To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.
Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important.
Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.
Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven't left any holes, that you've captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late.
What reinforces the content of a photograph is the sense of rhythm – the relationship between shapes and values.
To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis.
Inside movement there is one moment in which the elements are in balance. Photography must seize the importance of this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.
All I care about these days is painting - photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing.
I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung up and ready to pounce, determined to 'trap' life - to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.
He [Elliot Erwitt] has achieved a miracle...working on a chain gang of commercial campaigns, and still offering a bouquet of stolen photos with a flavor, a smile from his deeper self.
We often hear of “camera angles” (that is, those made by a guy who throws himself flat on his stomach to obtain a cetain effect or style), but the only legitimate angles that exist are those of the geometry of the composition.
I hope that we don't ever see the day when ready-made photo system, which guarantees good photographic compostions in advance, go on the market.
I went to Marseille. A small allowance enabled me to get along, and I worked with enjoyment. I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it. I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to "trap" life - to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.
One has to tiptoe lightly and steal up to one's quarry; you don't swish the water when you are fishing.
I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us.
In photography, the smallest thing can become a big subject, an insignificant human detail can become a leitmotiv. We see and we make seen as a witness to the world around us; the event, in its natural activity, generates an organic rhythm of forms.
It seems dangerous to be a portrait artist who does commissions for clients because everyone wants to be flattered, so they pose in such a way that there’s nothing left of truth.
Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We alter our perspective by a slight bending of the knees; we convey the chance meeting of lines by a simple shifting of our heads a thousandth of an inch…. We compose almost at the same time we press the shutter, and in placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, we shape the details – taming or being tamed by them.
For a subject to be strong enough to be worth photographing, the relationship of its forms must be rigorously established. Composition starts when you situate your camera in space in relation to the object. For me, photography is the exploration in reality of the rhythm of surfaces, lines, or values; the eye carves out its subject, and the camera has only to do its work. That work is simply to print the eye’s decision on film.
Reality offers us such wealth that we must cut some of it out on the spot, simplify. The question is, do we always cut out what we should? While we’re working, we must be conscious of what we’re doing. Sometimes we have the feeling that we’ve taken a great photo, and yet we continue to unfold. We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.
Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time. We play with subjects that disappear; and when they’re gone, it’s impossible to bring them back to life. We can’t alter our subject afterward.... Writers can reflect before they put words on paper.... As photographers, we don’t have the luxury of this reflective time....We can’t redo our shoot once we’re back at the hotel. Our job consists of observing reality with help of our camera (which serves as a kind of sketchbook), of fixing reality in a moment, but not manipulating it, neither during the shoot nor in the darkroom later on. These types of manipulation are always noticed by anyone with a good eye.
And no photographs taken with the aid of flash light, either, if only out of respect for the actual light - even when there isn't any of it.
I’m always amused by the idea that certain people have about technique, which translate into an immoderate taste for the sharpness of the image. It is a passion for detail, for perfection, or do they hope to get closer to reality with this trompe I’oeil? They are, by the way, as far away from the real issues as other generations of photographers were when they obscured their subject in soft-focus effects.
Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.
As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo. A photograph is a vestige of a face, a face in transit. Photography has something to do with death. It's a trace.
"They . . . asked me:
"'How do you make your pictures?' I was puzzled . . .
"I said, 'I don't know, it's not important.'
Taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one`s own originality. It is a way of life.
The photographer cannot be a passive spectator; he can be really lucid only if he is caught up in the event.
The chief requirement is to be fully involved in this reality which we delineate in the viewfinder. The camera is to some extent a sort of notebook for recording sketches made in time and space, but it is also an admirable instrument for seizing upon life as it presents itself.
Photography appears to be a simple matter, but it demands powers of concentration combined with mental enthusiasm and discipline. It is by strict economy of means that simplicity of expression is achieved.
The intensive use of photographs by mass media lays ever fresh responsibilities upon the photographer. We have to acknowledge the existence of a chasm between the economic needs of our consumer society and the requirements of those who bear witness to this epoch. This affects us all, particularly the younger generations of photographers. We must take greater care than ever not to allow ourselves to be separated from the real world and from humanity.
We must place ourselves and our camera in the right relationship with the subject, and it is in fitting the latter into the frame of the viewfinder that the problems of composition begin. This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements. Composition does not just happen; there must be a need for expression, and substance cannot be divorced from form.
We are faced with two moments of selection and thus of possible regret: the first and more serious when actuality is there, staring us in the viewfinder; and the second when all the shots have been developed and printed and we have to reject the less effective ones. It is then – too late – that we see exactly where we have failed. When we are at work, a moment’s hesitation or physical separation from the event robs us of some detail; all too often we have let our eye wander, we have lost our concentration; that is enough.
Our job is to view events with a clinical eye and to record them, but not to distort them by means of tricks, either while shooting or in the dark room.
…it is seldom indeed that a composition which was poor when the picture was taken can be improved by reshaping it in the dark room.
For us the camera is a tool, the extension of our eye, not a pretty little mechanical toy. It is sufficient that we should feel at ease with the camera best adapted for our purpose. Adjustments of the camera – such as setting the aperture and the speed – should become reflexes, like changing gear in a car. The real problem is one of intelligence and sensitivity.
The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimetres – small, small difference. But it’s essential. I don’t think there’s so much difference between photographers, but it’s that little difference that counts, maybe.
In photography is the evocation. Some photographs are like a Chekhov short story or a Maupassant story. They’re a quick thing, and there’s a whole world in them. But one is unconscious of that while shooting. That’s a wonderful thing with a camera. It jumps out of you.
In photography there is a new kind of plasticity, product of the instantaneous lines made by the movement of the subject… But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it…
There is a lot of talk about camera angles; but the only valid angles in existence are the angles of the geometry of composition and not the ones fabricated by the photographer who falls flat on his stomach or performs other antics to procure his effects.
Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the fugitive moment, and all the interrelationships involved are on the move.
We seldom take great pictures. You have to milk the cow a lot and get lots of milk to make a little piece of cheese.
If God had wanted us to photograph with a 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 camera, he would have put eyes on our bellies.
The camera, now as ever, empowers the individual to engage with others from the other side of town or the other side of the world.
She said, "Oh my wrinkles" and I told her it’s your own interesting thing, your wrinkles, after all it depends how they fall. Which is true, its life, it’s a mark of life. It depends how people have been living and all this is written on their face. After a certain age, you got the face you deserve I think.
If you start cutting or cropping a good photograph, it means death to the geometrically correct interplay of proportions. Besides, it very rarely happens that a photograph which was feebly composed can be saved by the reconstruction of its composition under the darkroom's enlarger; the integrity of vision is no longer there.
I infinitely prefer, to contrived portraits, those little identity-card photos which are posted side by side, row after row, in the windows of passport photographers. At least there is on these faces something that raises a question; a simple factual testimony...
If a good photo is cropped, even ever so slightly, the relative proportions, the play of proportions, are sure to be destroyed, and besides, it is highly unlikely that a badly composed shot will be saved by trying to frame it anew in the darkroom, cropping the negative under the enlarger: the integrity of the initial vision is lost.
The flash destroys the secret network of relations that naturally exist between the attentive photographer and his subject. You do not thrash the waters before you start fishing.
The camera is in some ways a sketchbook drawn in time and space, and it is also an admirable instrument that seizes life just as it presents itself.
You cannot be sure in advance exactly how the situation, the scene, is going to unfold. You must stay with the scene, just in case the elements of the situation shoot off from the core again... Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant. We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.
Pictures, regardless of how they are created and recreated, are intended to be looked at. This brings to the forefront not the technology of imaging, which of course is important, but rather what we might call the eyenology (seeing).
Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.
Reality offers us such wealth that we must cut some of it out on the spot, simplify. The question is, do we always cut out what we should? While we're working, we must be conscious of what we're doing. Sometimes we have the feeling that we've taken a great photo, and yet we continue to unfold. We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.
The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.
The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.
As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one's own originality. It is a way of life.
Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn't go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick. So, if you miss the picture, you've missed it. So what?
As photojournalists we supply information to a world that is overwhelmed with preoccupations and full of people who need the company of images....We pass judgement on what we see, and this involves an enormous responsibility.
A photographer’s eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of the knees. By placing the camera closer to or farther from the subject, he draws a detail. But he composes a picture in very nearly the same amount of time it takes to click the shutter, at the speed of a reflex action.
Only a fraction of the camera's possibilities interests me - the marvellous mixture of emotion and geometry, together in a single instant.
In Gene's(*) photographs there is something which throbs, something always tremulant. They are taken between the shirt and the skin. Anchored between the shirt and the skin – at the heart – his camera moves even by its passionate integrity.
Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing. Success depends on the extent of one's general culture. one's set of values, one's clarity of mind one's vivacity. The thing to be feared most is the artificially contrived, the contrary to life.
I'm not responsible for my photographs. Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience. It's drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, and then sniff, sniff, sniff – being sensitive to coincidence. You can't go looking for it; you can't want it, or you want get it. First you must lose your self. Then it happens.
This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.
You are asking me what makes a good picture. For me, it is the harmony between subject and form that leads each one of those elements to its maximum of expression and vigor.
Avoid making a commotion, just as you wouldn’t stir up the water before fishing. Don’t use a flash out of respect for the natural lighting, even when there isn’t any. If these rules aren’t followed, the photographer becomes unbearably obstrusive.
There’s a particular kind of painting that is no longer practiced, that of portraiture, and there are those who say that the discovery of photography is the cause. It does seem apt to credit photography with the abandonment by painters of this painterly form. A subject wearing a military coat, a cap, and sitting on a horse can discourage even the most well-schooled painter, who feels owerwhelmed by all the details of the costume. We, as photographers, are not bothered by all these dertails. Rather, we enjoy ourselves, because we can easily capture life in all its reality through our camera.
If the photographer succeeds in reflecting the exterior as well as interior world, his subject appear as “in real life.” In order to achieve this, the photographer must respect the mood, become integrated into the environment, avoid all the tricks that destroy human truth, and also make the subject of the photo forget the camera and the person using it. Complicated equipment and lights get in the way of naïve, unposed subjects. What is more fleeting than the expression on a face?
A photo seen in its totality in one single moment, like a painting, its compostion is a melting together, an organic coordination of visual elements. You can’t compose gratuitously; there must be a neccessity, and you can’t separate form from substance.
What is photojournalism? Occasionally, a very unique photo, in which form is precise and rich enough and content has enough resonance, is sufficient in itself - but that's rarely the case. The elements of a subject that speak to us are often scattered and can't be captured in one photo; we don't have the right to force them together, and to stage them would be cheating... which brings us to the need for photojournalism.
Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven’t left any holes, that you’ve captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late.
I find that you have to blend in like a fish in water, you have to forget yourself, you have to take your time, that's what I reproach our era for not doing. Drawing is slow, it is a meditation, but you have to know how to go slow in order to go quickly , slowness can mean splendor.
I'm not interested in photography. With photography you don't grasp anything. It's just intuition. To be a draftsman is very different.
Actually, I'm not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I'm not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren't cooks.
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression. I believe that through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us which can mould us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds- the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate. But this takes care only of the content of the picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean the rigorous organisation of the interplay of surfaces, lines and values. It is in this organisation alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organisation can stem only from a developed instinct.
There is no closed figure in nature. Every shape participates with another. No one thing is independent of another, and one thing rhymes with another, and light gives them shape.
'Manufactured' or staged photography does not concern me. And if I make a judgment, it can only be on a psychological or sociological level. There are those who take photographs arranged beforehand and those who go out to discover the image and seize it. For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which - in visual terms - questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photos with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.
I am neither an economist nor a phototgrapher of monuments, and I am not much of a journalist either. What I am trying to do more than anything else is to obseve life.
Photography is an immediate action; drawing a meditation For me photography is to place head heart and eye along the same line of sight. It is a way of life.
Photo-reporting presents the essentials of a problem, or it records an event or impressions. An event is so rich in possibilities that you hover around while it develops. You hunt for the solution. Sometimes you find it in the fraction of a second; sometimes it takes hours, or even days. There is no standard solution, no recipe; you must be alert, as in the game of tennis.
Photography is an instantaneous operation, both sensory and intellectual – an expression of the world in visual terms, and also a perpetual quest and interrogation.
Without the participation of intuition, sensibility, and understanding, photography is nothing. All these faculties must be closely harnessed, and it is then that the capture of a rare picture becomes a real physical delight.
A photographer must always work with the greatest respect for his subject and in terms of his own point of view. That is my own personal attitude; consequently I have a marked prejudice against “arranged” photographs and contrived settings.
There is one domain which photography has won away from painting – or so it is claimed – and that is portraiture. Faced with the camera, people proffer their best “profile” to posterity. It is their hope, blended with a certain magic fear, to outlive themselves in this portrait, and here they give us a hold. The first impression we have of a face is frequently correct; if to this first impression others are added by further acquaintance, the better we know the person the harder it becomes to pick out the essential qualities. One of the touching features of portraiture is that it reveals the permanence of mankind, even if only in the family album. We must respect the surroundings which provide the subject’s true setting, while avoiding all artifice which destroys the authentic image. The mere presence of the photographer and his camera affects the behavior of the “victim”. Massive apparatus and flash bulbs prevent the subject from being himself.
Photography, being dependent on reality, raises plastic problems which must be solved by the use of our eyes and by the adjustment of our camera. We keep changing our perspective in continual movement governed by rapid reflexes. We compose almost at the moment of pressing the shutter, moving through minutiae of space and time. Sometimes one remains motionless, waiting for something to happen; sometimes the situation is resolved and there is nothing to photograph.
Our job is immensely dependent on contacts with people; one false word and they withdraw. Here again, there is no set system, unless it be to pass unnoticed, together with one’s camera, which is always conspicuous. Reactions differ enormously between countries and between social groups; anywhere in the East, for example, a photographer who is impatient or merely in a hurry covers himself with ridicule, and this is irremediable. If ever you lose contact and someone notices your camera, you might just as well forget photography and let children clamber around you.
Chemistry, physics, and optics enlarge our scope; it is for us to apply them as part of our technique in order to see whether they can add to what we wish to express. But a whole fetishism has grown up around the technique of photography. Technique should be so conceived and adapted as to induce a way of seeing things, preferably in essentials, excluding the effects of gratuitous virtuosity and other ineptitudes. Technique is important in that we have to master it, but it is the result that counts.
The camera enables us to keep a kind of visual record. We photo-reporters are people who supply information to a world in haste and swamped, willy-nilly, in a morass of printed matter. This abbreviation of the statement which is the language of photography is very potent; we express, in effect, an adjudgment of what we see, and this demands intellectual honesty. We work in terms of reality, not of fiction, and must therefore “discover”, not fabricate.
Photography as I conceive it, well, it’s a drawing. Immediate sketch, done with intuition and you can correct it. If you have to correct it, it’s with the next picture. But life is very fluid; sometimes the pictures disappear, and there’s nothing you can do. You can’t tel the person, ‘Oh, please smile again. Do that gesture again.’ Life is once, forever and new all the time.
Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant. We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.
Shooting with a LEICA is like a long tender kiss, like firing an automatic pistol, like an hour on the analyist's couch.
When I saw the photograph of Munkacsi of the black kids running in a wave I couldn't believe such a thing could be caught with the camera. I said damn it. I took my camera and went out into the street.
A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.
The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. It's a question mark you put on somebody. Trying to say, "Who is it? What does it amount to? What is the significance of that face?" The difference between a portrait and a snapshot is that in the portrait, the person has agreed to be photographed. I like to take pictures of people in their environment—the animal in its habitat. It is fascinating coming into people's homes, looking at them. But you have to be like a cat. Not disturb. On tiptoes, always on tiptoes. It's like a biologist and his microscope. When you study the thing, it doesn't react the same way as when it is not being studied. And you have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt, which is not an easy thing.
What actually is a photographic reportage, a picture story? Sometimes there is one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigour and richness, and whose content so radiates outward from it, that this single picture is a whole story in itself. But this rarely happens. The elements which, together, can strike sparks out of a subject, are often scattered—either in terms of space or time—and bringing them together by force is "stage management” and, I feel, cheating. But if it is possible to make pictures of the "core" as well as the struck-off sparks of the subject, this is a picture story; and the page serves to reunite the complementary elements which are dispersed throughout several photographs.
Complicated equipment and light reflectors and various other items of hardware are enough, to my mind, to prevent the birdie from coming out.
If the good Lord had wanted us to take photographs with a 6 by 6, he would have put eyes in our belly.
The camera can be a machine gun, a warm kiss, a sketchbook. Shooting a camera is like saying, “Yes, yes, yes.” There is no “maybe.” All the “maybes” should go in the trash.
As I photograph with my little Leica, I have the feeling that there is something so right about it: with one eye that is closed one looks within. With the other eye that is open one looks without.