Quotes on Photography – 1

So here is a collection of some of my favourite quotes on photography, from a range of sources. I suspect I’ll do another post like this in future when I’m a bit short of something to stick up. If you can’t be bothered to write, get someone else to write for you, as my plagiaristic English teacher used to say.

From “Robert Capa the Definitive Collecton” by Richard Whelan, published by Phaidon:

“In June 1942 Capa went to the Rhondda Valley in Wales, the coal mining region in which author Richard Llewellyn had set his popular novel “How Green was my Valley”. A Hollywood movie based on the book had recently won the Academy Award for best picture of 1941; Capa went in search of people who embodied the the reality of the story. Regarding these photographs, an interviewer once asked Capa how he managed to get such relaxed and natural expressions in close ups of faces. Capa replied that it was very simple: “Like people, and let them know it.”

From the introduction to“Star Trak” by Anton Corbijn, text by Brian Eno:

1) Most photographers are not Anton Corbijn, a lively, if rather tall man with a camera. “Lively” is important: people holding cameras are normally dead. They are not in the same time as the rest of us. They are not here. They are already in the future, looking back at the now through their imagined pictures as if it is already history. You think I’m making this up as I go along. But don’t you remember those famous proofs? That cameraman at the Indianapolis 500 who filmed the wheel leaving a racing car at 160mph, spinning towards him, spinning, spinning, until it smashed him to bits?

2) The camera inevitably lies, so choosing the kind of lie you want to tell is actually the creative art of photography.

From David Hockney: A Retrospective” by David Hockney, Maurice Tuchman, and Stephanie Barron:

1) “Photography is alright if you don’t mind looking at the world from the perspective of a paralysed cyclops for a split second.” – Quoted in “Cameraworks” by Lawrence Weschler.

2) “He notes that the gaze moves perpetually, that visual experience is a composite of shifting views focused by interest and inflected by concept and memory. Sensations of death and movement are intrinsic to eyesight, upholding the definition of perception known since impressionism and seen in cubism. While a single photograph can encapsulate only a frozen moment, a collage of them suggests the composite experience of observation over time.”

From“The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History” by Graham Clarke:

1) “The Act of taking a photograph fixes time, but it also steals time, establishes a hold on the past in which history is sealed, so to speak, in a continuous presence.”

2) “The professional photographer still remains central and, inevitably, has dominated both the history of photography and the meaning of the photograph. Indeed, one of the many paradoxes at the centre of the medium is the extent to which an infinite number of photographs and photographers has been dominated by a limited canon of images and practitioners; as few as 200 photographers have determined the terms of reference and the frame of meaning for the history of the photograph.”

3) Despite it’s acutely populist base the photograph, for all it’s capacity to reproduce the literal, retains the values and hierachies so much associated with what might be viewed as it’s opposite: academic painting.”

4) “We might see a photograph in a newspaper, magazine, album, frame, on a wall, taken from a wallet, on a document or in a gallery, in a box or locket, or as a negative or a contact print. Each change of context changes it as an object and alters it’s terms of reference and value, influencing our understanding of it’s “meaning” and “status”.

From “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger:

1) “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are. Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other, combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world.”

2) “Perspective makes the single eye the centre of the visual world. Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for god.”

3) “The bogus religiosity which now surrounds original works of art, and which is ultimately dependent upon their market value, has become the substitute for what paintings lost when the camera made them reproducible. it’s function is nostalgic. It is the final empty claim for the continuing values of an oligarchic, undemocratic culture. if the image is no longer unique and exclusive, the art object, the thing, must be made mysteriously so.”

4) “The issue is not between innocence and knowledge (or between the natural and the cultural) but between a total approach to art which attempts to relate it to every aspect of experience and the esoteric approach of a few specialized experts, who are the clerks of the nostalgia of a ruling class in decline. (In decline not before the proletariat, but before the new power of the corporation and the state.) The real question is, to whom does the meaning of the art of the past properly belong? To those who can apply it to their own lives, or to a cultural hierachy of relic specialists?”

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