Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasureable it my be.
Very often people looking at my pictures say, 'You must have had to wait a long time to get that cloud just right (or that shadow, or the light).' As a matter of fact, I almost never wait, that is, unless I can see that the thing will be right in a few minutes. But if I must wait an hour for the shadow to move, or the light to change, or the cow to graze in the other direction, then I put up my camera and go on, knowing that I am likely to find three subjects just as good in the same hour.
To compose a subject well means no more than to see and present it in the strongest manner possible.
Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk. Such rules and laws are deduced from the accomplished fact; they are the products of reflection...
Only with effort can the camera be forced to lie: basically it is an honest medium: so the photographer is much more likely to approach nature in a spirtit of inquiry, of communion, instead of with the saucy swagger of self-dubbed "artists"
I have been photographing our toilet, that glossy enameled receptacle of extraordinary beauty....Here was every sensuous curve of the 'human figure divine' but minus the imperfections. Never did the Greeks reach a more significant consummation to their culture, and it somehow reminded me, forward movement of finely progressing contours, of the Victory of Samothrace.
My true program is summed up in one word: life. I expect to photograph anything suggested by that word which appeals to me.
It seems so utterly naive that landscape - not that of the pictorial school - is not considered of "social significance" when it has a far more important bearing on the human race of a given locale than excrescences called cities.
...to reveal the individual before his camera, to transfer the living quality of that individual to his finished print...Not to make road maps but to record the essential truth of the subject; not to show how this person looks, but to show what he is.
I was extravagant in the matter of cameras – anything photographic – I had to have the best. But that was to further my work. In most things I have gone along with the plainest – or without.
[Photographers claimed to be performing the Blakean task of cleansing the senses,] revealing to others the living world around them showing to them what their own unseeing eyes had missed.
She leaned against a whitewashed wall--lips quivering--nostrils dilating--eyes heavy with the gloom of unspent rain clouds--I drew close to her--whispered something and kissed her--a tear rolled down her cheek--and then I captured forever the moment--let me see f.8--1/10 sec. K1 filter--panchromatic film--how brutally mechanical and calculated it sounds--yet how really spontaneous and genuine--for I have so overcome the mechanics of my camera that it functions responsive to my desires--my shutter coordinating with my brain is released in a way—as natural as I might move my arm--I am beginning to approach actual attainment in photography--that in my ego of two or three years ago I thought to have already reached--it will be necessary for me to destroy, to unlearn, and then rebuild upon the mistaken presumptuousness of my past--the moment of our mutual emotion was recorded on the silver—the release of those emotions followed--we passed from the glare of the sun on white walls into Tina’s darkened room--her olive skin and sombre nipples were revealed beneath a black mantilla--I drew the lace aside.
When money enters in, - then, for a price, I become a liar, - and a good one I can be whether with pencil or subtle lighting or viewpoint. I hate it all, but so do I support not only my family, but my own work.
The shutter’s release, which automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation – the print, which is but a dublication of all that I saw and felt through my camera.
I would say to any artist: 'Don't be repressed in your work, dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better.'
Photography suits the temper of this age - of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately.
..for the obvious reason that nature – unadulterated and unimproved by man – is simply chaos. In fact, the camera proves that nature is crude and lacking in arrangement...
The prejudice many photographers have against colour photography comes from not thinking of colour as form. You can say things with colour that can’t be said in black and white… Those who say that colour will eventually replace black and white are talking nonsense. The two do not compete with each other. They are different means to different ends.
Since the recording process is instantaneous, and the nature of the image such that it cannot survive corrective handwork, it is obvious that the finished print must be created in full before the film is exposed.
When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns, there can be no freshness of vision. Following rules of composition can only lead to a tedious repetition of pictorial cliches.
Get your lighting and exposure correct at the start and both developing and printing can be practically automatic.
Modern Art is being used to index me. Surely it was a source but photographers have influenced Modern Art quite as deeply as they have been influenced, maybe more. Anyway painters don’t have a copyright on M. A. We were all born in the same upheaval.
The painters have no copyright on modern art ! …I believe in, and make no apologies for, photography: it is the most important graphic medium of our day. It does not have to be, indeed cannot be - compared to painting – it has different means and aims.
Anything that excites me, for any reason, I will photograph: not searching for unusual subject matter but making the commonplace unusual, nor indulging in extraordinary technique to attract attention. Work only when desire to the point of necessity impels – then do it honestly. Then so called “composition” becomes a personal thing, to be developed along with technique, as a personal way of seeing.
But photography is not all seeing in the sense that the eyes see. Our vision, a binocular one, is in a continuous state of flux, while the camera captures and fixes forever (unless the damn prints fade !) a single, isolated condition of the moment. Besides, we use lenses of various focal lengths to purposely exaggerate actual seeing, and we often “overcorrect” color for the same reason. In printing we carry on our willful distortion of fact by using contrasty papers which give results quite different from the sense or object as it was in nature.
Our sensibilities today are not fooled by the novelty of the camera process; modern men clearly feel the individual personality of each of the authors of different photographs, although made at the same time and in the same space. We feel the personality of the photographer as clearly as that of the painter, draughtsman, or printmaker. Actually, camera and darkroom manipulations are a technique, like oil, pencil, or watercolor; and, above all, the means of expression of human personality.
The... arguments against photography ever being considered a fine art are: the element of chance which enters in, finding things ready-made for a machine to record, and of course the mechanics of the medium. ...I say that chance enters into all branches of art: a chance word or phrase starts a new trend of thought in a writer, a chance sound may bring a new melody to a musician, a chance combination of lines, new composition to a painter. ...Chance – which in reality is not chance – but being ready, attuned to one's surroundings – and grasp my opportunity....
...the pepper is beginning to show signs of strain, and tonight should grace a salad. It has been suggested that I am a cannibal to eat my models. (referring to his famous photo "Pepper #30")"
Of course, I hear that I must have a marvelous lens or extraordinary camera – instead of a lens with shutter for all of 20 pesos, and a camera quite gone to ruin! Not many realize that good photographs – like anything else – are made with one’s brains.
A painter of prolific imagination might not be able to execute a hundredth of his ideas on canvas in a lifetime because of the time consumed by his recording process. But for the photographer seeing and recording are almost simultaneous. His output is limited only by his ability to see. For this reason it has always been my belief that an experienced photographer, given the means to devote himself entirely to creative expression, should be able to produce a tremendous amount of valuable work.
The photograph isolates and perpetuates a moment of time: an important and revealing moment, or an unimportant and meaningless one, depending upon the photographer's understanding of his subject and mastery of his process.
As great a picture can be made as one's mental capacity--no greater. Art cannot be taught; it must be self-inspiration, though the imagination may be fired and the ambition and work directed by the advice and example of others.
...through this photographic eye you will be able to look out on a new light-world, a world for the most part uncharted and unexplored, a world that lies waiting to be discovered and revealed.
My own eyes are no more than scouts on a preliminary search, for the camera's eye may entirely change my idea.
I start with no preconceived idea - discovery excites me to focus - then rediscovery through the lens - final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print previsioned completely in every detail of texture, movement, proportion, before exposure - the shutter's release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation - the ultimate end, the print, is but a duplication of all that I saw and felt through my camera.
Ultimately success or failure in photographing people depends on the photographer's ability to understand his fellow man.
One does not think during creative work, any more than one thinks when driving a car. But one has a background of years - learning, unlearning, success, failure, dreaming, thinking, experience, all this - then the moment of creation, the focusing of all into the moment. So I can make 'without thought,' fifteen carefully considered negatives, one every fifteen minutes, given material with as many possibilities. But there is all the eyes have seen in this life to influence me.
Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.
...success in photography, portraits especially, is dependent on being able to grasp those supreme instants which pass with the ticking of a clock, never to be duplicated - so light, balance - expression must be seen - felt as it were - in a flash, the mechanics and technique being so perfected in one as to be absolutely automatic.
I would say to any artist: 'Don't be repressed in your work, dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better.'
The photographer’s most important and likewise most difficult task is not learning to manage his camera, or to develop, or to print. It is learning to see photographically – that is, learning to see his subject matter in terms of the capacities of his tools and processes, so that he can instantaneously translate the elements and values in a scene before him into the photograph he wants to make.
[Weston calls photography] a way of self-development, a means to discover and identify oneself with all the manifestations of basic forms – with nature , the source.
If I have any 'message' worth giving to a beginner it is that there are no short cuts in photography.
Success in photography, portraiture especially, is dependent on being able to grasp those supreme instants which pass with the ticking of a clock, never to be duplicated – so light, balance – expression must be seen – felt as it were – in a flash, the mechanics and technique being so perfected in one as to be absolutely automatic.
This then: to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock. Significant representations – not interpretation.
I have been photographing our toilet, that glossy enameled receptacle of extraordinary beauty. Here was every sensuous curve of the "human figure divine" but minus the imperfections. Never did the Greeks reach a more significant consummation to their culture, and it somehow reminded me, in the glory of its chaste convulsions and in its swelling, sweeping, forward movement of finely progressing contours, of the Victory of Samothrace.
There is nothing like a Bach fugue to remove me from a discordant moment... only Bach hold up fresh and strong after repeated playing. I can always return to Bach when the other records weary me.
People who wouldn't think of taking a sieve to the well to draw water fail to see the folly in taking a camera to make a painting.
The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don't know what to do with it.
Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.
Photography has certain inherent qualities which are only possible with photography – one being the delineation of detail… why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have such an opportunity to extend your vision?
Atget was a great documentary photographer but is misclassed as anything else. The emotion derived from his work is largely that of connotations from subject matter. I have a deep respect for Atget: he did a certain work well. I am doing something quite different.
I find myself every so often looking at my ground glass as though the unrecorded image might escape me!
The great scientist dares to differ from accepted “facts”, - think irrationally – let the artist do likewise. And photographers, even those, or especially those, taking new or different paths should never become crystallized in the theories through which they advance. Let the eyes work from inside out – do not imitate “photographic painting”, in a desire to be photographic !
My eyes are no more than scouts… the camera’s eye may entirely change my original idea, even switch me to different subject matter. So I start out with my mind as free from image as the silver film on which I am to record, and I hope as sensitive.
The camera should be used for a recording of life,for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.
I want the stark beauty that a lens can so exactly render presented without interference of artistic effect.
Clouds, torsos, shells, peppers, trees, rocks, smoke stacks, are but interdependent, interrelated parts of a whole, which is life.
The creative force in man recognizes and records these rhythms with the medium most suitable to him, the object, or the moment, feeling the cause, the life within the outer form. Recording unfelt facts, acquired by rule, results in sterile inventory. To see the Thing Itself is essential: the quintessence revealed direct without the fog of impressionism - the casual noting of the superficial phase, a transitory mood.
Someone reading over my statement questioned my use of the word 'impressionism'. To me it has always meant for example a tree momentarily shimmering in brilliant sun or the same tree drenched half hidden by a passing storm; painted, etched or photographed under such conditions— the transitory instead of the eternal. But I don't want the play of sunlight to excite the fancy, nor the mystery of gloom to invoke the imagination— wearing coloured glasses— I want the greater mystery of things revealed more clearly than the eyes see, at least more than the layman, the casual observer notes. I would have a microscope, shall have one some day.
How little subject matter counts in the ultimate reaction! If there is any symbolism in my work, it can only be in a very broad consideration of life, the seeing of parts, fragments, as universal symbols, the understanding of relativity everywhere. All basic forms are so closely related as to be visually equivalent... I have had a back (before close inspection) taken for a pear, knees for shell forms, a squash for a flower, and rocks for almost everything imaginable!
l have done perhaps fifty negatives of peppers: because of the endless variety in form manifestations, because of their extraordinary surface texture, because of the power, the force suggested in their amazing convolutions.
l do not wish to impose my personality upon nature (any of life's manifestations), but without prejudice or falsification to become identified with nature, to know things in their very essence, so that what I record is not an interpretation—my idea of what nature should be— but a revelation— a piercing of the smoke screen artificially cast over life by irrelevant, humanly limited exigencies, into an absolute, impersonal recognition.