We can all learn a lot from the photographers who make the classic photographs.
Photographers pick their favorite quotes by other photographers
We can all learn a lot from the photographers who make the classic photographs.
Photographers pick their favorite quotes by other photographers
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Dorothea Lange.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange
“Put your camera around your neck along with putting on your shoes, and there it is, an appendage of the body that shares your life with you.” – Dorothea Lange
“I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck.” – Dorothea Lange
“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it.” – Dorothea Lange
“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.” – Dorothea Lange
“To be good, photographs have to be full of the world.” – Dorothea Lange
“Photographers stop photographing a subject too soon before they have exhausted the possibilities.” – Dorothea Lange
“You know, so often it’s just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swooping out in a cloud of dust: sitting down on the ground with people, letting children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you just let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you are apt to receive it, you know?” – Dorothea Lange
“This benefit of seeing…can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image…the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.” – Dorothea Lange
“It is not a factual photograph per se. The documentary photograph carries with it another thing, a quality in the subject that the artist responds to. It is a photograph which carries the full meaning of the episode or the circumstance or the situation that can only be revealed – because you can’t really recapture it – by this other quality. There is no real warfare between the artist and the documentary photographer. He has to be both.” – Dorothea Lange
“Art is a by-product of an act of total attention.” – Dorothea Lange
“I would like to see photographers become responsible and photography realize its potential.” – Dorothea Lange
“My own approach is based upon three considerations. First – hands off ! Whenever I photograph I do not molest or tamper with or arrange. Second – a sense of place. I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third – a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present.” – Dorothea Lange
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error of confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.” – Dorothea Lange
“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange
“Every image he sees, every photograph he takes, becomes in a sense a self-portrait. The portrait is made more meaningful by intimacy – an intimacy shared not only by the photographer with his subject but by the audience.” – Dorothea Lange
“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion…the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.” – Dorothea Lange
“As photographers, we turn our attention to the familiarities of which we are a part. So turning, we in our work can speak more than of our subject – we can speak with them; we can more than speak about our subjects – we can speak for them. They, given tongue, will be able to speak with and for us. And in this language will be proposed to the lens that with which, in the end, photography must be concerned – time, and place, and the works of man.” – Dorothea Lange
“I’ve never not been sure that I was a photographer any more than you would not be sure you were yourself. I was a photographer, or wanting to be a photographer, or beginning – but some phase of photographer I’ve always been.” – Dorothea Lange
“It came to me that what I had to do was to take pictures and concentrate on people, only people, all kinds of people, people who paid me and people who didn’t.” – Dorothea Lange
“I am trying here to say something about the despised, the defeated, the alienated. About death and disaster, about the wounded, the crippled, the helpless, the rootless, the dislocated. About finality. About the last ditch.” – Dorothea Lange
“The good photograph is not the object, the consequences of the photograph are the objects.” – Dorothea Lange
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Imogene Cunningham.
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I was brought up on art. My father thought I had a great hand at art and sent me to art school. But he did not want me to become a photographer.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I was poor. When you’re poor you work, and when you’re rich you expect somebody to hand it to you. So I think being reasonably poor is very good for people.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I never stopped photographing. There were a couple of years when I didn’t have a darkroom, but that didn’t stop me from photographing.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I photograph anything that can be exposed to light. The reason during the twenties that I photographed plants was that I had three children under the age of four to take care of so I was cooped up. I had a garden available and I photographed them indoors. Later when I was free I did other things.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I wasn’t very ambitious. I think that’s the solution. I just took things as they came. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have any problem, but I didn’t care. I didn’t think I was going to save the world by doing photography as some of these people do. I was just having a good time doing it, and so I still had a good time no matter what I had to photograph.” – Imogen Cunningham
“One must be able to gain an understanding at short notice and close range of the beauties of character, intellect, and spirit so as to be able to draw out the best qualities and make them show in the outer aspect of the sitter. To do this one must not have a too pronounced notion of what constitutes beauty in the external and, above all, must not worship it. To worship beauty for its own sake is narrow, and one surely cannot derive from it that esthetic pleasure which comes from finding beauty in the commonest things.” – Imogen Cunningham
“A woman said to me when she first sat down, You’re photographing the wrong side of my face. I said, Oh, is there one?” – Imogen Cunningham
“So many people dislike themselves so thoroughly that they never see any reproduction of themselves that suits. None of us is born with the right face. It’s a tough job being a portrait photographer. – Imogen Cunningham
“The thing that’s fascinating about portraiture is that nobody is alike.” – Imogen Cunningham
“I’m never satisfied staying in one spot very long, I couldn’t stay with the mountains and I couldn’t stay with the trees and I couldn’t stay with the rivers. But I can always stay with people, because they really are different. ” – Imogen Cunningham
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as teaching people photography, other than influencing them a little. People have to be their own learners. They have to have a certain talent.” – Imogen Cunningham
“There are too many people studying it (photography) now who are never going to make it. You can’t give them a formula for making it. You have to have it in you first, you don’t learn it. The seeing eye is the important thing.” – Imogen Cunningham
“The formula for doing a good job in photography is to think like a poet.
“You know, a documentary is only interesting once in a while. If you look at a whole book of Dorothea [Lange]’s where she has row after row of people bending over and digging out carrots – that can be very tedious. And so it’s only once in a while that something happens that is worth doing.” – Imogen Cunningham
“Everybody who does anything for the public can be criticized. There’s always someone who doesn’t like it.” – Imogen Cunningham
“Once a woman who does street work said to me, ‘I’ve never photographed anyone I haven’t asked first.’ I said to her, ‘Suppose Cartier-Bresson asked the man who jumped the puddle to do it again – it never would have been the same. Start stealing!’ – Imogen Cunningham
“I don’t talk about success. I don’t know what it is. Wait until I’m dead.” – Imogen Cunningham
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Lauren Greenfield.
“When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.” – Lauren Greenfield
“I’m also looking for the psychological elements that fuel commodity culture. For example, if we imbue girls with deep insecurity about their bodies through images of an impossible ideal, we create a really vulnerable and avid consumer. If somebody feels that they’re not OK without a certain product, you have a very deep and loyal market that will come back to the product again and again. Sometimes, this process is both rational and irrational.” – Lauren Greenfield
“You have these relationships with people that you care about, but I also try to stick to my job as filmmaker and be fair and truthful about what I saw and my experience of the people, hopefully informed by a deep understanding of them.” – Lauren Greenfield
“I’ve also been documenting an unsustainable way of life. And you see in peoples’ stories that this world of consumerism does not support the moral and spiritual values – of family and community – that people feel are most important. From an environmental perspective, the quest for more and more is not going to be possible on this planet. This is a historical documentation of an unsustainable path, and my hope is that this work allows people to think about their own agency and the potential for change.” – Lauren Greenfield
“Race is a huge factor when it comes to income and social inequality, and it plays a role in the structural barriers you are talking about. But when you’re in the upper echelon of the 1 percent – even though it’s certainly a more white demographic overall – there are fewer barriers.” – Lauren Greenfield
“Hip-hop has been so important in my work, because it speaks to the idea of money being tied to cultural capital in an honest and transparent way. When I was growing up in LA, money was equivalent to class, and it was a passport. Hip-hop emphasizes that, but Hollywood and show business bear it out. If you have money, there really is no barrier to social mobility. There are still social clubs in Newport where you can’t get in even if you have money, but that is really rare.” – Lauren Greenfield
“These days, the media is defining what cultural capital is, and it’s easily learned. If you have money, anything can be bought. We see this in China and Russia with what I call the “Bling Dynasty and New Oligarchy” in Generation Wealth. As people got rich and everybody started buying Louis Vuitton bags, it became clear that to distinguish yourself you had to have more than an expensive bag. People began to want the things that money is not supposed to be able to buy – history, tradition, education, and culture.” – Lauren Greenfield
“I’m constantly trying to deconstruct what I see and to show its beauty and its attraction. I use bright colors and strobes to get that full reflection. I want to acknowledge and reference the attraction of wealth. But I’m also looking for the layer that reveals how wealth doesn’t fulfill its promise.” – Lauren Greenfield
“The people in the popular group say there is no peer pressure because they are at the top of the food chain. Really what they are doing is just eating away at everybody else.” – Lauren Greenfield
“What I’m documenting can be hard to distill, because it’s all around us like the air we breathe. I often need to go to a place where I can capture extreme moments.” – Lauren Greenfield
“I’ve often used the extremes in my work to comment on the mainstream. I think that sometimes a subject that I’m working on, like popular culture, is so present all around us that they’re hard to see. It’s like: How do you see the air you breathe? How do you see how it affects you?” – Lauren Greenfield
“I’ve long been interested in looking at the culture of consumerism and also was interested in this connection between the American dream and the house, and the house being kind of the ultimate expression of self and success.” – Lauren Greenfield
“The 1970s were the height of social mobility. College was accessible. My grandfather was a poor immigrant who went to a public school in Ohio, and my father went to Harvard. That wasn’t unusual. There was a feeling that anything was possible and you didn’t have to be born into money to have a successful life. Now, people don’t believe in the idea that anything is possible. We have more inequality than we’ve had ever before and a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.” – Lauren Greenfield
“During the Reagan eighties, the idea that money was a good thing – it was good to be rich; that wealth was a reflection of your character. We see this today in perceptions of Donald Trump: the idea that money is an expression of success and even goodness. I compare that with my dad’s generation, where the American Dream was about giving your kids a better life, but not just in material terms. The American Dream was also about doing something good in the world. The home was at the center of the dream, but home also represented community, shelter, and stability for your family.” – Lauren Greenfield
Visit Lauren Greenfield’s website here.
Read 18 great quotes by Lauren Greenfield.
View this documentary on Lauren Greenfield.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Pete Turner.
“If photography has developed a special language it should be welcomed as an extension of our senses and seen for what it is – the first faulting steps of an infant medium towards maturity.” – Pete Turner
“It has been said a thousand times that photography is a universal language. To accept this notion is to ignore the fact that its meanings cannot be translated in anything other than a woolly and imprecise manner.” – Pete Turner
“What have I done wrong?” -he said later.” Nothing, I think. I am steadily surprised that there are so many photographers that reject manipulating reality, as if that was wrong. Change reality! If you don’t find it, invent it!” – Pete Turner
“Looking at photographs, like taking them, can be joyful, sensuous pleasure. Looking at photographs of quality can only increase that pleasure.” – Pete Turner
“Color takes my work into another dimension. It’s the way I see. I’ve always been drawn to the colors of nature, and nature is a wonderful teacher.” – Pete Turner
“Ultimately, simplicity is the goal – in every art, and achieving simplicity is one of the hardest things to do. Yet it’s easily the most essential.” – Pete Turner
“A photographers work is given shape and style by his personal vision. It is not simply technique, but the way he looks at life and the world around him.” – Pete Turner
Find out more about Pete Turner here.
Explore 12 Great Photographs By Great Photographers
Explore The Essential Collection Of Quotes By Photographers.
Explore The Essential Collection Of Documentaries On Photographers.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer David DuChemin.
“The cliché comes not in what you shoot but in how you shoot it.” – David DuChemin
“Learning to see is not about having open eyes; it’s about having an open mind.” – David DuChemin
“The more curious we are the more creative we become.” – David DuChemin
“Creativity is about two things; the way we think, and the way we turn those thoughts into reality.” – David DuChemin
“It is we show put the humanity, the vision, and the poetry into our photographs.” – David DuChemin
“When we look at our photographs and find not the slightest reflection of ourselves, it is a good sign that our images have lost their souls.” – David DuChemin
“The idea of authenticity carries such value because we know how difficult it is to be fully ourselves.” – David DuChemin
“Anyone can take a picture of poverty; it’s easy to focus on the dirt and hurt of the poor. It’s much harder—and much more needful—to pry under that dirt and reveal the beauty and dignity of people that, but for their birth into a place and circumstance different from our own, are just like ourselves. I want my images to tell the story of those people and to move us beyond pity to justice and mercy.” – David DuChemin
“A representational photograph says, ‘This is what Vienna looked like.’ An interpretational photograph goes one better and says, ‘This is what Vienna was like. This is how I felt about it.” – David DuChemin
“‘What is it about?’ is not the same as ‘What happened?’” – David DuChemin
“It’s the difference between your wife’s passport photograph and the portraits you took when you got engaged. Both may have been created with similar technology, but what stands in that great gulf between them are the passion you have for your wife, the knowledge you have of her personality, and your willingness to use your craft, time, and energy to express that. One says, “She looks like this.” The other says, “This is who she is to me. It’s how I feel about her. See how amazing she is.” – David DuChemin
“Perfection is overrate, and not to be confused with mastery.” – David DuChemin
“Photographers, like few other kinds of artists I can imagine, have an insanely personal relationship with their gear.” – David DuChemin
“Knowing failure is part of our process, and leads to new ideas, stronger work, and more honest questions, liberates us to peer, a little less frightened, into the unknown.” – David DuChemin
“You yourself are unique–you have ways of seeing your world that are unlike those of anyone else–so find ways to more faithfully express that, and your style will emerge.” – David DuChemin
“The real failure is to rob this world of the contribution only you can make, and to fail to make work that truly gives you that ‘this is what I was created to do’ feeling that has no equal.” – David DuChemin
“I will never reach the end of this journey. I’ll never arrive at a point where others have nothing to teach me.” – David DuChemin
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Charles Sheeler.
“I have come to value photography more and more for those things which it alone can accomplish rather than to discredit it for the things which it alone can accomplish rather than to discredit it for the thing which can only be achieved through another medium.” – Charles Sheeler
“Photography is nature seen from the eyes outward, painting from the eyes inward. Photography records inalterably the single image, while painting records a plurality of images willfully directed by the artist.” – Charles Sheeler
“My interest in photography, paralleling that in painting, has been based on admiration for its possibility of accounting for the visual world with an exactitude not equaled by any other medium. The difference in the manner of arrival at their destination—the painting being a result of composite image and the photograph being a result of a single image—prevents these media from being competitive.” – Charles Sheeler
“I favor a picture which arrives at its destination without the evidence of a trying journey rather than one which shows the marks of battle.” – Charles Sheeler
“I just don’t want to see any more than is absolutely necessary of the materials, physical material that goes into a picture.” – Charles Steeler
“Every age manifests itself by some external evidence. In a period such as ours when only a comparatively few individuals seem to be given to religion, some form other than the Gothic cathedral must be found. Industry concerns the greatest numbers-it may be true, as has been said, that our factories are our substitute for religious expression.” – Charles Sheeler
“You don’t build the house first and then make a blueprint after wards.” – Charles Steeler
“When we look at the next thing in sequence to the first object that we have gazed at, there’s still an overtone carried over of what the retina has just previously recorded.” – Charles Steeler
“There’s a large element of symbolism in O’Keeffe’s work, as you can readily see, and none whatever in mine. It’s purely a visual thing, and what you see is what you intend to see and no overtones of symbolism.” – Charles Steeler
“Photography is only visual, thank God! The lens is an unpsychological piece of glass whether formulated by Zeiss or Bausch and Lomb or whomever.” – Charles Sheeler
“When one goes back to our early photography whose mechanics was extremely simple and from our modern point of view often crude, it’s easy to see that the present immense elaboration of means isn’t very important.” – Charles Sheeler
“I feel that when photography became in general use I felt that it eliminated the points of those paintings which were immediately preceding photography. I don’t know of anything they added. In fact, I think photography in the same vein added a lot more than those paintings.” – Charles Steeler
“Isn’t it amazing how photography has advanced without improving.” – Charles Sheeler
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.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Duane Michals.
“Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’; And then do it.” – Duane Michals
“Don’t try to be an artist. Find the thing within you that needs to be expressed. You might find it is art.” – Duane Michals
“I am an expressionist and by that I mean that I’m not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs.” – Duane Michals
“People believe in the reality of photographs, but not in the reality of paintings. That gives photographers an enormous advantage. Unfortunately, photographers also believe in the reality of photographs.” – Duane Michals
“Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.” – Duane Michals
“I never photograph sunsets and I never photograph moonrises. I’m not interested in what things look like.” – Duane Michals
“You can never capture a person in picture, never. You might get an interesting expression or gesture. I almost never research a picture subject ahead of time. I think Karsh is full of baloney. Can you imagine spending a whole week out in La Jolla with Jonas Salk soaking up his ambiance, then wind up making him look as if he’s in the studio in Ottawa with his thumb under his chin?” – Duane Michals
“Because of my involvement with my photographs, it is difficult for me really to see them objectively. Talking about them is like talking about myself. The only real idea that I have about them is that they are essentially snapshots. For snapshots, I feel, often have an inherent simplicity and directness that I find beautiful. The roots of my photographs are in this tradition.” – Duane Michals
“However, I think that the photographer must completely control his picture and bring to it all his personality, and in this area most photographs never transcend being just snapshots. When a great photographer does infuse the snapshot with his personality and vision, it can be transformed into something truly moving and beautiful.” – Duane Michals
“The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at . . .. We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong . . .. That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring–just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience–grief, loneliness–how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.” – Duane Michals
“I write in order to express what the photo itself cannot say. A photograph of my father doesn’t tell me what I thought of him, which for me is much more important than what the man looked like.” – Duane Michals
“Photography does deal with ‘truth’ or a kind of superficial reality better than any of the other arts, but it never questions the nature of reality – it simply reproduces reality. And what good is that when the things of real value in life are invisible?” – Duane Michals
“I believe in the invisible. I do not believe in the definitive reality of things around us. For me, reality is the intuition and the imagination and the quiet voice inside my head that says: isn’t that extraordinary? The things in our lives are the shadows of reality, just as we ourselves are shadows.” – Duane Michals
“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?” – Duane Michals
“I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see.” – Duane Michals
“Photography is essentially an act of recognition by street photographers, not an act of invention. Photographers might respond to an old man’s face, or an Arbus freak, or the way light hits a building—and then they move on. Whereas in all the other art forms, take William Blake, everything that came to that paper never existed before. It’s the idea of alchemy, of making something from nothing.” – Duane Michals
“I use photography to help me explain my experiences to myself.” – Duane Michals
“I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways.” – Duane Michals
“I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.” – Duane Michals
“All good work has magic in it, and addresses the mind in a subtle way.” – Duane Michals
“Art is really whispering, not shouting.” – Duane Michals
“My gift to you is that I am different.” – Duane Michals
View 12 Great Photographs By Duane Michals.
Watch Duane Michals talk about his art.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Chris Rainier.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Chris Rainier.
“I am a storyteller who uses a camera.” – Chris Rainier
“I always knew that I wanted to be involved in seeing and understanding from seeing around the world. Photography is a perfect way to do that.” – Chris Rainier
“We need to take a moment now and then to trade stories about what it really means to be a human being.”
“I am South African by birth, but because of my father’s job, our family traveled a lot. While living in places like Africa and Australia, we visited indigenous peoples. From the beginning, I carried a camera to document the beauty and wonder of these far-flung countries. I also realized many of these cultures were faced with issues I could not ignore. I understood at a very early age, things were not like they were represented in travel magazines.” – Chris Rainier
“Working with Ansel (Adams), what happened there for me was, “Oh, I could use photography as a social tool.” His use of photography for environmental issues was phenomenal.” – Chris Rainier
“We consider biological diversity of these different flora and fauna crucial to our survival, but don’t think about intellectual diversity — in fact, we kind of look at it in a global market level, wouldn’t it be great to have one language? Well, if all we’re doing is communicating about commerce, perfect. But what about diversity that comes up in a language. Each language has its own unique way of looking at things.”
“We are at a crucial crossroads of human history. We are losing traditional cultures with their ancient ways of life and spiritual beliefs at catastrophic rates … With my photography of the First Peoples of our fragile planet, I hope to show spiritual traditions from our past in the present, and become part of the process in some small way of helping prefer life for future generations. I believe photography plays a crucial role in helping sustain and revitalize cultures on the edge.” – Chris Rainier
“With my photographs, I hope to show the past in the present and become part of the process of pressuring life for the future. As our television sets carry us boldly about the world, and as the chainsaws fell the last trees that hide the lost peoples, we lose an essential mystery, and with it, the wisdom which may lie there. If we would be citizens of that world, then we must do all we can to ensure the survival of that world. As only one form of life on Earth, we must keep our humility and finally honor life itself. Once the fragile umbilical cord to our primal past has been severed, we will find ourselves truly alone, without purpose, adrift in a vast space with nowhere to go.” – Chris Rainier
“What would happen if you gave a camera to the Afghan girl in Steve McCurry’s iconic photo? How different would those photographs be? Not to replace the Steve McCurry’s, but rather to create another chair at the table of the dialogue of what it means to be human. It’s not an either/or. It’s not a good or a bad. It just simply is.There are voices out there that have incredible vision, and we aren’t accessing them enough.” – Chris Rainier
“There’s so many cultures that are still now not connected and are getting left behind in the digital divide. More and more, this is a world where you don’t exist unless you’re online, and you don’t have access to information to education to empowerment, to women’s issues, to job opportunities, unless you’re connected.” – Chris Rainier
“I have come to realize that the further I evolve as a photographer, regardless of where I point my camera, I am taking a self-portrait — a reflection of my own story, my own beliefs, my own point of view. Nothing more. Nor do I presume that where I point my camera and take a picture is a reflection of the absolute truth. There is no such thing as an absolute truth. All images merely reflect the emotion of the photographer and the opinion of the reviewer. As it is stated in photography, there always exists two individuals in every image, the artist and the observer, and their sets of beliefs and cultural biases.” – Chris Rainier
“We’re always told to be objective. Well there is no such thing as objective. There is no such thing. We all have an opinion. As visual storytellers we must form opinions therefore things become subjective and the more intense they become they become extraordinarily subjective. I think the powerful images in documentary and photojournalism, if not in other areas of our field, are the ones where people have taken a stance and made a subjective opinion.” – Chris Rainier
“It’s presumptuous of me to document this culture and call it a documentation. It isn’t a documentation, it is an interpretation of their culture.” – Chris Rainier
“I’m also really trying to be careful not to deal with stereotypes. I was most concerned that I didn’t perpetuate the myth about the savage cannibal. In part that’s why I didn’t go in the direction of National Geographic. They have a colonial approach to the exotic. I didn’t want to get into that. I wanted to try to be as honest about a culture as possible, which is never entirely possible, we always have our own cultural bias.” – Chris Rainier
“I couldn’t get a straight answer when I was with the indigenous people. So I came back, read about it, and went back again and again. The wrong thing that happens, in my mind, is that you’re so prepped on western scientific explanations for things that you’ll miss the point completely.” – Chris Rainier
“What I’ve learned along the way is you have to ask the right question to get the right answer. Often as westerners we go in asking western questions and maybe that’s not the question to be asked. You need to be asking the question in a New Guinea sense. In a sense of the relevancy of their culture not the relevancy of what we think it is. There’s a big difference.” – Chris Rainier
“What’s going on in contemporary anthropology, trying to empower indigenous people to tell their own stories and get a more accurate story to tell other cultures.” – Chris Rainier
“The minute an indigenous culture becomes aware of its value to other cultures it shifts its tone and its perspective.” – Chris Rainier
“There are many examples of where they’re being overrun. But there’s power in information and there are enough organizations like Cultural Survival, Conservation International, Shaman Pharmaceutical. Shaman Pharmaceutical is actually going into the forest and documenting what the shamans are using but they are also linking up the shamans so they can talk to each other. So there are shamans in Borneo talking to shamans in the Amazon, ‘Hey what kind of leaves do you use?’ I think technology is being used in a constructive way to help people preserve their cultures.” – Chris Rainier
“They’re going to be able to hold onto their land and cultural beliefs. You take them out of that context and they’ve lost their roots, they have lost their sense of being nourished. That’s exactly what we’ve lost.” – Chris Rainier
“There are may be questions that we should never find the answers to. You know, in a world that quantifies everything. And this is what I wrote about in one of those essays in the New Guinea book. I hiked through this valley for a couple of weeks, and went through this valley of leeches, and got to the edge of this community, and this valley where this community lived, and the warriors met me – they knew that I was coming – and they said, ‘No. We are not going to let you in. We’re not allowed to let you in.’ I was upset. I was frustrated. I had spent all that time and energy and money to get there. And then after a day or so of spending time on the outer perimeter of this valley with the warriors who were very kind to show me around on the fringes, I got it. It’s good to know that there are places that are untouched, unmapped, not understood, and not quantified because then it still allows us to have the concept of the mystery of life. Once science takes over it quantifies everything, then we’re done for.” – Chris Rainier
“How do you put a value on art? How do you put a value on a little kid who comes wandering through here, and has a shift in his perspective, and is profoundly affected, and becomes the next Picasso or the next President of the United States. It’s these things you can’t put quantitative values on. You can’t do that with art, you can’t do that with indigenous cultures. It’s my belief that it is indigenous cultures that still have family values and a sense of connection between them, the land, and the spiritual connection of all things. That is the greatest gift they can give to us. There are some gifts that we can give to them – certainly medicine and technology to preserve their culture, video or email or the internet. What they need to give to us is a sense of what we have already lost. I think they are really our last chance to reconnect. I think people are appreciating these kind of cultures more and more because they see the differences – what we don’t have and what they do.” – Chris Rainier
“I’d like to touch upon that thing that completes the circle. That’s the documentation of some of these emotional social issues in the world and how it’s for me an important necessity, as much as doing sacred places. It is the yin and yang, the extreme corners of human experience from the Garden of Eden, still left on the planet, to the Dante’s Inferno of places like Sarajevo, Rwanda, or Chechnya for here lies the mysteries of man’s inner light as well as his inner darkness. This truly makes this work complete. As a photographer I’m curious to go into these extreme corners and put them on film.” – Chris Rainier
“I’m trying to create that sense of the spiritual reason why these places or these masks exist.” – Chris Rainier
Read my conversation with Chris Rainier.
View 12 Great Photographs By Chris Rainier.
Watch Chris Rainier’s TED talk.
Visit Chris Rainier’s website.