Friday, September 7, 2012


What follows is a list of quotes I compiled for a while on my website. I'm currently revamping my site and eliminating this page along with some other things. So I thought I'd post it here to have it somewhere online still. They are various things I've heard photographers say in the past 12 years or so. Most are from Blue Sky artist talks during the time I lived in Portland before 2006. I used to attend most of those lectures (and even gave one myself), and when I got home from them I'd jot down the most memorable thing I'd heard that night. And some of the things below were just heard in passing conversation. I consider them a sort of bite-sized oral history.

"Any photo taken today, even the least interesting ones, will be interesting in 50 or 100 years."
--Chris Rauschenberg, 8/9/01

"When I photograph, I am not necessarily attracted to specific subject matter. Instead, I'm interested in how a subject presents itself."
-- Nathan Lyons, 10/2/01

"I used a rangefinder because I didn't want to worry about the edge thing. I just wanted to make photos of certain subjects and let the edges take care of themselves."
-- Douglas Frank, 11/8/01

"When I look back at old contact sheets, I look for shots that look like someone else took them. I look for ones that show me a new direction."
-- Stewart Harvey, 12/13/01

"I often look at books of photographs that don't appeal to me, to try to understand why I don't like them."
--Stu Levy, 1/10/02

"For me, there's a sort of randomness which you cannot plan which is intrinsic to photographs which work."
--Patrick Sutherland, 1/17/02

"There's a view that says that painting is synthetic and photography is analytical. To paint something, you start with a blank canvas and add to it. Everything comes from you. Photography is the opposite. You start with a world of complexity and you need to decide what to remove from it, or what not to show, in order to emphasize what you want people to see."
--Michael Burns, 5/9/02

"I used to worry about things like the edges and if there were dust specs. Now I just look for little fragments that capture my eye and I forget about the rest of it."
--Marsha Burns, 6/13/02

"Typically I make one photo when I first come on a scene. Then I explore different perspectives of the scene and make several more exposures from different vantage points. I almost always wind up choosing the first photo."
--Michael Kenna, March 2003

"I use an 8 x 10 view camera. All other cameras are just toys."
--Jock Sturges, April 2003

"Shooting flowers is just like making a portrait of a person. You have to be ready to catch the moment or the flower's expression will change and you will have lost it."
--Ron Von Dongen, 5/15/03

"The introduction to one of Stephen Shore's books talks about the difference between Eastern and Western poetry. Poems in the West are about the sublime and the marvelous, whereas in the Orient poetry is about the commonplace. This Oriental way is how I view my own photography."
--Stephen Hughes, 7/10/03

"I love the fact that a photograph can be both a factual description and a metaphor at the same time."
--Shawn Records, 8/14/03

"My formation (as a photographer) was informal."
--Julio Grinblatt, 10/1/03

"What if, say, Andre Kertesz had been born an hour later? His whole life would've been on a slightly different schedule and all those photos he made would've been slightly different somehow. Yet the totality of the work would've been just as impressive. Just different somehow..."
-- Craig Hickman, 1/15/04

"I give names to my projects but I never name individual photos. I don't want to give them any associations that might effect the viewer's interpretation."
-- Ken Rosenthal, 2/6/04

"Each day is a gift!"
-- Jerry Uelsman, 3/11/04

"In my photographs there is a tension between abstraction and reality...I am not a documentary photographer. If I were out to change laws I would make a different type of picture."
-- David Maisel, 6/6/04

"I think it's strange that more people are offended by my nudes, which are completely tame, than by my portraits of animal fetuses."
-- Tamara Lischka, 9/9/04

"When I first began photographing, I had this idea that staging anything was bad and that things in the photo had to be just as I'd found them. Lately I find myself swinging toward the opposite. More and more I want to stage my scenes in order to have control over them."
-- Ann Ploeger, 10/14/04

"The Bechers have been an influence on me and I think they've been misunderstood. People think their photographs are of Germany, but for me they are more about Germanness than Germany. Only two Germans would undertake such a project."
-- Allen Maertz, 11/3/04

"A few days after Tony Ray-Jones died I went through my contact sheets to find photos I'd taken of him, to make a memorial to him. I only found one photo. It was because I'd been around him so much I'd taken him for granted and never photographed him. He was just always there, so I'd never considered him important enough to photograph. The lesson is, you should be photographing now the things that you really care about. That's the only thing you should be photographing, things you care about deeply."
-- Bill Jay, 11/7/04

"I am interested in the human experience, what it means to be human. That is the only thing I've ever wanted to express as an artist."
-- Adrain Chesser, 12/1/04

"I stopped doing documentary work when I found I was no longer connecting with my subject matter. My subject matter at the time was drunks with guns."
-- Luis Delgado, 3/12/05

"For me, the central unit in art is not the actual art itself but the artist. Art is about the artist."
-- Christoper Rauschenberg, 6/05

"One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in."
-- Paul Sutinen quoting Wayne Gretzky, 7/19/05

"I was following Cartier-Bresson's idea of the Decisive Moment, only since I was using a Widelux at a 15th it became the Decisive Mo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ment."
-- Abby Robinson, 11/2/05

"The reason I don't place people in my home interiors is that when I see a person in a photo I instantly begin making assumptions about that person, and I didn't want these assumptions coloring anyone's view of the rest of the photo."
-- Susan Dobson, 12/2/5

"I'm a shy person. Before a photo shoot I get very nervous, sometimes almost physically ill. But I think this is sort of good. If you're bored or half asleep during a shoot, that's how the photos will look."
-- Cherie Hiser, 12/7/5

"With the subway series, sometimes I would walk around the same block five times and think, 'There is absolutely nothing to photograph here.' But on the sixth time around the block, walking by the exact same subject matter, suddenly a wonderful photograph would jump out and present itself."
-- Lisa Gidley, 2/16/06

"I think some mining executives when they see these pictures will wonder, 'How did this guy get into our mines to take these?'"
-- Louie Palu, 3/3/6

"After looking around a while, I finally found a house that would be perfect for what I had in mind. I knocked on the door and explained what I wanted to do. I needed to pour a perfect circle of fresh soil in the center of their yard, close their street, and park a giant cherry-picker in front of their house to support me and the 8 x 10 camera eighty feet above the scene. The woman thought about it a moment before replying, 'Do what you have to do.'"
-- Gregory Crewdson, 4/25/6

"Cartier-Bresson roamed the whole world years and years and came back with thousands of photos that don't give you the foggiest idea what he felt about any of it."
-- Robert Frank, paraphrased by Bobby Abrahamson, July 2006

"I am only attracted photographically to certain parts of cities. There is a word in Japanese which describes them well, and I think in English the translation is something like Nasty. I like nasty parts of cities."
-- Daido Moriyama, 11/18/06

"I am drawn to photographing real things rather than setup situations. I am more interested in what is than what isn't."
-- Elliott Erwitt, 3/17/7

"I'm drawn to desolate spaces. That beautiful forest over there would be great if someone clearcut it, paved it, and left it unmaintained for 20 years. Then it would interest me photographically."
-- Frank Miller, 9/30/7

"When I press the shutter on my Leica it's like sending a prayer to the heavens. I don't know what the result will be. I'm sending a spaceship to the moon, to outer space, to see what's out there. Maybe there will be a reply and maybe not."
-- Bobby Abrahamson, 12/13/7

"There is no such thing as chance in good photography"
-- Roger Ballen, 5/7/8

"I don't worry about the film. I use as many sheets as I need to to get the shot. I have no idea how many sheets I am using. If I get one good photo from a shoot then the rest is unimportant."
-- Raymond Meeks, 7/26/8

"There's a delicate balance in my family work between documenting what's happening and exploiting potentially sensitive material. When my grandfather died I thought the funeral would be a great place to make photos, but it seemed to cross the line. After going back and forth in my mind, I finally decided to leave my cameras at home, which I still think was the right decision. The instant I got to the funeral all my aunts were on me, 'Where's your camera? How could you not bring your camera to something like this?' It goes both ways..."
-- Todd Deutsch, 9/6/8

"I think people a hundred years from now will now at the photos from this time and their main impression will be, 'In the years just after 2000, the world became a much cleaner place." With digital, we can remove unwanted visual artifacts with ease whereas before it was much harder. The results will be marked as a historical moment."
--Craig Hickman, 2/2/9

"Photographers are ventriloquists. We send our work out into the world and it speaks for us."
--Larry Sultan, 4/12/9

"There are three photographers I admire, Atget, Evans, and Friedlander. Father, son, and the holy ghost."
--Gerry Badger, 10/9/10


Doug Brewer said...

classic, entertaining, and educational. Good on ya for listening and listing them.

Stan B. said...

Thanks for these- particularly enjoyed Frank's quip on HCB. Pretty much encapsulated the disconnect I always felt there.

microcord said...

Blake, as part of your revamping, could you please devamp? The site worked fine till a couple of months ago. Now, there's nothing, then an animated cogs-in-a-"B" sign, then unnecessarily small and hard-to-navigate windows within the larger window. And that's with a computer. With the missus' Ipad, nothing beyond the topmost part of any entry is viewable at all. I imagine it's just as unviewable with an Android. Reading "B" via borrowed Ipad while lying in bed was always the best way to start the day; that has been impossible, and I have been grumpy, ever since the "features" were added.

Ben said...

Craig Hickman's 2/2/09 remark very funny and perceptive. Guilty Your Honor!

Hernan Zenteno said...

I like Erwitt post cause I am in a personal campaign to revalue this philosophy of shoot. But you have a lot of funny quotes like Delgado and Robinson. Thanks for share.