Photography is a
system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion
of one's cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time. Like chess,
or writing, it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of
photography the number of possibilities is not finite but infinite.
Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most
commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing; light is everything.
Of course, there will always be those who look only at technicque,
who ask "how," while others of a more curious nature will ask "why."
Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.
No matter how slow the film, spirit always stands still long
enough for the photographer it has chosen.
The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far
from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.
Many pictures turn out to be limp translations of the known world
instead of vital objects which create an intrinsic world of their own. There is a vast
difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.
To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties
converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image
becomes a great physical
and intellectual joy.
-Henri Cartier Bresson
The photograph isolates and perpetuates a moment of time: an
important and revealing moment, or an unimportant and meaningless one, depending upon the
photographer's understanding of his subject and mastery of his process.
If you are not passionately devoted to an idea, you can make very
pleasant pictures but they won't make you cry.
Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a
painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in
contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant
document, a pene- trating statement, which can be described in a very simple term -
While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell
us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to
us how little our eyes permit us to see.
"There is no art which affords less opportunity to execute
expression than photography. Everything is concentrated in a few seconds, when after
perhaps an hours seeking, waiting, and hesitation, the photographer sees the realization
of his inward vision, and in that moment he has one advantage over
most arts - his medium is swift enough to record his momentary inspiration.
Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects
that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are
experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive
The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by
the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is
bored by repetition.
-W. H. Auden
The two most engaging powers of [a photographer] are to make new
things familiar and familiar things new.
The meaning of quality in photography's best pictures lies written
in the language of vision. That language is learned by chance, not system.
What I feel is that the picture-taking process, anyway a greater
part of it, is an intuitive thing. You can't go out and logically plan a picture, but when
you come back, reason then takes over and verifies or rejects whatever you've done. So
that's why I say that reason and intuition are not in conflict--they strengthen each
When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns,
there can be no freshness of vision.
Pictures are wasted unless the motive power which impelled you to
action is strong and stirring.
Anything more than 500 yds from the car just isn't photogenic.
Searching is everything - going beyond what you know. And the test
of the search is really in the things themselves, the things you seek to understand. What
is important is not what you think about them, but how they enlarge you.
The world is going to pieces and people like Adams and Weston are
(during the 1930's)
Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is
work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it may be.