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THOMAS RUFF

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Original author: 
Mikko Takkunen

Features and Essays

Kirsten Luce for the New York Times

Kirsten Luce for the New York Times

Kirsten Luce: A Border Evolves as Washington Pursues Immigration Reform (NYT)

Ricardo Cases: ¡Evangélicos! (LightBox) Intensity, Isolation, and Fiesta

Ilona Szwarc: The Cowgirl Way (NYT Magazine)

Peter Hapak: Portraits of the Gay Marriage Revolution (LightBox)

Jeff Brown: Bar Regulars (NYT Magazine) This Is Who Rules the Bars of New York

Nina Berman:  Stop-and-Frisk (Photo Booth)

Carlos Javier Ortiz: Too Young To Die (Pulitzer Center) Chicago’s Gang Violence

Shannon Stapleton: North Dakota Booming (Reuters)

Lisa Wiltse: Mary’s Pageant (Reportage by Getty Images)

Sebastian Liste

Sebastian Liste / Reportage by Getty Images

Sebastian Liste: In The Wake Of Chavez (Reportage by Getty Images)

Alvaro Ybarra Zavala: The Legacy of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Liberator (Reportage by Getty Images)

Jorge Cabrera: Death in the murder capital (Reuters) Honduras

Bryan Denton: Afghan Army Taking the Lead (NYT)

Bryan Denton: Hardships in Afghan Refugee Camps (NYT)

John D. McHugh: Observe The Sons of Afghan Marching Towards The War (Reportage by Getty Images)

Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas / Contact Press Images

Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas / Contact Press Images

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis (LightBox)

Adam Dean: Myanmar Grapples With Ethnic Tensions (NYT)

Sim Chi Yin: Fragile Lake (The Straits Times) Burma

Stephen Dock: Mali, the new gold rush (Agence Vu)

Marco Grob: International Mine Action Day: Portraits (LightBox)

Abbie Trayler-Smith: The Spring that Wasn’t (Panos) Yemen

Hatem Moussa: How to Make Charcoal in Gaza (TIME)

Andrea Bruce: Christians in Syria Celebrate Good Friday With Hope and Fear (NYT)

Kalpesh Lathigra: Za’atari refugee camp (The Independent) Syrian refugee crisis

Peter Hove Olesen: Assad (Politiken) Syria

Lynsey Addario / VII

Lynsey Addario / VII

Lynsey Addario: Mortal Beloved (New Republic) The extreme perils of motherhood in Sierra Leone

Diana Matar: Return to Libya (Photo Booth)

Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky: Kings of the Roma (NYT Lens)

Tomas van Houtryve: No Man’s Land (The Foreign Policy) Exclusive photos from the 38th parallel.

Sergio Ramazzotti: North Korea: Inside the utopia (Parallelo Zero)

Evi Zoupanos: Acid Attack (zReportage) Bangladesh

Mike Brodie: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (Guardian)

Gert Jochems: S (Agence Vu)

Matthieu Rytz: The Eroding Culture of Kuna Yala (NYT Lens) Panama

Stephen McLaren: Wading into weirdness on the street (NYT Lens)

Benjamin Lowy: The First Signs of Spring in Brooklyn (NYT Magazine)

Chad A. Stevens: West Virginia Mining (CNN photo blog)

David Kasnic: Rattlesnake Roundup: Texas style (CNN photo blog)

Benjamin Bechet: El Hierro (CNN photo blog) An ‘everlasting island’ | Spain

Articles

KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

Detecting North Korea’s doctored photos (AFP Correspondent blog)

North Korea ‘Photoshopped’ marine landings photograph (The Telegraph)

War’s Bricolage (No Caption Needed)

Photographer Sebastião Salgado captures areas of Earth untouched by modern life (Metro)

Ron Haviv’s Bosnian War Images as Evidence in War Trials (NYT Lens)

Sebastian Junger Shoots for the Truth (Outside) Junger’s powerful new documentary about the life of war photographer Tim Hetherington shows us why dedicated journalists are needed now more than ever

HBO documentary on the life and death of conflict photographer Tim Hetherington premieres next month (The Verge)

Inside the War Machine: New Documentary Maps an Epic Photo Career (Wired Rawfile)

Famed photojournalist Robert Capa and the mystery of his “Mexican Suitcase” (Imaging Resource)

Edmund Clark: control order house (FT Magazine)

George Strock / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

George Strock / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Photo That Was Hard to Get Published, but Even Harder to Get (NYT Lens) One of the most significant war photographs in American history is routinely taken for granted.

Syria’s Media War (The Daily Beast)

Fake Somali Pirates Scam Western Journalists (The Daily Beast)

At War with the Obvious: Photographs by William Eggleston (Photo Booth)

William Eggleston’s photographs of eerie Americana – in pictures (Guardian)

War reporting documentary wins prestigious Peabody Award (Star.com)

The girl in the 2011 Afghan bombing photograph (The Independent)

Snaps by Elliott Erwitt – review (Guardian)

Chim: Photography’s forgotten hero (The Jewish Chronicle)

Femen gets kick in the pants (but not on Facebook) (AFP Correspondent blog)

AP opens full news bureau in Myanmar (AP Big Story)

Photojournalists Move To Instagram, From Syria to Sandy (American Photo)

Traditional Photographers Should Be Horrified By The Cover Of Today’s New York Times (Business Insider)

NYT’s front-page Instagram: Maybe not the end of photography (Poynter)

Instagram and the New Era of Paparazzi (NYT)

Hyper-Realistic CGI Is Killing Photographers, Thrilling Product Designers (Wired)

Tim A. Hetherington

Tim A. Hetherington

The Guide: April 2013 Edition (LightBox) TIME LightBox presents a new monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web

The month in photography  (The Guardian) New exhibitions and books by William Eggleston, Sebastião Salgado, Kitra Cahana and Pieter Hugo are featured in this month’s guide to the best photography around the world.

Someone I Know (Someoneiknow.net)  Project bringing together some of the best known emerged and emerging photographers from across the globe. The brief for the photographers was to take a portrait of someone they know, no matter how loosely.

The Ethics of Street Photography (Joerg Colberg)

The Age of “Fauxtojournalism” (Chicago Tribune Assignment Chicago blog)

Bobby’s Book: Bruce Davidson’s Photographs of the Brooklyn Gang The Jokers (Photo Booth)

Magnum Photos approaches new audiences in deal with Vice magazine (British Journal of Photography)

MJR – Collection 100 / A history (Vimeo)

Review: Liquid Land by Rena Effendi (Joerg Colberg)

Uncharted Territories: Black Maps by David Maisel (LightBox)

Classical Portraits of Extreme Plastic Surgery (Slate Behold photo blog)

From Desert to City: A Photographer Unveils Forgotten Stars (LightBox)

Paul McDonough : Shooting film on the move (CNN photo blog)

A Look at the Pristine: Walter Niedermayr’s Aspen Series (LightBox)

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo’s Photos From His Native Cuba (NYT Lens)

Larry Racioppo’s Photos of Good Friday Processions In Brooklyn (NYT Lens)

Gillian Laub : On Passover, Celebrating Life and Ritual in a Jewish Family (Slate Behold photo blog)

McNair Evans: Chasing hope on the railways (CNN photo blog)

Ahn Sehong : Comfort Women in China (NYT Lens)

Henri Huet / AP

Henri Huet / AP

An Expansive Exhibition of War Images at the Annenberg Space in Los Angeles (NYT Lens)

Anatomy of a Successful Grant Application: Joseph Rodriguez on the Audience Engagement Grant (PDN)

Crowd-Sourcing, Part One: Ask And You Shall Receive (NPPA)

The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright (PhotoShelter)

Featured photographer: Paolo Patrizi  (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Abbie Trayler-Smith (Firecracker)

Judge Rules William Eggleston Can Clone His Own Work, Rebuffing Angry Collector (Artinfo)

Judge Rules William Eggleston Can Clone His Own Work (Joerg Colberg)

How Joachim Brohm set the world of landscape photography on fire (The Guardian)

Thoughts on the TIME Gay Marriage (or, Gay Sex?) Covers (BagNewsNotes)

Can 20×200 Be Saved? Anger From Collectors Mounts as Leading Art Site Flounders (Artinfo.com)

Henry Groskinsky / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Image

Henry Groskinsky / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

The Day MLK Was Assassinated: A Photographer’s Story  (LIFE) On April 4, 1968, LIFE photographer Henry Groskinsky and writer Mike Silva, on assignment in Alabama, learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The two men jumped into their car, raced the 200 miles to the scene of the assassination

Photographer Who Shot Beatles Concert With a Fake Press Pass Sells the Pics for $45K (PetaPixel)

Camera Finds Way Back to Owner After Drifting 6,200 Miles from Hawaii to Taiwan (PetaPixel)

Photographer Accuses Getty of Loaning Images to CafePress Instead of Licensing Them (PetaPixel)

Photographing a Mother’s Descent Into Mental Illness (Mother Jones)

Review: Tales of Tono by Daido Moriyama (Joerg Colberg)

The new war poets: the photographs of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (The Telegraph)

LaToya Ruby Frazier Photography at Brooklyn Museum (NYT)

Makoko exhibition opens a window on a Nigerian world (The Guardian)

Distance & Desire: Encounters with the African Archive (Photo Booth)

Rene Burri in colour (BBC)

Helmut Newton Book ‘World Without Men’ Returns (The Daily Beast)

Interviews and Talks

Dominic Nahr / Magnum Photos

Dominic Nahr / Magnum Photos

Dominic Nahr (Leica blog) Recording History for Posterity

Sebastião Salgado (Monocle Radio) Salgado interview starts at 13 minutes into the show

Mike Brodie (Guardian) On his freight train photographs: ‘It’s a romantic life, at least in the spring and summer’

Andrew DeVigal (Wired RawFile blog) Smart Readers Are Too Distracted to Dig Smart Content

Carlos  Javier Ortiz (CBS News) Photographer brings Chicago gun violence into sharp focus | slideshow on CBS News website 

Jenn Ackerman (Slate Behold photo blog) Trapped: The Story of the Mentally Ill in Prison

Farzana Wahidy (NPR) How A Female Photographer Sees Her Afghanistan

Andrea Bruce / The New York Times

Andrea Bruce   / The New York Times

Andrea Bruce (NOOR) My first day in Damascus

Steve McCurry (Vice)

Raghu Rai (Visura Magazine)

Mohamed Abdiwahab (LightBox Tumblr)

Bert Stern (LightBox)  The Original ‘Mad Man’

Duane Michaels (Bomb blog)

Gregory Crewdson (The Telegraph) Gregory Crewdson’s silent movies

Maika Elan (Vietnam News)

Lisa Rose (The Chicago Tribune Assignment Chicago blog) The Goals of PhotoPhilanthropy

Shannon Jensen (The Daily Pennsylvanian) No ‘fancy pictures’, just tell the story

Alice Proujansky (The Guardian) Alice Proujansky’s best photograph – childbirth in the Dominican Republic

Camille Seaman (Piper Mackay Photography)

 Zhe Chen (Le Journal de la Photographie)

Guillem Valle (Leica blog) Transporting The Viewer Through Photographs

Stanley Forman (Boston Globe) Photojournalist Stanley Forman on his new book

Bill Armstrong (Aperture)

Thomas Ruff (Aperture)

Misha Friedman (Dazed Digital)

John Kilar (Dazed Digital)

Daniel Cronin (Dazed Digital)

Awards, Grants, and Competitions

Upcoming Deadlines for Grants, Fellowships Up to $10,000 (PDN)

PROOF : Award for Emerging Photojournalists  : Deadline May 1, 2013

NPPF Scholarship : Deadline April 15, 2013

Lens Culture student photography awards 2013 : Deadline April 15, 2013

72nd Annual Peabody Awards: Complete List of Winners (Peabody)

Best of Photojournalism 2013 Multimedia Winners

Photographic Museum of Humanity 2013 Grant Winners

William Eggleston to receive Outstanding Contribution to Photography award (British Journal of Photography) Also on The Guardian here.

Mikko Takkunen is an associate photo editor at TIME.com.

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 Monkeys Make the Problem More Difficult   A Collective Interview with Garry Winogrand (1970)

Originally Published in Image Magazine by George Eastman House – Vol. 15, No. 2, July, 1972

Transcribed and Edited by Dennis Longwell

“In an artistic work of true beauty the content ought to be nil, the form everything. . . . The secret of great artists is that they cancel matter through form; the more imposing the matter is in itself, the greater its obstinacy in striving to emphasize its own particular effect, the more the spectator inclines to lose himself immediately in the matter, so much more triumphant is the art which brings it into subjection and enforces its own sovereign power.”

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805).

 

“Art is the supreme game which the will plays with itself. . . .”

Susan Sontag, (1933- ).

 

Rochester Institute of Technology, October 9, 1970. 

Garry Winogrand (1928- ) spent two days in Rochester, New York, in October, 1970. On Friday, the 9th, he was the guest of the Rochester Institute of Technology. On Saturday, the 10th, he visited the Visual Studies Workshop, also in Rochester. The format was identical on both occasions: Winogrand, without comment, showed slides of his latest work and then answered questions from the student audiences. All in all, he talked for over five hours. The following transcript, edited from a tape recording of the proceedings, represents but one idea among the many ideas that were touched on.2

 

I saw a photograph that—there’s a photograph that had “Kodak” and there’s a kid holding a dog—

GW: Yeah.

—and the people kind of wandering in and out. Now, it might be due to my own ignorance or something, but could you give me like a straight answer as to what you’re trying to say in that photograph?

GW: I have nothing to say.

Nothing to say? Then why do you print it?

GW: I don’t have anything to say in any picture.

Why do you print it if it has no meaning?

GW: With that particular picture—ah, I’m interested in the space and I maybe can learn something about photography. That’s what I get from photographs; if I’m lucky, I can learn something.

Then you’re trying to reveal something about space?

GW: I’m not revealing anything.

Then what do you think is the purpose of the photograph if you’re not revealing anything.

 

 Monkeys Make the Problem More Difficult   A Collective Interview with Garry Winogrand (1970)

 

GW: My education.

Then what’s the purpose of that? That’s what I’m trying to find out.

GW: That’s the answer. That’s really the answer…

Yesterday at R.I.T. somebody asked you what are you trying to say in a certain picture and you said you weren’t trying to say anything. He jumped to the conclusion that it was meaningless and if it was meaningless why did you bother to print it and they seemed very confused about this. Could you tell me what—/ think I know what you’re saying and I like it but I—

GW: Tell me.

I can’t tell you, but if you’d do it again I might get a closer idea.

GW: My only interest in photographing is photography. That’s really the answer.

In other words it isn’t social comment, it isn’t ah—

GW: When you photograph—there’s [sic] things in a photograph. Right?

Yeah.

GW: So this can’t help but be a document or whatever you want to call it. It’s automatic. I mean if you photograph a cake of soap, in the package or out of it, it goes without saying—

But that’s not what you’re concerned about. I mean, your concern is photography.

GW: That’s it. And I have to photograph where I am.

If you were somewhere else—if for some reason you went to Arizona or Alaska, would you photograph—

GW: Then that’s what the pictures would look like, whatever those places look like.

Is your choice of subject matter just limited by where you are, by the fact that you live in New York?

GW: Yeah, I mean there are pictures in here from California and some other places, too.

Yeah. But you return to certain things, though, which have more to do than just with place. Like you’ve got a thing about dogs no matter where they are.

GW: Dogs are everyplace.

You’ve got a thing about, say, personal injury.

GW: That has to do with photography—I’m not interested in injuries. Believe me I’m not.

What about the reoccurrence of, say, oh, monkeys which goes back—

GW: Listen, it’s interesting;but it’s interesting for photographic reasons, really.

What are photographic reasons?

GW: Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form. And, you know, in terms of content, you can make a problem for yourself, I mean, make the contest difficult, let’s say, with certain subject matter that is inherently dramatic. An injury could be, a dwarf can be, a monkey—if you run into a monkey in some idiot context, automatically you’ve got a very real problem taking place in the photograph. I mean, how do you beat it?

 

 Monkeys Make the Problem More Difficult   A Collective Interview with Garry Winogrand (1970)

Utah, 1964

Are you saying then that your primary concern is a kind of formal one?

GW: Of course.

In what sense “formal?” Getting things on the page? Filling up the space?

GW: You can’t help doing that either; I mean, it just automatically happens when you make an exposure.

Well, then I don’t understand what the “formal” problem is.

GW: It’s, ah—

—to make it not look formal.

GW: No, sorry. . . . You’ve got a number of things that take place that are peculiar to still photography. One: how a picture looks—what you photograph is responsible for how a photograph looks. In other words, it’s responsible for the form.

It, or are you?

GW: What you photograph is responsible for how a photograph looks —the form, the design, whatever word you want to use. Because of that there’s no way a photograph has to look … in a sense. There are no formal rules of design that can apply. In other words, a photograph can look anyway. It just depends basically on what you photograph.

Well, the choice of the 28 mm. lens over a 50 mm. is going to give you a different looking photograph.

GW: It makes the problem—it ups the ante in a way, if you want to put it that way. You have more to contend with. Maybe it makes the problem a little bit more interesting.

I always feel very precarious when I look at your images. I feel like I’m falling over. Is that because you’re not—you don’t use a view-finder?

GW: I don’t know why you feel the way you feel. . . . What are you asking?

Actually, what I’m asking is do you often shoot without using your viewfinder?

GW: I never shoot without using the viewfinder—Oh, yes, there’ll be a few times,—I may have to hold the camera up over my head because for just physical reasons, but very rarely does that ever work.

Are you conscious of that?

GW: Of what?

Of sort of an off-kilter thing happening?

GW: Oh, yeah, sure. I pretty much know what I’m doing.

Is that an attempt to solve a photographic problem?

GW: Generally it’s to make one. Another reason can be just because physically I might have trouble to get what I want to include in [the frame] in, you know, just physically. And that’s a good reason.

I’m wondering what, like, your concern with this is. Why photography?

GW: I told you before. It’s, ah—the thing itself is fascinating. The game, let’s say, of trying to state photographic problems is, for me, absolutely fascinating.

You keep trying to know more and more about the game?

GW: I’m trying to learn more and more about what’s possible, you know —really, I am answering your question.

Yeah

GW: I’m not dissembling.

Any change in your work you would attribute to somehow learning— the learning process?

GW: Yeah. I think if I did a tight editing, let’s say, of this bunch [of photographs], I’d say I’m a different photographer here than from those animals or whatever.3

Were the animals done in a concentrated period of time or did they just kind of pop up as you—

GW: Basically, they were done in a relatively concentrated period of time. I mean, I wasn’t just working on them. But, I’d say I can safely say over a year’s—about a year I went on—yeah, when I knew I had a game to play there. . . .

Do you look at a lot of other people’s photographs?

 

 Monkeys Make the Problem More Difficult   A Collective Interview with Garry Winogrand (1970)

 

GW: Sure. I look at photographs.

Whose photographs do you find interesting?

GW: Quickly, off the top of my head: Atget, Brassai, Kertesz, Weston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Bresson.

Do you like them for different reasons or do you find a reason?

GW: I learn from them. I can learn from them.

On the problem level, do you feel they’ve solved a problem and you think, “Thank God, I don’t have to do that?”

GW: It’s not a question of solving. It’s a question of stating.

Stating?

GW: Yeah. You don’t solve anything ever, really. You simply state a problem which, when you’re lucky, gives you some idea of what possible problems you can—it indicates, you know, your future headaches.

But that’s all related to the idea of the “game”—it’s being a “game”?

GW: Whatever word you want to use—you want to use “work”? Use the word “work.”

Work—play—

GW: I use the word “play”; but you understand the word “play”—if you ever watch children play—what do you observe when you watch children play? You know, they’re dead serious. They’re not on vacation.

If the problem you’re working on now is the contest between form and content, what was the problem before?

GW: It’s always—every photograph, every—somehow bang of the shutter—basically, I’m playing the “game” in a way.

When you first started photographing what was your, like primary interest in picking up the camera? Did you like people?

GW: No, the process, really. I really liked—it was a very crazy thing to me, I mean, this business of being uncertain that it would come out. I still enjoy—I still don’t understand why when you put a piece of paper in a tray with solution in it, it comes up. It’s still, in a sense, magic to me. It’s a funny thing, you know. I’ve got two kids, and when they were very young, they used to come in the darkroom and I thought they’d be astounded by that. Nothing. When they got a little older, then they got astounded by it. . . .

Is it relevant to ask what you were doing before you began to take pictures?

GW: I don’t know. … I had a camera but I had no darkroom facilities, nothing like that was available. And so, you know, I shot a roll of film, I sent it in, and stuff like that. And I was painting. I was studying painting which is not valid because it’s ridiculous to talk about it. But I was at Columbia [University] and they had a camera club. I think I registered there for the fall term. And so I found out about this camera club and they told me they had this darkroom available twenty-four hours a day. And I’d never done any darkroom work, so I went down. It must have been two weeks after I started there and, I’d say, give it another week and I never went back to class. I’m telling you, it was basically the process. . . .4

Well, like let’s say, [Robert] Frank’s book of photographs—5

GW: What about it?

You talked about learning from—

GW: Yeah—

—his stuff—

GW: I hope I did. I learned—

I’m interested to learn, like, when you looked in the book, like, do you think there’s anything you can say afterwards what, you know, “I learned” or what might be different in your work afterward?

GW: Well, let’s put it—you have to talk, speak about photographs, specific photographs. . . . Let’s say, primarily—let’s say Walker Evans in a general sense was maybe the first man who, in his book, states that you could—or rather the work states that America was a place to photograph in. Just on that level. Of course, there’s much more about those photographs; they’re astounding.6

You think you can get different things from a specific photograph?

GW: Yeah, you can go into your own mumbo-jumbo.

Would you go into a mumbo-jumbo about [Robert] Frank’s photograph of the flag or would you just look at it?

GW: That photograph doesn’t interest me that much. There are photographs in there far more interesting. The gasoline station photograph would be.7

Would you go into a mumbo-jumbo or would you just look at it?

GW: That [the gasoline station] photograph, in the first place, is an exercise in, ah—it’s a lesson, number one, in just camera operation, in a sense. It’s a lesson in how responsible that machine is for how photographs can look. Begin with that. To me that was one of the most important pictures in the book. It’s also a photograph of nothing, there’s nothing happening there. I mean, the subject matter has no dramatic ability of its own whatsoever and yet somehow it looks, what it is, it’s the most mundane—and there’s nothing happening, there’s no physical action.

You get the feeling that he played the game very well?

GW: Extremely well. That he could conceive of that being a photograph in the first place, is, ah—I don’t know if he, on any conscious level, thinks in terms of this “game” or whatever. And I certainly don’t really, in a conscious way, worry about it when I’m working. The contest between form and content is what, is what art is about— it’s art history. That’s what basically everybody has ever contended with. The problem is uniquely complex in still photography.

 

 Monkeys Make the Problem More Difficult   A Collective Interview with Garry Winogrand (1970)

 

How so?

GW: Well, in terms of what a camera does. Again, you go back to that original idea that what you photograph is responsible for how it [the photograph] looks. And it’s not plastic, in a way. The problem is unique in photographic terms.

Well, if what you photograph is responsible for what it looks like, what if ten people take a photograph of the same thing?

GW: The same way? If they’re standing in the same place, the same kind of lens on the camera, the same film, the right exposure and their cameras are in the same position? It would be the same picture—The camera’s dumb, it don’t [sic] care who’s pushing the button. It doesn’t know—

What is it, say, in a picture that makes it interesting instead of dead; what makes it alive instead of dead?

GW: Well, let’s say—let’s go back to that gasoline picture. . . . Let’s say, [it's] the photographer’s understanding of possibilities. Let me say something else. When he [Robert Frank] took that photograph he couldn’t possibly know—he just could not know that it would work, that it would be a photograph. He knew he probably had a chance. In other words, he cannot know what that’s going to look like as a photograph. I mean, understanding fully that he’s going to render what he sees, he still does not know what it’s going to look like as a photograph. Something, the fact of photographing something changes—I mean, when you photograph—if I photograph you I don’t have you, I have a photograph of you. It’s got its own thing. That’s really what photography, still photography, is about. In the simplest sentence, I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed. Basically, that’s why I photograph, in the simplest language. That’s the beginning of it and then we get to play the games.

But the thing that’s intriguing is not really knowing what the result is going to be like.

GW: Of course. What I know bores me. You know, you get into the business of commercial photography, and that’s all you do is photograph what you know. That’s what you’re hired for. And it’s very easy to make successful photographs—-it’s very easy. I’m a good craftsman and I can have this particular intention: let’s say, I want a photograph that’s going to push a certain button in an audience, to make them laugh or love, feel warm or hate or what—I know how to do this. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do that, to make successful photographs. It’s a bore. I certainly never wanted to be a photographer to bore myself. It’s no fun—life is too short. . . .

Do you shoot pool?

GW: What?

Do you shoot pool?

GW: I have, yeah. I was good. Ah, yeah, why?

I shoot pool, I don’t know— [tape unclear]

GW: There was a time in my life when I lived in one [a pool room?], you know when I was a kid. Once in a while I get a chance—

I feel the same thing, like how you’re talking about photography— I don’t know— I can’t—

GW: All right.

You feel you’ve been hustled in a pool room. . . . Are there any other things that relate photographically that are not necessarily other photographs? By this I mean, do you ever get ideas—not ideas—is your education ever expanded by an interest in something else other than photography?

GW: I would think so. A heck of a lot. Reading and music and painting and sculpture and other stuff. Basketball, baseball, hockey, etc. Certainly, you know, you can always learn from some—from somebody else’s—from some intelligence. I think. I hope. Nobody exists in a vacuum. Where do you come from? The first time I really got out of New York as a photographer was in 1955 and I wanted to go around the country photographing. And a friend of mine at that time, I was talking to him about it—a guy named Dan Weiner.8 I don’t know if you know his name. He’s dead now. [He] asked me if I had ever seen Walker Evans’ book and I said, no. I had never heard of Walker Evans. He said, if you’re going around the country, take a look at the book. And he did me a big fat favor.

And then it’s funny, I forget what year when Robert Frank’s book came out. He was working pretty much around that time, ’55 or whenever it was. And there were photographs in there, particularly that gas station photograph, that I learned an immense amount from. I mean, I hope I learned. At least, I feel very responsible . . . [tape unclear].

What you’re responding to, is it the quality of the intelligence that states the problem?

GW: Yeah, I don’t give a rap about gasoline stations. . .

 

NOTES

1. Schiller is quoted by Roland Rood in his book, Color and Light in Painting, New York: Columbia University Press, 1941, p. 8. Miss Sontag’s statement appears in her essay, “On Style,” from her book, Against Interpretation, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, fourth printing, 1969, p. 33.
2. It is hoped that the interview will seem to the reader to have happened exactly as it is printed. While the questions and responses occurred in the order in which they appear, large sections—some as long as an hour—have been removed from the text. Four dots (. . . .) have been used to indicate omissions.
3. Garry Winogrand, The Animals, with an afterword by John Szarkowski, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1969.
4. Winogrand studied painting at City College of New York and Columbia University, 1947-48. He began to photograph in the U.S. Air Force during World War II when he worked as a weather forecaster. He studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in 1951. See: Camera, vol. 51, no. 2, Feb., 1972, p. 41; Documentary Photography, New York: Time-Life Books, 1972, p. 190.
5. Robert Frank, Les Americains, textes reunis et presentes par Alain Bosquet, Paris: Encyclopedic Essentielle, 1958; Robert Frank, The Americans, Introduction by Jack Kerouac, New York: Grove Press, 1959; Robert Frank, The Americans, Introduction by Jack Kerouac, New York: Grossman, revised edition, 1969. 6. Walker Evans, American Photographs, With an essay by Lincoln Kerstein, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1938.
7. See page 89 in the French edition; the American editions are unpaged.
8. Dan Weiner (1919-1959). See: Documentary Photography, New York: Time-Life Books, 1972, p. 112; Cornell Capa, ed., The Concerned Photographer, New York: Grossman, 1968, unp.

www.geh.org

 

ASX CHANNEL: GARRY WINOGRAND

 

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 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)

Interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson – Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)

HCB: To me, photography is a simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of a significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of form which gives that event its proper expression. I believe that, for reactive living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with 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 a content of a picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean a rigorous geometrical organization of 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 developed instinct.

First I would like to say that it is only a rule I established in myself, a certain discipline, but it is not a school, it’s not a.. it’s very personal. And I think that we cannot separate what we have to say from the way we have to say it, how to speak.

Photography is in a way a mental process. We have to know what to, be clear, on what we want to say. Our conceptions, our, what we think of a certain situation, a certain problem. Photography is a way of writing it, of drawing, making sketches of it. And in the form, things are offered to us in daily life. We have to be alert and know when to pick the moment which is significant. Then, it’s just intuition. It’s instinct. We don’t know why, we press at a certain moment. It comes, it is there, it’s given. Take it. Everything is there, it is a question of chance, but you have to pick and force chance to come to you. There’s a certain will.

 

 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Madrid, 1933
 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Volcano of Popocatepetl, Mexico, 1964

The creative part of photography is very short. A painter can elaborate, a writer can, but as it’s given, we have to pick that moment, the decisive moment, it is there. Ah! I’ve seen this, I’ve been there. I’ve seen that.

When I started photography in 1930 there were hardly any picture magazines, there was no market. And I was taking pictures (..) things that struck me, interested me. I was keeping a kind of diary. And I still do keep a photography diary. And later, there were magazines, and working for magazines, you have to work for yourself, always for yourself, you express yourself. With magazines, they put you into contact with events important in the world, and you have a possibility of speaking to a very large audience.

Interviewer: Does that in any way affect your attitude toward a story when you’re working for a large audience? Or do you still follow your own precepts, it’s still the same intuition in a way?

HCB: It is the same intuition. You have to know in which framework you have to tell your story for the magazine, but you must not work for the magazine..you work for yourself, and the story. Communication has to be very (? diarational ? )..

Interviewer: Of course you are communicating. For example, you’ve made various photographic essays on different countries. When you come into a country do you live there for some time? Do you try to feel the…

HCB: You can’t rush in and out. It takes time to understand, to have a feeling of a place. You have a general idea of a country, but when you get there, you realize that your preconceived idea was right or wrong, but you mustn’t push the preconceived idea you had. No, reality speaks, and your impressions. And it’s very important, the first impression has to be very fresh – just like when you see the face of somebody for the first time, you have a feeling. Maybe after, you say, oh, I was wrong. Because I didn’t take notice of certain things, a certain smile, something, and a country is the same thing.

Interviewer: I wonder if you could possibly give an example. For example, your work on India. Which we in the West have some sort of exotic preconceptions about. Was that changed quite a bit when you first got there, and did that affect your work and your approach to the people?

 

 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Berlin, 1931
 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Arsila, Spanish Morocco, 1933

HCB: It’s a thing that comes through your system little by little, it’s not sudden. It can be sudden..you have to live there, you have to know people, you have to establish relations, you have to be on the same level with people. You can’t come as a judge and uh, you have to get close to people, you have to be warm. You have to like people. You mustn’t be cruel, you mustn’t be hard, you mustn’t be tough, because it bounces back on yourself. You can express all that you feel, you can be shocked, you can be humorous, you can be less tender, all the sentiments you can express.

Interviewer: And that’s all there in your attitude, it shows up in what you pick, I suppose. Well, in your approach, do you take many pictures, for example, of one incident or subject, or do you wait perhaps for that..

HCB: It depends, there’s no rule, there’s no..it depends, it depends. You have to be subtle and supple at the same time. Fit, exactly.

Interviewer: You’ve been known for never cropping your photos. Do you want to say anything about that?

HCB: About cropping? Uh, I said in that forward, we have to have a feeling for the geometry of the relation of shapes, like in any plastic medium. And I think that you place yourself in time, we’re dealing with time, and with space. Just like you pick a right moment in an expression, you pick your right spot, also. I will get closer, or further, there’s an emphasis on the subject, and if the relations, the interplay of lines is correct, well, it is there. If it’s not correct it’s not by cropping in the darkroom and making all sorts of tricks that you improve it. If a picture is mediocre, well it remains mediocre. The thing is done, once for all.

Interviewer: Well I guess that goes back to your intuition. It has to be there, completely..

HCB: Yes. And for technique, technique is not a thing in the abstract. You can’t evade it. The technique has to be something to express what you want to say. You have to master your own technique, to know your tools to say what you have to say. Technique doesn’t exist in the (abstract)..you have to know your lenses, but it’s not that difficult. You learn it very quickly. It’s like a typist mustn’t look at his keyboard, and then he types. But then, when he knows how to type he’s concerned only with what he has to say, it’s the same thing. You mustn’t use a light meter, you have to know exactly what, to weigh the light. A cook doesn’t take a scale to know how much salt you should put in a cake. The salt you put to give, to enhance the sugar. It’s intuition, it’s instinctive, and it’s the same thing.

Interviewer: I think that applies to all forms of expression, the technique has to be completely assimilated.

 

 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Calle Cuauhtemoctzin, Mexico City, 1934
 Henri Cartier Bresson   Famous Photographers Tell How (1958)Hyères, France, 1932

HCB: I think so. Yes.

Interviewer: Now, for example as a photographer, you yourself, the basic thing you want to do is communicate, I suppose like any artist in any field.

HCB: Yes, communication has been an important thing. You want to give something, and to know that it is accepted. It’s not recognition. Recognition..in a way, success is dangerous. Success can affect us.

Interviewer: In what way, you mean..

HCB: Success is in a way as unjust as lack of success. What is important (becomes the recognition.) You want to give something to know that somebody will accept it. In fact, when you love somebody, somebody will not turn you down, your love is accepted. And this is communication to me. To give something which is..

Interviewer: To give and then be requited.

HCB: Yes. And not recognition.

Interviewer: I wonder if you can talk about some technical aspects of photography.

HCB: We don’t need very big equipment. Practically I work all the time with a 50 mm, a very wide open lens, because I never know if I’m going to be in a dark room taking a picture in this moment and outside in full bright sun the next moment. So…

Interviewer: The compactness has become very important..small cameras..

HCB: It is very important. And people don’t notice you so much.

Interviewer: In the old days when they had colloidal plates and whatnot..

HCB: I think with the 50 mm you can cover a large number of things. Sometimes, especially for landscape, you need a 90 mm because it cuts all the foreground which is not that interesting. But this you don’t decide beforehand…I’m going to work with such a lens..no. It depends on the subject. The subject guides you, it’s there. Your frame, you see it, it’s a recognition of a certain geometrical order, as well as of the subject.

It’s a question sometimes people put. “Which is your favorite picture?” And I must say the important picture is the next one you’re going to take. We’re not curators of our work. The important is to think about the next subject. Photography is a way of living. To me, my camera is an extension of my eye. I keep it all the time with me. But, everything depends on the way we live, what we like and our attitude toward life. What we are, in fact.

(Photographer Erica McDonald transcribed this interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson from the Candid Recordings audio of Famous Photographers Tell How, 1958)

http://www.ericamcdonaldphoto.com/

You can hear the audio recording at:

http://tedbarron.com/BWF-June-2009/23-Henri-Cartier-Bresson.mp3


ASX CHANNEL: HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON


All images © copyright the photographer and/or publisher

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In our latest photo essay made in collaboration with Magnum Photos, we follow Bruce Gilden to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Bruce Gilden first traveled to Haiti in 1984 and made 19 trips over the course of 10 years, culminating in his book titled, quite simply, “Haiti”. In February and March 2010, he went back to Port-au-Prince to witness firsthand what had happened in the wake of the earthquake. What he found was a city destroyed and people who are poor of everything but grace, pride and a distinctive soul. During his most recent trip this past September, he went back to document a refugee camp that has sprung up across the street from the half-destroyed presidential palace in downtown Port-au-Prince. In this video, Gilden shares his audio, video and photo captures of this neighborhood of decorated huts built out of scavenged corrugated tin and cardboard, recreated with all the elements of Haitian life as if the people knew right away that this temporary settlement would be their long term home.

You can also read our interview with Bruce Gilden on the Leica blog: bit.ly/BGSpirit

 

ASX CHANNEL: BRUCE GILDEN

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Seine überlebensgroßen Porträtfotos machten Thomas Ruff weltberühmt. Jetzt zeigt eine Ausstellung in Münster seine Leidenschaft für das Weltall. Unter dem Titel “Stellar Landscapes” sind Aufnahmen zu sehen, die uns neue Welten eröffnen.Zum Beispiel, wenn der Künstler Fotos der NASA bearbeitet. Der Zuschauer meint, selbst durchs All zu reisen. KULTUR.21 trifft Thomas Ruff.

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Joe Rodriguez started his extensive career as a documentary photographer making photos of gangs in East Los Angeles, and he has returned to document the effects of long-term incarceration on families there.

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