My favourite quotes from Magnum photographers.
My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder.
Emotion or feeling is really the only thing about pictures I find interesting. Beyond that it is just a trick.
If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.
If you’re too close to events, you lose perspective. It is not easy to be fair with the facts and keep your own convictions out of the picture. It is almost impossible to be both a participant in the events and their observer, witness, interpreter.
I love working on stories that get left behind in the race for the daily headlines – journalistic orphans. Often, the most worthwhile and convincing images tend to lurk within the hidden, oblique stories that fly just below the radar.
The great single picture is emotionally satisfying, whereas getting a good journalistic story is more about being a professional.
I felt compelled to venture forth and explore the true face of the world. Leading a satisfying life of plenty had blinded many of us to the immense hardships beyond our borders.
If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It’s a way of life.
Photography is still instinctual, but I am more disciplined now. I am trying to make every frame count, just as in Tai Chi every breath counts.
It’s not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it.
If I am looking for a story at all, it is in my relationship to the subject – the story that tells me, rather than that I tell.
The photographer is filled with doubt. Nothing will soothe him.
I like the fact that I am not in control, that the photographs are what happens, rather than the result only of the decision I make. You could say that’s the downside of photography, but it’s also why it is magic.
I prefer to spend my time in my corner of the world: south Europe and west Asia, where I understand the codes and can make connections.
It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.
A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie, but nor is it the truth. It’s more of a fleeting, subjective impression. What I most like about photography is the moment that you can’t anticipate: you have to be constantly watching for it, ready to welcome the unexpected.
Ultimately photography is about who you are. It’s the seeking of truth in relation to yourself. And seeking truth becomes a habit.
Taking pictures is like fishing or writing. It’s getting out of the unknown that which resists and refuses to come to light.
I think that what you’ve got to do is discover the essential truth of the situation, and have a point of view about it.
I have the great privilege of being both witness and storyteller. Intimacy, trust and intuition guide my work.
The ability to keep things in perspective is very important for a journalist. In a tense situation you need the ability to be there, yet somehow step aside; to keep a cool head and keep working without getting frustrated.
–Philip Jones Griffiths
A large portion of my work is concerned with people because people are the most inventive and news-making part of our lives. Yet I am as much attracted to the evidence of their presence and efforts, whether good or evil, as I am to the people themselves.
It’s a lot of work living the life that you want to live, but that’s what I’m doing.
–David Alan Harvey
Life as it unfolds in front of the camera is full of so much complexity, wonder and surprise that I find it unnecessary to create new realities. There is more pleasure, for me, in things as-they-are.
The maximum, that is what has always interested me.
A good image is created by a state of grace. Grace expresses itself when it has been freed from conventions, free like a child in his early discovery of the reality. The game is then to organize the rectangle.
The pictures I took spontaneously – with a bliss-like sensation, as if they had long inhabited my unconscious – were often more powerful than those I had painstakingly composed. I grasped their magic as in passing.
The flow of people in a setting, their changing relationships to each other and their environment, and their constantly changing expressions and movements – all combine to create dynamic situations that provide the photographer with limitless choices of when to push the button. By choosing a precise intersection between subject and time, he may transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and the real into the surreal.
I go for photography that overlays and enhances. By blending observation and wit with reason, I want my work to generate a sense of the unexpected, the hidden, and the seemingly spontaneous.
What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling.
The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.
I think good dreaming is what leads to good photographs.
I’m more interested in a photography that is ‘unfinished’ – a photography that is suggestive and can trigger a conversation or dialogue. There are pictures that are closed, finished, to which there is no way in.
I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history.
Now that everyone in the developed world seems to own some form of camera, a different space has opened for documentary photographers. It’s a space free from specific events, where there are different expectations, where it is first and foremost about ideas. Now we can all take pictures, with varying degrees of consistency, more than ever before it’s about what we do with photography.
A photograph has picked up a fact of life, and that fact will live forever.
A photograph is a subjective impression. It is what the photographer sees. No matter how hard we try to get into the skin, into the feeling of the subject or situation, however much we empathize, it is still what we see that comes out in the images, it is our reaction to the subject and in the end, the whole corpus of our work becomes a portrait of ourselves.
Photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.
–W. Eugene Smith
I fell in love with the process of taking pictures, with wandering around finding things. To me it feels like a kind of performance. The picture is a document of that performance.
When I photograph, I try to use my instincts as much as possible. It is when pictures are unconsidered and irrational that they come to life; that they evolve from showing to being.
–Jacob Aue Sobol
For me, photography has become a way of attempting to make sense of the very strange world that I see around me. I don’t ever expect to achieve that understanding, but the fact that I am trying comforts me.
If there’s one theme that connects all my work, I think it’s that of land-lessness; how land makes people into who they are and what happens to them when they lose it and thus lose their identities.
I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner.
The idea of photography seemed to come together with the idea that this is how I could be – someone who could have one step in the world while at the same time being one step removed from it.