I didn’t relate to European photography. It was too poetic and anecdodtal for me.... The kinetic quality of New York, the kids, dirt, madness--I tried to find a photographic style that would come close to it.So I would be grainy and contrasted and black. I’d crop, blur, play with the negatives. I didn’t see clean technique being right for New York. I could imagine my pictures lying in the gutter like the New York Daily News.
Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn't look like somebody else's work.
So who can pin down photography? We’re drunk with images. [Sontag’s] sick of it. I’m sick of it. But we’re moved by old amateur photographs because they aren’t concerned about theories of photography or what a picture must be. They’re just photographs without rules or dogma.
I was very consciously trying to do the opposite of what Cartier-Bresson was doing. He did pictures without intervening. He was like the invisible camera. I wanted to be visible in the biggest way possible.
I spent six months in New York at that time  and thought I had a book. So I went to publishers here, in New York, and got nowhere. Most of the people who looked at the photographs looked at the work and said “What kind of book is this? You make New York look like a slum.” I said, “Yeah, New York is a slum.” “What kind of New York are you showing me, everything black and awful?” I said, “No, you live on Fifth Avenue and your office is on Madison. You’ve never been to the Bronx, you’ve never been to Queens or Flatbush. This is the real New York.”
Sometimes, I’d take shots without aiming, just to see what happened. I’d rush into crowds—bang! bang! ... It must be close to what a fighter feels after jabbing and circling and getting hit, when suddenly there’s an opening, and bang! Right on the button. It’s a fantastic feeling.
I have always done the opposite of what I was trained to do... Having little technical background, I became a photographer. Adopting a machine, I do my utmost to make it malfunction. For me, to make a photograph is to make an anti-photograph.
My photographs are the fragments of a shapeless cry that tries to say who knows what... What would please me most is to make photographs as incomprehensible as life.
I think there are two kinds of photography—Jewish photography and goyish photography. If you look at modern photography, you will find, on the one hand the Weegees, the Diane Arbuses, the Robert Franks—funky photographs. And then you have the people who go out in the woods. Ansel Adams, Weston. It’s like black and white jazz.
Quite deliberately, I did the opposite to what was usually done. I thought that an absence of framing, chance, use of the accidental and a different relationship with the camera would make it possible to liberate the photographic image. There are some things that only a camera can do. The camera is full of possibilities as yet unexploited. But that is what photography is all about. The camera can surprise us. We must help it do so.
I’ve noticed that in general the Paris of photographers... was romantic, foggy and above all, ethnically homogeneous. But for me, Paris was, as much as and perhaps more than New York, a melting pot. A cosmopolitan city, multicultural and totally multiethnic, whatever Le Pen thinks.
With all these so-called great photographers—Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau—everything is so hunky dory.
I came from the outside, the rules of photography didn't interest me... there were things you could do with a camera that you couldn't do with any other medium... grain, contrast, blur, cock-eyed framing, eliminating or exaggerating grey tones and so on. I thought it would be good to show what's possible, to say that this is as valid of a way of using the camera as conventional approaches.
I'd crop, blur, play with the negatives, I didn't see clean technique being right for New York. I could imagine my pictures lying in the gutter like the New York Daily News.
You look at a contact sheet with a magnifying glass and you see a shot, suddenly it all comes back—that was a nice day, you wanted a walk, your feet were hurting, you felt that you would hit on something.
I saw the book I wanted to do as a tabloid gone berserk, gross, grainy, overinked, with a brutal layout, bull-horn headlines. This is what New York deserved and would get.
I thought New York had it coming, that it needed a kick in the balls. When I returned to New York, I wanted to get even. Now I had a weapon, photography.
I have always loved the amateur side of photography, automatic photographs, accidental photographs with uncentered compositions, heads cut off, whatever. I incite people to make their self-portraits. I see myself as their walking photo booth.
It was a period of incredible excitement for me—coming to terms with myself, with the city I hated and loved, and with photography. Every day for months I was out gathering evidence. I made up the rules as I went along and they suited me fine.
I had neither training nor complexes. By necessity and choice, I decided that anything would have to go. A technique of no taboos: blur, grain, contrast, cock-eyed framing, accidents, whatever happens.
I used the wide-angle lens as a normal lens. I had no philosophy about it. When I looked in the viewfinder and realized I could see all the contradictions and confusion that was there with the wide-angle—that was what was great.