Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes by photographer Ruth Bernhard.
“Every artist, in a sense, is missionary. He tries to convey a message to his fellow man – he communicates the awesome presence of truth and beauty he discover in the world around him, in its lakes and mountains, trees, rocks and plants, in its living creatures. Down through the centuries poets, sculptors, painters and now photographers, have also been striving to grasp and immortalize the beauty of the human body, both male and female. I see in these forms the elemental relationship to the large forms of nature; a sense of strength like a rock – fluidity like water – space like a mountain range. If I have chosen the female form in particular, it is because beauty has been debased and exploited in our sensual twentieth century. We seem to have a need to turn innocent nature into evil ugliness be the twist of the mind. Woman has been target of much that is sordid and cheap, especially in photography. To raise, to elevate, to endorse with timeless reverence the image of woman, has been my mission – the reason for my work.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Photography is art when it’s used by an artist.” – Ruth Bernhard
“A person cannot learn to be a photographer. He can only cultivate what he already has. I try to make people aware that they have something very precious to cultivate.” – Ruth Bernhard
“If you’re not interested in life, then photography has no meaning.” – Ruth Bernhard
“If you are not passionately devoted to an idea, you can make very pleasant pictures but they won’t make you cry.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Fall in love. Every day. With everything. With life. If you can fall in love, you can be a photographer. I think that is absolutely essential.” – Ruth Bernhard
“I always said “yes” to everything.” – Ruth Bernhard
“There is no such thing as taking too much time, because your soul is in that picture.” – Ruth Bernhard
“For me, the creation of a photograph is experienced as a heightened emotional response, most akin to poetry and music, each image the culmination of a compelling impulse I cannot deny. Whether working with a human figure or a still life, I am deeply aware of my spiritual connection with it. In my life, as in my work, I am motivated by a great yearning for balance and harmony beyond the realm of human experience, reaching for the essence of oneness with the Universe.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Light is my inspiration. My photographic images search for dimensions that words cannot touch– the result of intense responses to personal experiences. I do not wish to “record,” but rather to touch upon the illusive meanings which I perceive and try to comprehend in this limitless universe.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Light is my inspiration, my paint and brush. It is as vital as the model herself. Profoundly significant, it caresses the essential superlative curves and lines. Light I acknowledge as the energy upon which all life on this planet depends.” – Ruth Bernhard
“My quest, through the magic of light and shadow, is to isolate, to simplify and to give emphasis to form with the greatest clarity. To indicate the ideal proportion, to reveal sculptural mass and the dominating spirit is my goal.” – Ruth Bernhard
“What the human eye sees is an illusion of what is real. The black and white image transforms illusions into another reality.” – Ruth Bernhard
“If you can’t make the image bigger or more important than what you see, then don’t push the button.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Never ever say the word shoot when you are taking a picture with a camera because a camera is not a violent weapon.” – Ruth Bernhard
“I expect photographs to find me. I never thought of looking for them. I instinctively put them (props) there. My intellect had nothing to do with it.” – Ruth Bernhard
“You have to follow your instinct all the time. Otherwise you don’t make it.” – Ruth Bernhard
“I never question what to do, it tells me what to do. The photographs make themselves with my help.” – Ruth Bernhard
“If you are not willing to see more than is visible, you won’t see anything.” – Ruth Bernhard
“Everything is one and I am one with it.” – Ruth Bernhard
View this video on Ruth Bernhard.
Sometimes you find your own voice through observing your responses to other people’s work.
One of my visual journals is a collection of images that I appreciate. When you bring enough images together new patterns emerge. This was certainly the case for me when I sifted through my favorite photographs of nudes and found a thread that tied together works by Jerry Uelsmann, Emmet Gowin, Harry Callahan, and Ruth Bernhard. All four of the photographs I had selected used double exposure to merge the figure with the landscape. It wasn’t that these works were typical of each artist’s work; Jerry Uelsmann who would be best know for this kind of work offers many such images; Harry Callahan was highly experimental and offered only a handful of these kinds of treatments; Ruth Berhard produced fewer; Emmet Gown only produced even fewer. What had been revealed through the process of creating this collection was my own interest in a specific kind of imagery and a particular theme.
Overtly stated in my own photographs of nudes in varying degrees of transparency, the theme of man and nature as one runs through all of my work. Whether subtly or dramatically, directly or indirectly, I’m interested in all types of imagery that challenges conventional notions of separateness and offer a vision of unity.
What shared themes can you identify when observing your own influences?
Read more about my influences here.