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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Sean Kernan.

“Somehow the pictures that work out just the way I wanted them to are the ones I lose interest in soonest. The expectation has become the limit. And I think that the way to take something beyond your own expectations is to leave what you see unnamed and beyond concept for as long as you can. I want to work as far beyond what I know as I can get, and the gate to that beyond lies exactly between seeing and naming.” – Sean Kernan

“I have to say that what is revealed to me lies beyond any ideas I had for the pictures.” – Sean Kernan

“I think that I began by wanting to see what kind of pictures this intense way of working might produce, and honestly I didn’t have any idea beyond that. There was no planned outcome, none of what I recently heard a composer call “The Fallacy of Intention.” – Sean Kernan

“The benefits of chance are enormous, but you have to watch out for them too. Chance gets me beyond whatever I had in mind when I started to work. It comes into play when I let things happen and then chase alongside them and grasp them on the fly. It’s like two acrobats, one of whom doesn’t know that he’s an acrobat. But the artist is responsible to what chance gives him, and just setting it down without taking it in and manifesting it again in the heuristic process is not enough. Maybe it’s that chance is happening all the damn time, and it’s the artist’s intentional work with it that strains artworks out of the soup.” – Sean Kernan

“I’d love to say something more intelligent about this, but I don’t know that the process had much intelligence in it.” – Sean Kernan

“I’m inclining toward the idea that the working process of art is a lot more thoughtless than I once imagined – thoughtless but not stupid.” – Sean Kernan

The process is in the elimination of conceptions and cleansing the mind, then in claiming the awareness and manifesting it in a work.” – Sean Kernan

“So you want to float in that space of awareness as long as you can, keeping all possibilities alive so they can become clearer, then you pull down one that is BOTH unexpected and makes perfect sense.” – Sean Kernan

“It is the unexpectedness of the image that wakes us up so we really see something, and the rightness of the image that affirms what we have seen in the mind’s eye.” – Sean Kernan

“So if every thing looks right and it still feels wrong, or lacks resonance, or if it refers mainly to other photography and not to seeing, to awareness itself, you should sniff elsewhere.

“The first question I tell students to ask in the first critique of a class is not is the work good, but is it alive ?” – Sean Kernan

“You can see it in a great actors work – look at De Niro, or Streep, or Arkin. They can just stare into the air and you’ll sit and watch them, watch their intensity. And I realized that some of the best photographers I know have that same kind of intensity. It shows in their work. Their intense staring generates its own power, and we respond by staring with them.” – Sean Kernan

“I have a real appreciation these days for work that abrades me into awareness.” – Sean Kernan

Learn more about Sean Kernan here.

View 12 Great Photographs By Sean Kernan here.

Read our Quick Q&A here.

Read our Conversation here.

View video by Sean Kernan here.

View 12 Photographs Celebrated By Sean Kernan here.

Read more Great Quotes By Photographers here.

 

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Sean Kernan’s The Secret Books

Sean Kernan makes insightful comments on twelve photographs.

“At this point I most respond to things that stir me to a kind of seeing that I didn’t think I could do. They make me want to try, even though I have no idea where or how to begin. This group contains work from major artists and workshop students, proving that anyone can break through.” – Sean Kernan

Anselm Keifer

Anselm Keifer. I love this artist’s work, and in particular his books, of which this is one. The distressing of the photographic image and its inclusion in a book makes me think it’s a history of the end of the world…that has been left out in the atomic rain.

Arno Minkinnen

Arno Minkinnen. Arno’s “subject” has been his body for so long that he has found the deepest caves of the mind. They are not only what he thinks but of what they make me think. In this case I see some Finnish shamanistic ritual that takes place at the threshold of life/death, with passage going either way.

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus. This seems to sum up all the mystery of her seeing. The more you think and say about this image, the further afield you drift. Just look at it and shut up.

Duane Michals

Duane Michals. So often we look at a photograph. Here we start to read it and realize that we are being drawn in as a player, as a subject of the…picture. And so is anyone else who looks at it. Fantastic!

Irving Penn

Irving Penn. This photo knocked me out when I saw it. It is not documentary. Instead Penn has bridged the world of the highland Quechuan Indians of Peru and the formality of Brozino, the great Rennaisance portraitist.

Larry Clark

Larry Clark. Photographers love to visit other worlds (see Penn, above), but Larry lived in the drug world and he had a camera. Tough, tough pictures. To learn more, read Dennis Johnson’s book, Jesus’ Son.

MichelleElloway

Michelle Elloway. This picture started as a workshop assignment to photograph a place where something had happened. I said nothing about writing down what it was that had happened, but the photographer blew the class away by writing the results of the event, turning the whole thing into a chilling Shirley-Jackson moment. (If you don’t know Shirley Jackson, read The Lottery.

Ralph Gibson

Ralph Gibson. Ralph’s work is sui generis, very simple, graphic and pregnant. This photo isn’t really like that, thanks to that wavering curtain, I think.

Rebecca biddle Mossman

Rebecca Biddle Mossman. I love pictures that get beyond thinking. I am sure that the photographer just started off the situation, then saw something and pushed it, then just let it happen. (That’s my guess.) It’s the best way of working, and it leads to photos that you can’t believe you took.

Saul leiter 1

Saul Leiter. I’m giving him three, because he is new to me and because he has a freedom that I wish I had! The first is just saucy, impudent, sexy and innocent. I look at this woman and I just want to give her a shirt and take her out for coffee. She’s young in the picture, but I’d still love to meet her and say “So, tell me about your life.”
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s better to just suspend in the moment.

Saul Leiter 2

Saul Leiter. The second Leiter is just…ah…like watching a juggler make a perfect catch from completely off center.

Saul Leiter 3

Saul Leiter. The third Leiter brings together three entirely different kind of images and resolves them while somehow leaving them intact.

Learn more about Sean Kernan here.

View 12 Great Photographs By Sean Kernan here.

Read our Quick Q&A here.

Read our Conversation here.

View video by Sean Kernan here.

View more Photographers Celebrate Photography here.

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Enjoy this collection of photographs by Sean Kernan.

Read more in our conversation here.

View 12 Great Photographs Collections here.

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers’ Quotes.

View more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers Videos.

Find out more about Sean Kernan here.

“Sean Kernan shares exciting exercises to help you tap into your well of creativity as a photographer.”

View my video conversation with Sean Kernan here.

Read another conversation with Sean Kernan here.

Learn more about Sean Kernan here.

Learn more about Sean Kernan here.

Find his book Looking Into The Light here.

View my video conversation with Sean Kernan here.

Read my conversation with Sean Kernan here.

Read 20 Questions with Sean Kernan here.

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“Years ago I stumbled on what felt like a secret door into creativity in photography. The secret is that photographers don’t need to hope that creativity will turn up. It’s there in us. Creativity is not something we do, it’s something we are…all the time.” says Kernan.

Sean Kernan has spent more than 30 years investigating ways that photographers find and use creativity. And all that insight now fills a workshop-in-a-book, Looking into the Light: Creativity and Photography, now available as an iBook.

Kernan’s book offers ways to get to that creativity for photographers at every level, bright beginner to jaded professional. It looks past cameras and technique to focus on our awareness. “We work on our awareness of all the things that happen before the click, which I’m convinced is where the wonder of our best seeing comes from.”

The book gives a series of concrete assignments that stimulate the visual imagination and change our pictures. The sign that they’re working is when we get a hit of the excitement we felt the first time we took a photograph that was way beyond anything we thought we could do.

The exercises are gathered from many areas—music, theater, writing—and they all involve simple things we already know how to do. We can use them to make better photos, or just to see more deeply into what is around us. The goal is to make pictures that talk to the world, not just to other photographers. As Jay Maisel put it, “You want to take more interesting pictures? Be a more interesting person!”

Looking into the Light illustrates the exercises with work from a distinguished group that includes John Paul Caponigro, Greg Heisler, Cig Harvey, Jay Gould, Dennis Darling, Adam Arkin, poet Gregory Orr, Ed Young, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Sol LeWitt, William Kentridge, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. There’s an iconoclastic essay on portraits by Duane Michals and links to interviews with Duane and Robert Frank.

To support reader’s efforts, the author has created a companion website at www.lookingintothelight.com, where readers can find further articles, watch instructive videos, and upload and share their own work on the assignments.”

Read 20 Questions with Sean Kernan here.


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