I wanted to make...flat pictures that had depth; to find a picture by chance, yet have some control over it.
Like doctors, photographers work with what is present. I suspect our chief emotions are anticipation, frustration, and patience, balanced by a marvelous sense of elation when things go right--when we think we've captured within a photograph some missing feeling, some sense of beauty, or bit of mystery in the fabric of life.
I don't remember taking this picture, which means I did not think it was very good when I took it. I judge a picture only as I hear the shutter trip. It's either "Unh-unh" or it's "Whoooppee!!"--some of the latter may actually turn out well.
A Ming vase can be well-designed and well-made and is beautiful for that reason alone. I don't think this can be true for photography. Unless there is something a little incomplete and a little strange, it will simply look like a copy of something pretty. We won't take an interest in it.
I don't think I have become more skillful a technician over time. I think I have become more skillful at finding pictures that fit a very simple technique....You have to learn what you can do well...My pictures reflect the fact that I'm trying as hard as I can, and I can't do anything else.
When I teach a class I often give the assignment: "Photograph someone you love." I ask people to do this so they have a subject about whom they have feelings, a subject that is more than a model, or an object, or a shape, or an idea. In this way, they can judge the result not only by its technical success, but also by how well it describes their feelings.
Usually I think if there is something imperfect in a photograph it makes the picture more real. Photographs that are slick, smooth, and perfect seem less honest to me.
If I'm very close in on the face, expression doesn't exist. The face becomes a landscape of the lakes of the eyes and the hills of the nose.
There are two kinds of photographs: mine and other people's. I never think of what I might do myself when I look at someone else's pictures...there is no subject in the world I have ever wanted to photograph. It's the picture, not he object, that is important to me.
The fact is that the camera is literal if anything, which gives it something in common with a thermometer...Often the tension that exists between the pictorial content of a photograph and its record of reality is the picture's true beauty. There is sleight of hand in photography...you make the viewer think he's seeing everything while at the same time you make him realize he's not. I try to make my pictures seem reasonable and then, at the last minute, pull the rug from beneath the viewer's feet, very gently so there's a little thrill.
In my head I think, "There is a beautiful picture here and by God, short of murder, I'm going to get it. So shut up and hold still!" But what I say is: "You look wonderful. It'll just take a minute. It's marvelous. We're doing something very special." When people see you are bored, they start to do things. Boredom is not necessarily boring. I am agreeable. I don't project my personality on the subject, because I don't want only to photograph his reaction to me. But at he same time, I have to draw him out. Lead him. Sweep the ice and make him follow the path I've brushed. What usually interest me is having a chance to look at someone and pick out what's interesting at that moment. People can't stay self-conscious long in front of the camera. Real people get bored. Boredom in a subject can be a photographer's ally. When I bore you, you stop trying to impress me. You begin to be yourself, and I may want that to happen. The style is not something I can impose on a subject. I merely look for a point from which the camera can most vividly record the illusion of depth and from there I try to organize the picture(still keeping the background as important as the foreground) so objects in the photograph also relate to each other through the play of their abstract shapes on the surface of the print.
Perishability in a photograph is important in a picture. If a photograph looks perishable we say, "Gee, I'm glad I have that moment."
To understand photographs, I believe you have to understand that the camera just shows what it shows. Photography may be moving, exciting, compassionate, or clever. But the camera cannot lie. Neither can a slide rule, a balance. If you want to lie, you have to do it with words.
Photographers may be concerned, conceptual, confrontational, candid, casual, constructing, but what is important is that they have a point of view.
Working alone on stories, I began to feel the anonymity of motels on interstate highways reached by jet planes and rental cars. It was hard to have a good time, and the only way I could make the loneliness excusable was by taking pictures I thought were very good, even valuable.
I think there's some sense of magic in the fact that what's out there can be caught in this little box.