Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.
The photographs are not illustrative. They, and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative. By their fewness, and by the importance of the reader’s eye, this will be misunderstood by most of that minority which does not wholly ignore it. In the interests, however, of the history and future of photography, that risk seems irrelevant, and this flat statement necessary.
With the camera, it's all or nothing. You either get what you're after at once, or what you do has to be worthless. I don't think the essence of photography has the hand in it so much. The essence is done very quietly with a flash of the mind, and with a machine. I think too that photography is editing, editing after the taking. After knowing what to take, you have to do the editing.
The meaning of quality in photography’s best pictures lies written in the language of vision. That language is learned by chance, not system; ...our overwhelming formal education deals in words, mathematical figures and methods of rational thought, not in images.
Photography is not cute cats, nor nudes, motherhood or arrangements of manufactured products. Under no circumstances it is anything ever anywhere near a beach.
You talk about simplicity. When I first made photographs, they were too plain to be considered art and I wasn't considered an artist. I didn't get any attention at all. The people who looked at my work thought, well, that's just a snapshot of the backyard. Privately I knew otherwise and through stubbornness stayed with it...
I began to wonder – I knew I was an artist or wanted to be one – but I was wondering whether I really was an artist. I was doing such ordinary things that I could feel the difference. Most people would look at those things and say, “Well, that’s nothing. What did you do that for? That’s just a wreck of a car or a wreck of a man. That’s nothing. That isn’t art.” They don’t say that anymore.
I never took it upon myself to change the world. And those contemporaries of mine who were going around falling for the idea that they were going to bring down the United States government and make a new world were just asses to me.
Interviewer: "Do you think it's possible for the camera to lie?"
Walker Evans: "It certainly is. It almost always does."
The element of time entering into a photograph provides a departure for as much speculation as an observer can make.
Photography should have the courage to present itself as what it is, which is a graphic composition produced by a machine and an eye and then some chemicals and paper. Technically, it has nothing to do with painting.
There are several tenets that go with this craft of ours. One of them is that the real gift and value in a picture is really not a thought; it is a sensation based on feeling.
Museums have a wonderful function, but there comes a time when the artist had better stay out of them, I think.
Photography seems to be the most literary of the graphic arts. It will have—on occasion and in effect—qualities of eloquence, wit, grace, and economy; style, of course; structure and coherence; paradox and play and oxymoron. If photography tends to be literary, conversely some writers are noticeably photographic from time to time—for instance James, and Joyce, and particularly Nabokov.
When you are young you are open to influences, and you go to them, you go to museums. Then the street becomes your museum; the museum itself is bad for you. You don’t want your work to spring from art; you want it to commence from life, and that’s in the street now.
Nobody knows what art is, and it can’t be taught. It’s the mind and the talent of the eye of the individual who is operating the machine that produces what comes out of it.
Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.
I think there is a period of esthetic discovery that happens to a man and he can do all sorts of things at white heat.
Leaving aside the mysteries and the inequities of human talent, brains, taste, and reputations, the matter of art in photography may come down to this: it is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the defining of observation full and felt.
Documentary: That’s a sophisticated and misleading word. And not really clear… The term should be documentary style… You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless.
I'm sometimes called a 'documentary photographer' but... a man operating under that definition could take a sly pleasure in the disguise. Very often I'm doing one thing when I'm thought to be doing another.
Detachment, lack of sentimentality, originality, a lot of things that sound rather empty. I know what they mean. Let’s say, "visual impact" may not mean much to anybody. I could point it out though. I mean it’s a quality that something has or does not have. Coherence. Well, some things are weak, some things are strong...
Privilege, if you're very strict, is an immoral and unjust thing to have, but if you've got it you didn't choose to get it and you might as well use it. You're privileged to be at Yale, but you know you're under an obligation to repay what's been put into you.
I used to try to figure out precisely what I was seeing all the time, until I discovered I didn't need to. If the thing is there, why, there it is.
First of all, I tell [students] that art can’t be taught, but that it can be stimulated and a few barriers can be kicked down by a talented teacher, and an atmosphere can be created which is an opening into artistic action. But the thing itself is such a secret and so unapproachable.
Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts it absolutely. Consider the way color film usually renders blue sky, green foliage, lipstick red, and the kiddies’ playsuit. These are four simple words which must be whispered: color photography is vulgar.
Many photographers are apt to confuse color with noise, and to congratulate themselves when they have almost blown you down with screeching hues alone—a bebop of electric blues, furious reds, and poison greens.
If you photograph what’s before your eyes and you’re in an impoverished environment, you’re not—and shouldn’t be, I think—trying to change the world or commenting on this and saying: “Open up your heart and bleed for these people.” I would never dream of saying anything like that; it’s too presumptuous and naïve to think you can change society by a photograph or anything.
When the point of a picture subject is precisely its vulgarity or its color-accident through man’s hand, not God’s, then only can color film be used validly.
The photographer, the artist, “takes” a picture: symbolically he lifts an object or that composition... [He] has rendered his object in some way transcendent and... in each instance his vision has penetrating validity.