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Photography

  • My photographs don't do me justice. They look just like me.

  • ... however good photographs are nowadays, newspapers managed to turn likenesses into libels.

  • Behind the lens, I found refuge and freedom, distance and connection, an intoxicating way to tame the huge, chaotic world.

  • What most of us are after, when we have a picture taken, is a good natural-looking picture that doesn't resemble us.

  • The camera creates a magical transformation. It's not enough to exist; we must chronicle that existence. ... Narrative- and image-making creatures like humans don't feel any experience is complete unless it's recorded.

  • ... I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.

  • A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

    • Diane Arbus,
    • in Diane Tucker, ed., The Woman's Eye ()
  • ... the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Shooting America," in The New York Review of Books ()
  • The photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Shooting America," in The New York Review of Books ()
  • You can go into all sorts of situations with a camera and people will think they should serve it.

  • Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.

  • The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.

  • To photograph is to confer importance.

  • When Cartier-Bresson goes to China, he shows that there are people in China, and that they are Chinese.

  • So successful has been the camera's role in beautifying the world that photographs rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful.

  • ... reality has come to seem more and more like what we are shown by cameras.

  • Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality and of realism.

  • Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality, understood as recalcitrant, inaccessible; of making it stand still. Or they enlarge a reality that is felt to be shrunk, hollowed out, perishable, remote. One can't possess reality, one can possess (and be possessed by) images ...

  • Paintings invariably sum up; photographs usually do not. Photographic images are pieces of evidence in an ongoing biography or history. And one photograph, unlike one painting, implies that there will be others.

  • Today everything exists to end in a photograph.

  • A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it — by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.

  • ... photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing.

  • There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.

  • People robbed of their past seem to make the most fervent picture takers, at home and abroad.

  • Cameras began duplicating the world at that moment when the human landscape started to undergo a vertiginous rate of change: while an untold number of forms of biological and social life are being destroyed in a brief span of time, a device is available to record what is disappearing.

  • Images anesthetize. An event known through photographs certainly becomes more real than it would have been if one had never seen the photographs ... But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real. ... 'concerned' photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it.

  • By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.

  • Life is not about significant details, illuminated a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.

  • ... a photograph is not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.

  • Photography is, first of all, a way of seeing. It is not seeing itself.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Photography: A Little Summa," At the Same Time ()
  • All photographs aspire to the condition of being memorable — that is, unforgettable.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Photography: A Little Summa," At the Same Time ()
  • Photography — the supreme form of travel, of tourism — is the principal modern means for enlarging the world. As a branch of art, photography's enterprise of world enlargement tends to specialize in the subjects felt to be challenging, transgressive. A photograph may be telling us: this too exists. And that. And that. (And it is all 'human.') But what are we to do with this knowledge — if indeed it is knowledge, about, say, the self, about abnormality, about ostracized or clandestine worlds?

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Photography: A Little Summa," At the Same Time ()
  • I have always taken pictures the way other people keep journals and diaries. It's a way of ordering my reactions to the world, of placing my ideas and feelings in a concrete form outside myself, of breaking my isolation.

    • Diane Michener,
    • in Sara Ruddick and Pamela Daniels, eds., Working It Out ()
  • Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.

  • What to me is anathema — a corpse-like, outmoded hangover — is for photography to be a bad excuse for another medium. ... Is not photography good enough in itself, that it must be made to look like something else, supposedly superior?

  • The lens freezes time and space in what may be an optical slavery or, contrarily, the crystallization of meaning. The limits of the lens' vision are esthetically often a virtue.

  • What the human eye observes casually and incuriously, the eye of the camera ... notes with relentless fidelity.

  • ... photography is not only drawing with light, though light is the indispensable agent of its being. It is modeling or sculpturing with light, to reproduce the plastic form of natural objects. It is painting with light ...

  • Photographs deceive time, freezing it on a piece of cardboard where the soul is silent.

  • We have become a nation of Kodachrome, Nikon, Instamatic addicts. But we haven't yet developed a clear idea of the ethics of picture-taking. ... Where do we get the right to bring other people home in a canister? Where did we lose the right to control our image?

  • Some objects and events may be photographed, others, if one is to render their true quality, should be painted or set to music, since their essence is more faithfully reproduced through imagination than by the journalistic report.

  • Very few people, thank God, look like the pictures of them which are published in the papers and the weekly magazines ...

  • A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face. For this reason, the face of an older person, perhaps not beautiful in the strictest sense, is usually more appealing than the face of a younger person who has scarcely been touched by life.

    • Doris Ulmann,
    • in Dale Warren, "Doris Ulmann: Photographer-in-Waiting," The Bookman ()
  • My best pictures are always taken when I succeed in establishing a bond of sympathy with my sitter. When there is the slightest suggestion of antagonism, then my best efforts are of no avail.

    • Doris Ulmann,
    • in Dale Warren, "Doris Ulmann: Photographer-in-Waiting," The Bookman ()
  • If anyone gets in my way when I am making a picture, I become irrational. I'm never sure what I am going to do, or sometimes even aware of what I do — only that I want that picture.

  • I'm afraid my closely guarded solitude causes some hurt feelings now and then. But how to explain, without wounding someone, that you want to be wholly in the world you are writing about, that it would take two days to get the visitor's voice out of the house so that you could listen to your own characters again?

  • If you scratch a great photograph, you will find two things: a painting and a photograph.

  • The camera is an instrument of detection. We photograph not only what we know, but also what we don't know.

    • Lisette Model,
    • in Ann Thomas, Lisette Model, and National Gallery of Canada, Lisette Model ()
  • My mother is not smiling; Chinese do not smile for photographs. Their faces command relatives in foreign lands — 'Send money' — and posterity forever — 'Put food in front of the picture.' My mother does not understand Chinese-American snapshots. 'What are you laughing at?' she asks.

  • The emphasis in doing any in-depth photography is on building relationships, quality relationships. It's what I call thirty-cups-of-coffee-a-frame photography. You need to enter into the community — not just photographically, but intellectually and emotionally.

    • Lynn Johnson,
    • in Bob Caputo, National Geographic Photography Field Guide: People and Portraits ()
  • Photographs help people look at things they may not be able or may not want to look at. Until you can look at something, you can't change it. First you have to look at it, then you have a chance to understand it and can change it.

    • Lynn Johnson,
    • in Bob Caputo, National Geographic Photography Field Guide: People and Portraits ()
  • When you're shy, a camera becomes an entry into life. It was a kind of shield I could hide my shyness behind, and it allowed me to become an active observer rather than a passive one.

    • Lynn Johnson,
    • in Bob Caputo, National Geographic Photography Field Guide: People and Portraits ()
  • If you want the picture, you have to pay the price — and it's usually yourself.

  • Cameras have arisen in our midst like a new race of mechanical ghouls.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Twentieth Century Justice Through a Camera Lens" (1935), in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • I don't know who said 'pictures don't lie.' It couldn't have been a photographer.

  • They used to photograph Shirley Temple through gauze. They should photograph me through linoleum.

  • It is the unexpected, hit-or-miss, instant impulse, these strange accidents, this surrealistic serendipity, out of which great photographs are born.

  • The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.

  • 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,
    • in Nathan Lyons, ed., Photographers on Photography ()
  • A study of modern photography can make better artists but a study of modern artists cannot make better photographers.

  • The visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. ... I have only touched it with this wonderful democratic instrument, the camera ...

    • Dorothea Lange,
    • 1964 KQED interview, in Linda Gordon, A Life Beyond Limits ()
  • I believe that photographs actually rob all of us of our memory.

  • Photographs economize the truth; they are always moments more or less illusorily abducted from time's continuum.

  • Part of the artist's job is to make the commonplace singular, to project a different interpretation onto the conventional.