Quotes by
Karl Pawek

Seeing is the most important trick of modern photography. If anyone wants to achieve anything in photography today, the scales must have dropped from his eyes – the machine does the rest. It is not so crucially important that a person has a particular style or is a master of various pictorial gimmicks, as that he – in the biblical sense – does not belong to the people who have eyes but who cannot see. What makes modern photography is an object whose true nature cannot be recorded in a purely mechanical way. Whoever wants to take it, must first grasp it.
Photography demands the same basic predisposition from the spectator. It is of the greatest misconceptions to imagine that photography is a kind of poor man’s Bible, a “Funnel of Nuremberg” which pours into the eyes of the poor in spirit all that he is incapable of mastering with his intellect. Photography cannot oblige anyone to see whatever transcends the three-dimensional aspects of the object. Beyond that limit, man sees only what he knows. The larger view of photography of the spirit only takes effect in proportion to and in so far as the spectator possesses a certain experience. A photograph may embody human experience, present decades or centuries, it can render visible something of the structure of our being, through it we may happen upon something of our own human destiny, and come into contact with varied forms of live, and discover its possibilities… Photographs may represent the immense content of life to us, but all this only if we too have had some part in the context of life from which the pictures spring. The achievement of photography resides in the fact that it can awaken within us, all of a sudden, the experience which was perhaps hidden from us until then, and that it confronts us with the knowledge in ourselves. I can only see the inward nature of a photo-portrait when due to my own experience I have some conception of inward nature.

“The Language of Photography”, Introduction (translated from the German by Patrick Bowles) [Catalogue of the World Exhibition of Photography “What is Man ?”, Gruner + Jahr GmbH & Co., Hamburg 1964]


[Catalogue of the 2nd World Exhibition of Photography “Woman”, Gruner + Jahr GmbH & Co., Hamburg 1968]