunity is perverse, especially when photographers only train their lenses on the problems of others. O.K., if you want to be a war photographer you don’t have to get in a plane and go to somebody else’s country. There’s a lot of poverty and misery and suffering in your own. I’ve been there.
I like photographing the English landscape in the winter, because it’s naked and it’s cold and it’s lonely, and I feel lonely doing it—and yes, I feel as happy as anything. There’s no politics, there’s no one saying: “get off my land!” No one’s pointing a gun at me. It’s almost as if I’m drinking from the flower, as if I’m drinking the pure nectar of freedom.
The camera was a key to open up my life. It was like opening a huge window to the world. It gave me education, it gave me hope, it gave me travel, and in the end, after giving me all those things, it started taking things away from me. It took my mind away from me, it took things back from me. You don’t own those things in the beginning. You don’t own yourself in the beginning, you’re just dumped on this earth and you have to stand up and try to walk and try to get through it.