Quality doesn't mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That's not quality, that's a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy--the tone range isn't right and things like that--but they're far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he's doing, what his mind is. It's not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It's got to do with intention.
Making pictures is a very simple act. There is no great secret in photography...schools are a bunch of crap. You just need practice and application of what you've learned. My absolute conviction is that if you are working reasonably well the only important thing is to keep shooting...it doesn't matter whether you are making money or not. Keep working, because as you go through the process of working things begin to happen.
I don't think you can create luck. You're either lucky or you're not. I don't know if it's really luck or if it's just curiosity. I think the main ingredient, or a main ingredient for photography is curiosity. If you're curious enough and if you get up in the morning and go out and take pictures, you're likely to be more lucky than if you just stay at home.
There are so many fine photographers who are underrated that it would be unfair to name just one. Look at the New York Times, where the quality of photography has so leaped forward—these are not known photographers, they’re just workaday photographers who take wonderful pictures. Recognition comes as a result of luck, timing and the situation at large.
Learn the craft (which is not very hard). Carefully study past work of photographers and classic painters. Look and learn from movies. See where you can fit in as a “commercial” photographer. Commercial: meaning working for others and delivering a product on command. But most of all keep your personal photography as your separate hobby. If you are very good and diligent it just may pay off.
My first serious camera was a Rolleiflex. I used it for quite some time, until I got tired of the square format which is not really terribly suitable to the kind of pictures that I was interested in. Also it's a camera that you don't use up to the eye but to the stomach, and I always think it's better to look at what you're photographing through your eyes rather than through your stomach.
There's a profound difference between the simple non-reflex, direct-viewing camera (such as a range-finder Leica) and a SLR. With a reflex you tend to make the picture in the camera; with the other, you see the picture and then put a frame around it. The RF camera is also faster, quicker to focus, less noisy, and smaller, but these advantages are much less important than the fundamental difference.
The work I care about is terribly simple. I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotional. Little else interests me in photography. Today, so much is being done by unemotional people, or at least it looks that way… I mean, work that’s fascinating and fun and clever and technically brilliant. But if it’s not personal, then it misses what interesting photography is about.