Curious Frame - Ongoing Thoughts on Photography
Issue #45 - 24 November 2021
Something that has been bugging me a lot lately, is how so many people are adding cool quotes to their photo and art posts on Instagram. I love good quotes.
I love good quotes when they are used in context. That is to say when they are actually relevant. I think that an image should generally stand on its own.
So, I don’t understand why people think that it’s necessary to add a quote without owning it by putting it into context. What does the quote mean to you???
So in this issue of Curious Frame I’m delving into some of the quotes that I especially like and find relevant to the practice of photography.
As always, I welcome your comments, critiques and suggestions and even some of those quotes that you especially like and why.
Oh no, no comments on last issue. Just hit reply and let me know what’s on your mind. Curious Frame is written for you. Thanks!
Ongoing Thoughts on Photography
The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
My motto for many years now, has been the above quote by Marcel Proust. You will see this quote in every issue of my Shoot New York City newsletter.
This quote is something that I live and breath on a daily basis. Every day of my life as a photographer, artist, writer and mentor, my job is always about seeing with new eyes.
To be able to move from the mundane mind to a creative one, seeing with new eyes is a basic first step. It isn't always easy, but when you love these activities as much as I do, you just do it.
I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed. Basically, that’s why I photograph, in the simplest language. Garry Winogrand
This is such a simple statement that we can easily gloss over it as if I knew that. Doh. But maybe simple can be deceptive.
We expect accomplished photographers and artists to come up with statements that are more difficult to understand. Certainly there's more to it than that!
Maybe, just maybe, there is more depth and truth in a simple statement. Why do we take photos if not to see what they will look like?
I'm not talking about those photos that we take to document an event. But as soon as we venture into more creative forms of photography, like street, everything changes.
Photography is quite different than other forms of art and creativity. You don't paint a painting to document an event without it already being part of the creative process,
In photography there are many mundane uses of snapping the shutter. I don't take many photos with my phone. But when I do it's typically about using it to remember and place or item. Like a book that I'd like to buy.
For the purposes of Curious Frame, I am typically always writing about photography as a creative act or how other uses of photography have an effect on our lives and how we think about and see the world that we live in.
Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Yes, this is one of my favorite quotes by Cartier-Bresson or any other photographer. People often get caught up in the idea that sharpness is an important element in a photo.
It's possible that sharpness is for certain kinds of photos an important point. I hesitate to say that there any always or nevers in photography.
I quite like the natural soft focus of so many of the classic film photos of the past. I continue to appreciate it over sharpness. It is of course, a personal choice.
I understand that Cartier-Bresson mentioned it on many occasions and that it was a favorite of his. I find it amusing that a well established photographer felt a necessity to say this on a regular basis.
I am imagine him chuckling as he said it. It's possible that we could all loosen up a bit and find the fun in photography and have a good laugh at times about all the righteous statements that are spouted about the rights and wrongs that get passed on by so-called experts.
I didn’t write the rules—why should I follow them? - W. Eugene Smith
I've always liked this quote as long as I've known it. But the more I read it, the more meaning I find in it. I grew up in an age when a popular bumper sticker was question authority.
I question rules to discover why they are rules and if they are worth following. To be clear, in terms of photography, you can't make many grave mistakes.
If you follow all of the so-called rules of photography, you are likely to come up with paint by number images. To find our own vision in photography we need to accept who we are first.
I've made all kinds of mistakes in my life and hopefully I've learned from many of them. My photography is a reflection of who I am blemishes and all.
Ultimately, Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida.
I adore much of the writing of Roland Barthes, in short spurts. Much of his writing is dense. It requires time and thought to uncover the meaning of much of it.
This is one of the quotes that really resonates with me. Translation might be, keep it simple. Keep it real. No reason to have to do acrobatics to get a photo that can have meaning for many people.
I love how the photo in my photo provides us with a secret view of two people having a conversation while at a museum exhibit. And how all the striped ties work so well together with the photo.
I don’t know what good composition is…. Sometimes for me composition has to do with a certain brightness or a certain coming to restness and other times it has to do with funny mistakes. There’s a kind of rightness and wrongness and sometimes I like rightness and sometimes I like wrongness. Diane Arbus
I'm not certain that it's even really possible to understand most of Diane Arbus' quotes. As a woman photographer during her lifetime you had to forge your own rules. And that she did.
The above quote is for me, brilliant. In a time when the voices of men in the world of photography outnumbered women and tended to carry more weight, making a statement that allows her to not take sides and choose just one is perhaps a little radical.
Radical in fact is a word that could describe Arbus. She didn't actually describe the rights or the wrongs. Are they in contrast with what is prescribed by other photographers?
Either way, I think that it's important to feel comfortable in breaking these so-called rules. To feel comfortable doing that.
Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. Imogen Cunningham
The beauty of street photography and photography in general is that there's always something new to shoot. The world is forever changing as well as the seasons and the photographic opportunities multiply.
I love Imogen Cunningham's spirit about photography. There's always something new tomorrow. If you practice seeing with new eyes you will find that there's probably something right in front of you to capture.
Shooting straight into the sun is something that I didn't really do very often in the past. But I often turn in different directions to see what's there. One day I turned and a cool shot was right there in front of me. If you're stuck, you might want to do a workshop or a tour to capture a different view.
If there 's any single message that I would like to convey, it's that above all, you should learn to be you. To take photos that are in your style.
That isn't an especially easy thing to attain. It's taken me my whole life to get where I am and there's still more room to grow. It's always a moving target,
I like quotes by photographers that are personal. I like when I read a quote and say to myself, 'oh yeah. that's exactly how I feel.' You, and I emphasize you, get to choose based on how you feel.
It's not in your head or your intellect. It's in your heart. So I was very happy to come across a quote by William Klein in which he said “Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even if it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.”
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Curious Frame - In a world that is overpopulated with images, Curious Frame is where I share my thoughts on photography. It is always about ‘seeing with new eyes’.
Gifts for photographers
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It's a little difficult to understand what Chris Killip is saying in this video. I used the closed captions. His story is really something.
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Leanne Staples is a lens-based artist, photographer and writer based in New York City. She specializes in abstract and street photography.
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