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Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes by photographer Paul Caponigro.

(My father has a lot to say about the creative process!)

“Photography is a medium, a language, through which I might come to experience directly, live more closely with, the interaction between myself and nature.” – Paul Caponigro

“I often see the materials of photography as being a type of terrain. Emulsions, liquid developers, silver salts, and fixers interact, and I construct a landscape that I need to first explore in my mind’s eye if I am to make it manifest as an artful image in silver.” – Paul Caponigro

“Photography’s potential as a great image-maker and communicator is really no different from the same potential in the best poetry where familiar, everyday words, placed within a special context, can soar above the intellect and touch subtle reality in a unique way.” – Paul Caponigro

“The key is to not let the camera, which depicts nature in so much detail, reveal just what the eye picks up, but what the heart picks up as well.” – Paul Caponigro

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro

“Some of my photographs have always been a mystery to me in terms of how I arrived at them. Even with the technical ability to produce fine prints, I am hard put to know how it happens, yet unless technique and materials are seriously investigated and experienced, I see that moving statements are seldom made. The process of photography ever invites me. I hope never to lose this feeling. At times I make photographs for the sheer magic of its process, and the good feeling about the very stuff needed: light, chemical combinations, some imperceptible forces at work behind the scene. I am part of the drama which takes the guise of photography.” – Paul Caponigro

“The influence of mystery is the greatest influence.” – Paul Caponigro

“Keep alive the fact that a mystery has come into existence and that a physical being serves as a house for this mystery.” – Paul Caponigro

“At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light, and emotional stance. One needs to be still enough, observant enough, and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials, to be able to ‘hear through the eyes.” – Paul Caponigro

“… the effort, diligence, and care required in practicing must be quickly suspended when pressure coming from anxiety or a desire for fast results causes them to degenerate.”  – Paul Caponigro

“Under all of the factors that make up the art world, it’s up to the individual artist to discern which of those influences are present and at what time and what really serves the deeper process that is constantly running like a stream underground. Influence is incessant. Influence is a fact. But, carry a big shovel and dig constantly to clear away all the unessentials so that the origins of mystery and the poetic force of life can get into and inspire the work.” – Paul Caponigro

“Photography attracted me before I ever knew that it was a part of a structured world. I saw a camera which my grandmother wielded. I thought it was fascinating. I didn’t know about famous artists and museums and magazines. I innocently met that process. And I excitedly engaged it to the best of my ability. Later, because my excitement was so strong, I realized that this could be a medium through which I could work. Then I had to meet the whole world of photography; manufacturers, materials, hype, galleries, dealers, critics, etc. Somehow I did not lose sight of that initial innocence. I realized that unless I could stay free, unidentified, unless I could keep my personality from going crazy with the adulation or the lack of it I was not going to maintain that innocence. I realized that the innocence was the important state that called forth the inspiration into the process.” – Paul Caponigro

“The only way a work of art can become great is for one to acknowledge that it doesn’t belong to anybody. The greatness is in constantly giving back, coming to an acknowledgment of the source. Look back to the source of any individual, any process, any set of materials. If the individual personality can relinquish its insistence on concepts like “this is mine”, “I did it”, “this is original”, “nobody else has done it”, it goes straight for greatness or the essential spirit.” – Paul Caponigro

“If you are engaging rationality, you are already engaging a place that makes you unavailable. Only when I recognize that inspiration has announced itself to my availability will I then say I need to use my mind to calculate exposure, my emotions to position myself and arrange a configuration of shapes that need to come into being, my body to put it all in place because we have been given a message and it has come through inspiration through being available.’ – Paul Caponigro

“Being available is very important. I’ve spent a lot of time working in the British Isles at so called pre-historic sacred sites. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to go there and force a composition or extract any kind of typicality to make pictures which were expected by the audience within the world of photography. I could have been quite clever and made very pleasing pictures. But I was affected by being available to those sites a few times. When I dropped all those concerns, mentally, emotionally, physically, I was available. I was free in those areas. I didn’t think, “I’ve got to get the ultimate in composition today.” or “I’ve got to get the ultimate in light, I’ll stay here until it appears.” I was not making any demands. I went purely to see what would come, what might be there. I didn’t have to be archaeologist or historian or tourist, I just needed to be available.” – Paul Caponigro

“As far as my experience goes one is automatically in touch with the higher spiritual, it is connected to a certain level that interpenetrates our total physical and psychic existence. We are always in touch with it.” – Paul Caponigro

“Can you keep your balance? Can you see what and where you are at any given moment?” – Paul Caponigro

“I use my music to tune myself.” – Paul Caponigro

“Seek freedom within action.” – Paul Caponigro

“Work incessantly, cultivate discrimination, gather freedom from your own hard-earned results. Disregard successes but go back for help in an immediate problem. The possibility of discovery is everywhere. Freedom from your own work allows for intuition that draws from all your experience and perception but goes beyond it.” – Paul Caponigro

“All that I have achieved are these dreams locked in silver.” – Paul Caponigro

Read more photographer’s quotes here.

View photographer’s favorite quotes here.

Read our father/son conversation here.


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