Now young photographers don’t even know what it means to use an analog camera. I know film very well and I didn’t ask for a digital camera, I was perfectly happy the way it was. Then with time, I learned that digital is fantastic in many ways except two. First, the digital image is too sharp and loses softness and emotion. In fact, I use Photoshop to reduce the digital effect. Second, the more annoying problem of working with a digital camera is that the process of shooting has become a collaborative effort. I am in front of the subject and whenever I shoot a picture that picture appears on a screen in the other room with ten people around watching and judging and giving advice. This way of shooting completely ruins the intimacy between the photographer and the subject. What interests me is the relationship, because that is where amazing pictures come from and shooting digital prevents me from having this special relationship.
I think a great image, first of all – however it looks – it has to have a purpose. And when it has a purpose, then after, you can tell what aesthetics and many other things. But I think the purpose is the most important thing. And then after the purpose, of course, if it’s a boring, visually boring message, then it’s not really a great picture at all.
For another story, I did not even look through the camera, meaning that I was as surprised as everyone else by what was to be seen on the photos. That was the way I did black-and-white photos on the streets of New York for Vogue in Italy, using a small autofocus camera. That approach completely eliminates all you ever learned about composition. And throwing all the compositional rules overboard ensures everything is slightly less conventional. Since the miniature camera meant that the persons photographed felt less observed the product were interesting images as regards the way they captured the models’ personalities.
I don’t believe in labels or titles. Why should a painter or sculptor who has probably never challenged the rules to be an artist just because his title and an art school education automatically make him one? Isn’t art about breaking rules, about challenging existing systems, isn’t it about discovering meaning in things or situations before others see anything in them? Your work makes you an artist, not your title.