The Masters speak: 46 quotes about photography

Trees in a valley

During the years I stumbled on a few quotes from various (often great) photographers, writers and painters that I thought revealed one or more facets of this beautiful art. I decided to share them with you because they can teach us more than a thousand page manual could what the essence of photography is. Enjoy your reading!

 

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
Ansel Adams

 

“No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.”
Robert Adams

 

“What’s really important is to simplify. The work of most photographers would be improved immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity, you are more likely to reach the viewer.”
William Albert Allard

 

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.”
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”
“I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.”
Diane Arbus

 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
Cecil Beaton

 

“Most things in life are moments of pleasure and a lifetime of embarrassment; photography is a moment of embarrassment and a lifetime of pleasure.”
Tony Benn

 

“So, what do you photograph?”
I swallow my wine.
“What?”
“You know – city scapes, nature, portraits, candid shots…”
Boobs. I photograph boobs.
“Uhh… people?”
Iris Blaire, Dark Frame

 

“To me photography must suggest, not insist or explain.”
Brassaï

 

“Would you hang it on your wall? Then it’s a good photograph.”
Leslie Dean Brown

 

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
Robert Capa

 

“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”
Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

“If I knew how to take a good photograph, I’d do it every time.”
Robert Doisneau

 

“A tiny piece of glass slowing, bending, organizing light – light – into your grandmother, the Grand Canyon, the begonia on the windowsill, the film keeping the image like a secret. Grandmother, canyon, begonia tucked neatly into the sleek black box, like bugs in a jar. My mind boggled.”
Marisa de los Santos

 

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Elliott Erwitt

 

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice”
Robert Frank

 

“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”
Nan Goldin

 

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
Ted Grant

 

“I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.”
Ernst Haas

 

“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
Matt Hardy

 

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”
David Alan Harvey

 

“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.”
Yousuf Karsh

 

“It’s weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, don’t even amount to a couple of hours.”
James Lalropui Keivom

 

“The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.”
Robert Mapplethorpe

 

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
Don McCullin

 

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.”
Joe McNally

 

“Actually, it’s nature itself that creates the most beautiful pictures, I’m only choosing the perspective.”
Katja Michael

 

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”
Joan Miro

 

“With photography, I like to create a fiction out of reality.”
Martin Parr

 

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”
Man Ray

 

“A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”
George Bernard Shaw

 

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
Aaron Siskind

 

“All photographs are memento mori.”
“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.”
“When we are afraid, we shoot. But when we are nostalgic, we take pictures.”
Susan Sontag

 

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau

 

“You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus”
Mark Twain

 

“The camera basically is a license to explore.”
Jerry Uelsmann

 

“Only photograph what you love.”
Tim Walker

 

“When you approach something to photograph it, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. Then don’t leave until you have captured its essence.”
Minor White