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Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the second installment, we share our influences from photography to poetry. I also discuss my fascination with and the influence of quotes.

EM: How long have you collected quotes? You seem to have hundreds if not thousands at your site.

JP: At an early age, I started noticing that most of us use quotes in our daily conversation and even in our internal dialogs. I really want to know what’s influencing my thinking and why. Sometimes we know who to attribute them to, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes they really are unattributable or anonymous. Often we paraphrase them, less frequently we use them precisely. I still marvel at people who can quote paragraphs and even pages, word for word. I haven’t learned that skill. Currently, I’m limited to a few phrases. But that’s OK. I prefer quotes that are short and sweet. Like haiku poetry, short quotes can almost instantaneously create a powerful impression with just a few words. These highly distilled packets are both impactful and memorable.

Often the idea behind the quote is linked with its author. Proper attribution is important. It’s good form to give credit where credit is due. It helps you understand what, when, and why something has been said. It helps you clarify sources, including yourself.

Sometimes these ideas become so common that sources are forgotten and we hear them paraphrased. Have ideas like this been repeated so frequently that they’ve become a part of the fabric of our minds? More recently, I’ve also become interested in how these ideas echo through the ages. Here’s one example. “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” Is this Confucius, The Talmud, or Anais Nin? Do we default to the earliest source? Or are there some ideas that are pan-cultural or even inevitable?

There are so many great books to read that I figure no book is worth reading if I’m not interested in making marks in the margins; one mark indicates a quote I want to be able to retrieve.

I used to collect my favorite quotes in folders filled with photocopies. Now I collect them digitally. Sharing quotes in social networks has further stimulated my activity—it’s interesting to see who reacts to what and how, and even what people don’t react to. You can find more quotes, almost daily, in my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I wish I had a photographic memory. I’d love to remember them all—precisely.

EM: What are some of your favorite quotes?

JP: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” That’s from Marcel Proust.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” — Rumi

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Here’s a link to a fuller set of my favorite quotes.

And here’s a link to a set of your favorite quotes.

Also, here’s a link to sets of other photographer’s favorite quotes.

A Japanese proverb says, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” I think of the quotes we remember as the mental company we keep.

Read more of Part 2 here.

Read Part 1 here.

Read my interview of Eric here.


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