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Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes by Aaron Siskind.

“As soon as I became familiar with the camera, I was intrigued with the possibilities of expression it offered. It was like a discovery for me.” – Aaron Siskind

“The business of making a photograph may be said in simple terms to consist of three elements: the objective world (whose permanent condition is change and disorder), the sheet of paper on which the picture will be realized, and the experience that brings them together.” – Aaron Siskind

“As the saying goes, we see in terms of our education. We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect. And indeed it is socially useful that we agree on the function of objects. But, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that’s your picture.” – Aaron Siskind

“In any art, you don’t know in advance what you want to say – it’s revealed to you as you say it. That’s the difference between art and illustration.” – Aaron Siskind

“I may be wrong, but the essential illustrative nature of most documentary photography, and the worship of the object per se, in our best nature photography, is not enough to satisfy the man of today, compounded as he is of Christ, Freud, and Marx.” – Aaron Siskind

“As the language or vocabulary of photography has been extended, the emphasis of meaning has shifted, shifted from what the world looks like to what we feel about the world and what we want the world to mean.” – Aaron Siskind

“The only nature I’m interested in is my own nature.” – Aaron Siskind

“When I make a photograph, I want it to be an altogether new object, complete and self-contained, whose basic condition is order.” – Aaron Siskind

“First, and emphatically, I accept the flat plane of the picture surface as the primary frame of reference of the picture. The experience itself may be described as one of total absorption in the object. But the object serves only a personal need and the requirements of the picture. Thus, rocks are sculptured forms; a section of common decorated ironwork, springing rhythmic shapes; fragments of paper sticking to a wall, a conversation piece. And these forms, totems, masks, figures, shapes, images must finally take their place in the tonal field of the picture and strictly conform to their space environment. The object has entered the picture in a sense; it has been photographed directly. But it is often unrecognizable; for it has been removed from its original context, disassociated from its customary neighbors and forced into new relationships.” – Aaron Siskind

“What is the subject matter of this apparently very personal world? It has been suggested that these shapes and images are underworld characters, the inhabitants of the vast common realm of memories that have gone down below the level of conscious control. It may be they are. The degree of emotional involvement and the amount of free association with the material being photographed would point in that direction.” – Aaron Siskind

“However, I must stress that my own interest is immediate and in the picture. What I am conscious of and what I feel is the picture I am making, the relation of that picture to others I have made and, more generally, its relation to others I have experienced.” – Aaron Siskind

“To me documentary photography means making a picture so that the viewer doesn’t think about the man who made the picture. At its esthetic core is very old tradition in art: naturalism. And its purpose is to document all facets of social relationships.” – Aaron Siskind

“Producing a photographic document involves preparation in excess. There is first the examination of the idea of the project. Then the visits to the scene, the casual conversations, and more formal interviews – talking, and listening, and looking, looking. … And finally, the pictures themselves, each one planned, talked, taken and examined in terms of the whole.” – Aaron Siskind

“The start of a photograph is from a previous picture. There is no preconception, rather predisposition (which predisposition includes the camera, lenses and the film with me at the time). I will usually return to a familiar place or one that seems familiar. I stand still or move slowly, feeling things like the impulse of shapes, the direction of lines, the quality of surfaces. I frame with my eye (sometimes with my hands) as the ground glass would frame. Nothing that one could reasonably call thinking is taking place al this stage. The condition is total absorption; the decision (a picture) is spontaneous … Ambiguity may be the clue, there is the material. and there am I intruding my private intent. I know the imminence of the world and experience it with full sensuality; at the same time I am involved with projection of myself as idea. Strong tensions are inevitable, pleasurable and disturbing. Is not the aesthetic optimum order with the tensions continuing?” – Aaron Siskind

“Almost inevitably there are tensions in the picture, tensions between the outside world and the inside world. For me, a successful picture resolves these tensions without eliminating them.” – Aaron Siskind

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving, what you have caught of film is captured forever… It remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

“If you look very intensely and slowly things will happen that you never dreamed of before.” – Aaron Siskind

Read more Photographer’s Quotes here.

View more Photographer’s Videos here.


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