You’re sure to find many insights in this collection of quotes by photographer James Nachtwey.
“There is a job to be done…to record the truth. I want to wake people up!” – James Nachtwey
“When the truth is spoken, it doesn’t need to be adorned. It just needs to be simply stated, and often it only needs to be said once.” – James Nachtwey
“I try to use whatever I know about photography to be of service to the people I’m photographing.” – James Nachtwey
“The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for me to believe otherwise.” – James Nachtwey
“I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can. The act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person’s predicament. The extend to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself.” – James Nachtwey
“I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” – James Nachtwey
“I want my pictures to cut through political abstractions… and make a connection on a human level.” – James Nachtwey
“I want to record history through the destiny of individuals who often belong to the least wealthy classes. I do not want to show war in general, nor history with a capital H, but rather the tragedy of a single man, of a family.” – James Nachtwey
“Photojournalists know the horrors of war can only be exposed at close range. Kodak Film.” – James Nachtwey
“For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war and if it is used well it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.” – James Nachtwey
“I used to call myself a war photographer. Now I consider myself as an antiwar photographer.” – James Nachtwey
“I want to record history through the destiny of individuals who often belong to the least wealty classes. I do not want to show war in general, nor history with a capital H, but rather the tragedy of a single man, of a family.” – James Nachtwey
“I want my work to become part of our visual history, to enter our collective memory and our collective conscience. I hope it will serve to remind us that history’s deepest tragedies concern not the great protagonists who set events in motion but the countless ordinary people who are caught up in those events and torn apart by their remorseless fury. I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” – James Nachtwey
“The greatest statesmen, philosophers, humanitarians … have not been able to put an end to war. Why place that demand on photography?” – James Nachtwey
“Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.” – James Nachtwey
“But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there – to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on – to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference – to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest.” – James Nachtwey
“If there is something occurring that is so bad that it could be considered a crime against humanity, it has to be transmitted with anguish, with pain, and create an impact in people – upset them, shake them up, wake them out of their everyday routine.” – James Nachtwey
“I don’t believe there’s any such thing as objective reality. It’s only reality as we experience it.” – James Nachtwey
“If I’m feeling outraged, grief, disbelief, frustration, sympathy, that gets channeled through me and into my pictures and hopefully transmitted to the viewer.” – James Nachtwey
“None of the editors I’ve worked with have ever asked me to pull my punches. They’ve never asked me to give them anything other than my own interpretation of events.” – James Nachtwey
“I don’t think tragic situations are necessarily devoid of beauty.” – James Nachtwey
“It is very hard to say where you’re going until you get there. That kind of thing is based very much on instinct. As a photographer, one of the most important lessons I have learnt is that you have to learn to listen to and trust your own instinct. It has helped to guide me – this far at least.” – James Nachtwey
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Master photographer Richard Misrach discusses his photography.
Read quotes by Richard Misrach.
View 12 Great Photographs By Richard Misrach.
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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Fredrick Sommer.
“The only way to understand something is to be confronted by something that is difficult to understand.” – Frederick Sommer
“Everything is shared by everything else; there are no discontinuities.” – Frederick Sommer
“The coherent way of investigating any field is to examine its possible relatedness to other things.” – Frederick Sommer
“Photography is a distributive act leading to a privileged condition.” – Frederick Sommer” – Fred Sommer
“Life itself is not the reality. We are the ones who put life into stones and pebbles.” – Frederick Sommer
“Some speak of a return to nature. I wonder where they could have been.” – Frederick Sommer
“… art is images you carry. You cannot carry nature with you, but you carry images of nature. When you go out to make a picture you find you are moved by something which is in agreement with an image you already held within yourself.” – Frederick Sommer
“The field of action of a photograph should be that chessboard of the heart and mind upon which poetry and art have always operated.” – Frederick Sommer
“My photographs are not pure: they are a seething wealth of imperfection.” – Frederick Sommer
“Poetic and speculative photographs can result if one works carefully and accurately, yet letting chance relationships have full play.” – Frederick Sommer
“If I could find them (assemblages) in nature I would photograph them. I make them because through photography I have a knowledge of things that can’t be found.” – Frederick Sommer
“Art is not arbitrary. A fine painting is not there by accident; it is not arrived at by chance.” – Frederick Sommer
“Art and accident are one.” – Frederick Sommer
“Choice and chance structure art and nature.” – Frederick Sommer
“Ideas and thoughts collide and sort themselves out in these fruitful collisions.” – Frederick Sommer
“Ideas and art are the possibility of an answer tomorrow.” – Frederick Sommer
“Art accepts what it finds.” – Frederick Sommer
“In total acceptance, almost everything becomes a revelation.” – Frederick Sommer
“Art is the splendor of reality before everything has become meaning.” – Frederick Sommer
“Reality is greater than our dreams.” – Frederick Sommer
“We work for that part of our vision which is uncompleted.” – Frederick Sommer
View 12 Great Photographs By Fredrick Sommer.
View a documentary on Fredrick Sommer.
Read more in The Essential Collection Of Photographer’s Quotes.
Master photographer Fredrick Sommer discusses his life in photography.
Read quotes by Fredrick Sommer.
View 12 Great Photographs By Fredrick Sommer
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Photographer Arnold Newman is widely considered the ‘father of environmental portraiture’.
Newman offers candid insights in an interview.
Master photographer Gregory Heisler pays tribute to his mentor.
View 12 Great Photographs By Arnold Newman here.
Read quotes by Arnold Newman here.
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Master photographer Harry Callahan shares insights garnered from a lifetime in the medium.
Find quotes by Harry Callahan here.
Read our conversation here.
View more in the Essential Collection Of Documentaries On Photographers here.
Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Walker Evans.
“The eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.” ― Walker Evans,
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” – Walker Evans
“Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.” – Walker Evans
“I think there is a period of esthetic discovery that happens to a man and he can do all sorts of things at white heat.” – Walker Evans
“With the camera, it’s all or nothing. You either get what you’re after at once, or what you do has to be worthless. I don’t think the essence of photography has the hand in it so much. The essence is done very quietly with a flash of the mind, and with a machine. I think too that photography is editing, editing after the taking. After knowing what to take, you have to do the editing.” – Walker Evans
Interviewer: “Do you think it’s possible for the camera to lie?”
Walker Evans: “It certainly is. It almost always does.” – Walker Evans
“I’m sometimes called a ‘documentary photographer’ but… a man operating under that definition could take a sly pleasure in the disguise. Very often I’m doing one thing when I’m thought to be doing another.” – Walker Evans
“Documentary: That’s a sophisticated and misleading word. And not really clear… The term should be documentary style… You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless.” – Walker Evans
“I used to try to figure out precisely what I was seeing all the time, until I discovered I didn’t need to. If the thing is there, why, there it is.” – Walker Evans
“Detachment, lack of sentimentality, originality, a lot of things that sound rather empty. I know what they mean. Let’s say, “visual impact” may not mean much to anybody. I could point it out though. I mean it’s a quality that something has or does not have. Coherence. Well, some things are weak, some things are strong…” – Walker Evans
“What I believe is really good in the so-called documentary approach to photography is the addition of lyricism. This quality is usually produced unconsciously and even unintentionally and accidentally by the cameraman.” – Walker Evans
“The secret of photography is, the camera takes on the character and personality of the handler.” – Walker Evans
“When I first made photographs, they were too plain to be considered art and I wasn’t considered an artist. I didn’t get any attention at all. The people who looked at my work thought, well, that’s just a snapshot of the backyard. Privately I knew otherwise and through stubbornness stayed with it…” – Walker Evans
“I began to wonder – I knew I was an artist or wanted to be one – but I was wondering whether I really was an artist. I was doing such ordinary things that I could feel the difference. Most people would look at those things and say, ‘Well, that’s nothing. What did you do that for? That’s just a wreck of a car or a wreck of a man. That’s nothing. That isn’t art.’ They don’t say that anymore. – Walker Evans
“Leaving aside the mysteries and the inequities of human talent, brains, taste, and reputations, the matter of art in photography may come down to this: it is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the defining of observation full and felt.” – Walker Evans
“The meaning of quality in photography’s best pictures lies written in the language of vision. That language is learned by chance, not system; …our overwhelming formal education deals in words, mathematical figures and methods of rational thought, not in images.” – Walker Evans
“The photographs are not illustrative. They, and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative. By their fewness, and by the importance of the reader’s eye, this will be misunderstood by most of that minority which does not wholly ignore it. In the interests, however, of the history and future of photography, that risk seems irrelevant, and this flat statement necessary.” – Walker Evans
“Somewhere in our search for reality we have passed something by, something important that we no longer find amid the bits and pieces of disassembled matter-something vital that we cannot build out of these parts. There is surely something else, some piece of divinity in us, something that was before the elements, and that owes no homage to the sun.” – Walker Evans
“It is easy to imagine fantasy as physical and myth as real. We do it almost every moment. We do this as we dream, as we think, and as we cope with the world about us. But these worlds of fantasy that we form into the solid things around us are the source of our discontent. They inspire our search to find ourselves.” – Walker Evans
“I work rather blindly. I have a theory that seems to work with me that some of the best things you ever do sort of come through you. You don’t know where you get the impetus and response to what’s before your eyes.” – Walker Evans
“I do note that photography, a despised medium to work in, is full of empty phonies and worthless commercial people. That presents quite a challenge to the man who can take delight in being in a very difficult, disdained medium.” – Walker Evans
“I say half jokingly that photography is the most difficult of the arts. It does require a certain arrogance to see and to choose. I feel myself walking on a tightrope instead of on the ground.” – Walker Evans
“Good photography is unpretentious.” – Walker Evans
“Do we know what we look like? Not really.” – Walker Evans
“…nature photographs downright bore me for some reason or other. I think: ‘Oh, yes. Look at that sand dune. What of it?’” – Walker Evans
“Photography is not cute cats, nor nudes, motherhood or arrangements of manufactured products. Under no circumstances it is anything ever anywhere near a beach.” – Walker Evans
“Incidentally, part of a photographer’s gift should be with people. You can do some wonderful work if you know how to make people understand what you’re doing and feel all right about it, and you can do terrible work if you put them on the defense, which they all are at the beginning. You’ve got to take them off their defensive attitude and make them participate.” – Walker Evans
“It’s easy to photograph light reflecting from a surface, the truly hard part is capturing the light in the air.” – Walker Evans
“Privilege, if you’re very strict, is an immoral and unjust thing to have, but if you’ve got it you didn’t choose to get it and you might as well use it. You’re privileged to be at Yale, but you know you’re under an obligation to repay what’s been put into you.” – Walker Evans
“I never took it upon myself to change the world. And those contemporaries of mine who were going around falling for the idea that they were going to bring down the United States government and make a new world were just asses to me.” – Walker Evans
“It’s too presumptuous and naïve to think you can change society by a photograph or anything else… I equate that with propaganda; I think that’s a lower rank of purpose.” – Walker Evans
“Die knowing something. You’re not here long.” ― Walker Evans
See more in 12 Great Photographs By Great Photographers.
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I have been honing my photographic skills over the last several years. Making strides in composition, story telling and mechanics of photography, I still lacked some finer processing skills and the art of printing. I decided that a Print is the ultimate goal of a photographer. There is just something very tangible, very permanent about a print. Anybody can flick though a series of images on an electronic device. But actually taking the time to make a print, matting, framing ,hung on wall and lit well -takes considerable more effort. It also then requires more contemplation by the audience. I think they place more weight and value on the print than in electronic form. They are more willing to commit more time with the print.
During the span of a year, I completed both of John Paul’s Intermediate and Advance printing classes. At that point I believed that I had achieved the skills required to attempt my own Print Portfolio.
There is just something substantial about the physical print. Let’s face it, we can casually look through ton’s of images on our electronic devices. They are there and then gone. But having a book full of prints is something completely different. You engage two more of your senses, touch and smell. Every book has a certain feel and personal experience to it. It evokes more of an emotional response than the electronic equivalent.
So my goal with this project was several fold.
1. Create a body of work of 24 images
2. Improve my image processing
3. Improve my print quality / skills
4. Share with as many people as I can
A decision had to be made on the format of the book. Landscape, Portrait or Square. I deiced that the square format was the most versatile of the three. With a square book I could print any aspect ratio that I wanted and not feel constrained to a particular style. Since I knew this book was going to be a work in progress and may change over time, I thought being versatile was a good trade off versus being locked into a portrait or landscape format.
The next decision that I had to make was the size of the book. I based this partly on common size of paper available. The other influence was what kind of reaction I wanted from people when they viewed the book. I made 5 prints on 13×14 inch and 17×18 inch papers and then just stapled them together to simulate the two sizes of the book I was considering. I printed horizontal, vertical and square images. I had my own opinion and then solicited several peoples opinions. The larger size won hands down. You would not think that 4 extra inches would make that dramatic of a difference but it really did. It took the scale of the book from something casual to something cherished. The larger size was just so much more engaging.
The paper choice for my Epson 9900 printer, (after some experimentation) Epson Ultrasmooth. It brought an extra dimension of depth to my ice images. The warmth of the paper gave an extra separation to the printed images. I decided that the easiest form factor would be to use 17″ wide roll paper. Then I would just allow the printer to cut the sheets to a length of 18″. This way I would not have to do any post printing trimming of the prints.
For the physical book, I had a custom binding post book and slip cover made. I choose the binding post style so that it would be easy to replace prints and so that I could completely change the theme of the book if I desired. For materials I choose Black on Black on Black. This might be generic, or called corporate, but I liked the neutrality of it and its future potential. Each of the three surfaces were a different material, so that added a subtle variation to the book. I added just a splash of Red into my debossed logo. The inner front and back sheets are sanded mylar. This essentially adds an end sheet to the book and enhances the experience when opening the book.
I learned a lot through this process. It was a great growth experience. Having a project focuses your mind and creativity. Completing a project gives you a sense of accomplishment. Sharing the experience – I hope I can inspire all of you to do something wonderful.
Find out more about Michael Quinn here.
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