It is part of the photographer's
job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have
and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child
who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveller
who enters a strange country. Most photographers would feel
a certain embarrassment in admitting publicly that they
carried within them a sense of wonder, yet without it they
would not produce the work they do, whatever their particular
field. It is the gift of seeing the life around them clearly
and vividly, as something that is exciting in its own right.
It is an innate gift, varying in intensity with the individual's
temperament and environment.
McCoy: In your work, do you
become an unobtrusive, invisible, detached photographer
or are you totally involved with your subject and his environment?
Lyon: It's not a problem to
me. At least, I feel I'm at home enough wherever I'm working
that I'm not concerned about being invisible because I'm
first of all not invisible and, like I said, I really feel
at home where I work so that's the end of my problem. I
wouldn't work unless I feel at home. If I wasn't welcome
there socially, say, if I didn't ask permission first ...
I'm not saying it's right, what I do ... what I did ...
anyway. The only problem might be with police or something
like that, people who tend to keep me from doing what I
want to do. If I'm not wanted, I go away. Do you think we
could finish maybe in 10 minutes? I got a truck of gravel
sitting out here.
To me, photography is the simultaneous
recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance
of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms
which give that event its proper expression. I believe that,
through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made
concurrently the the discovery of the world around us which
can mold us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance
must be established between these two worlds the
one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a
constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form
a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate.
But this takes care only of the content of the picture.
For me, content connot be seperated from form. By form,
I mean a rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces,
lines, and values. It is in this organization alone that
our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable.
In photography, visual organization can stem only from a
Seminars - Henri Cartier-Bresson
Photography is, to me, more than
a means of expression, more than my particular profession
it is a way of life. And if I were asked to choose
one word which holds the key to my work I would select 'light'
for light is my language, and it is international,
readily understood by any person of any race. It has been
my good fortune to welcome before my camera many great men
and women who have made their mark on our generation and
will find a place in history. I feel that my life's work
is to interpret to the best of my ability, the inner strength,
the true character, of these personalities, through the
medium of photographic portraiture. I can think of no elation
equal to that when something close to my ideal is achieved,
though necessarily there must always be a spark of what
I call 'divine discontent' the constant striving
for near-perfection. In this self-appointed task, which
also carries, I believe, a great sense of responsibility,
the medium of light is all-important. It is the portraitist's
chief tool, and he can never learn enough about it.
When I took my first picture back
in 1912 I had no idea that I would make a career of photography.
today, almost 45 years and at least a million pictures later,
I am certainly much more experienced, but I often wonder
whether and how much I have actually improved since that
early beginning. Strange to say I started out as a salon-print
photographer. Yet through all the changes in style and subjects,
I remember almost every picture I have taken and can recall
the circumstances surrounding each of them. In the old days,
before I came to the United States, I did not have all the
conveniences that I enjoy now. As a Life photographer I
am spoiled. A plush laboratory processes all my films and
does all my printing and helpful reporters asist me in my
picture taking. But, as many a veteran photographer will
agree, the old days were really better. I was thirty years
free, and most important of all, I was thirty years younger.
Yet I can honestly say that I get as much enjoyment and
excitement out of taking pictures today as I did when I
began. If there is any secret to my career, it is that I
have managed to keep my original spirit during all these
years of professional life. Every assisgnment I have undertaken,
from as essay on Churchill to a story about a day in a dog's
life, I have tried to carry out with as much enthisiasm
as if it had been my first story. This is why I have sush
respect for good amateur photographers. Too many prfessionals
think they have learned everything. In actual fact they
have allready forgetton much. Once the amateur's naive approach
and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative
spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional
should remain always in his heart an amateir.
The modern photographer, having,
as most creative people, the urge to communicate widely,
is inevitably drawn to the medium that offers him the fullest
opportunity for that communication. He thus works for publication.
He is, in fact, a journalist. . . . For the modern photographer
the end product of his efforts is the printed page, not
the photographic print.
Photographers - Irving Penn
The Photography of Bill Brandt, Harry N. Abrams., Publisher,
(2) U.S. Camera/Camera
35 Annual, 1974. Conversations From A Phone Booth On Route
66. Danny Lyon Interviewed by Dan McCoy. Page 149.
Camera/Camera 35 Annual, 1974. Uneasy Words While Waiting.
Robert Frank Interviewed by Sean Kernan. Page 141.
(4) These comments where
from the 1958 vote of the 10 greatest photographers selected
by a panel of 243 "outstanding photographers, editors,
picture editors, art directors, critics and teachers"
in an international poll conducted by Popular Photography
magazine. The statements appeared in the May, 1958 issue
of that magazine.
(5) From the transcript
of the symposium "What is Modern Photography?"
held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 20,
(6) W. Eugene Smith, "Photographic
Journalism," Photo Notes, June 1948, pp. 4-5