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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Quick Quotes: Arnold Newman

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart”.

-Arnold Newman


So true. When people ask me if they should get a better camera I usually tell them that these days, unless there is some very specific and special attribute they are looking for, all a better digital camera will do is to allow the images to be printed larger. And if you are going to print them large they ought to be good to start with. It’s really difficult to make an excellent photograph.

Back to the heart thing :)

Quick Quotes: Alfred Steiglitz

I realized that it really has been quite some time since I published one of my photography "Quick Quotes".  So here we go:

"As a matter of fact, nearly all the greatest work is being, and has always been done, by those who are following photography for the love of it, and not merely for financial reasons. As the name implies, an amateur is one who works for love."

Alfred Steiglitz

So there you go.....it couldn't come on better authority!

Quick Quotes: Morley Baer

"Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph. Find the ordinary object so you can transform it by photographing it."

Morley Bayer


My interpretation: you don't have to run to Antarctica or even Iceland to make great photos. Look in the woods near your house. The ones that you can walk to. There's great stuff there. And you can really get to know it and visit in all kinds of conditions. It's just harder to make a great photograph there because you've seen it so many times. Familiarity breeds complacency. And because there's not a 100 foot waterfall there. Well, not in my woods anyway.

However, you can go on line and find thousands of images of icebergs and penguins in Antarctica, but probably only a couple hundred shots of those woods near your house. There is opportunity there. 

I'm rambling a bit....free flow of thought. But I think there is something to it!

Quick Quotes - Kurt Vonnegut

Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the showrer. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut


I happen to see this quote posted on Facebook, of all places. I love Kurt Vonnegut's novels and I love this quote. If ever one needed a reason to photograph, there it is!

Quick Quotes: Arnold Newman

"Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world."

Arnold Newman


I am always looking for quotes about photography and truth. This one says it with no holds barred.

Newman is one of the greatest portrait photographers of our time. One of his most noted portraits is that of Alfred Krupp, a German industrialist who had been a Nazi and used slave labor during WWII. Newman was taking Krupp's portrait for Newsweek and took the opportunity to use photography to make Krupp look like the devil, and Newsweek did publish the portrait!

Here, from his New York Times obituary in 2006:

"................Perhaps the most famous was a sinister picture of the German industrialist Alfried Krupp, taken for Newsweek in 1963. Krupp, long-faced and bushy-browed, is made to look like Mephistopheles incarnate: smirking, his fingers clasped as he confronts the viewer against the background of a assembly line in the Ruhr. In the color version his face has a greenish cast.

The impression it leaves was no accident: Mr. Newman knew that Krupp had used slave labor in his factories during the Nazi reign and that he had been imprisoned after World War II for his central role in Hitler's war machine.

"When he saw the photos, he said he would have me declared persona non grata in Germany," Mr. Newman said of Krupp......."

 
 © Arnold Newman

© Arnold Newman

 

And the story in Newman's own words, during an interview:

If you happen to subscribe to the blog by email, the video and its link will not come over....visit the main blog at www.howardgrill.com/blog to watch the two minute story.

Quick Quotes: Painters And Writers Edition

Today, as a break from images, I wanted to offer some quotes that have moved me and made me think about expression in photography.....but this time from artists that are not photographers; though the medium really doesn't matter. From words to paints to pixels, the reasons for expressing are the same.


"I shut my eyes in order to see"

Paul Gaugin


"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun"

Pablo Picasso


"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist."

Oscar Wilde


"The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable."

Robert Henri


All four quotes, I believe, really point to ideas worth contemplating.

Quick Quotes: Guy Tal

The point of living a creative life - rather than just engaging in creative pursuits on occasion - is not merely to produce aesthetically pleasing artifacts, but to bind one's creative work and living experience as two dimensions of the same life in all its details, always unfolding and evolving in parallel. 

Guy Tal


The photographs - mine and others - that I consider most favorably are not those that merely serve as visual trophies for enduring some difficulty or experiencing a stroke of good luck, nor those relying entirely on interest and aesthetics inherent in the things photographed. Rather, they are those photographs that express a photographer's passion for - and harmony with - the life they live and the things that make such a life better and elevated in their own mind: not photographs of objective things, but photographs about subjective things.

Guy Tal


I thought these two quotes from Guy Tal's recent LensWork monograph offered quite a bit to think about in terms of how to breathe life into one's photographs.

Quick Quotes: Bruce Barnbaum

 Moonrize, Hernandez, New Mexico    © Ansel Adams

Moonrize, Hernandez, New Mexico    © Ansel Adams


".....people feel that Ansel's famous 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' was a special moment in time when, in fact, it's an image so greatly manipulated that it can truthfully be stated that the moment never occurred. It was largely created. The actual moment was used as a starting point for the image, while the image is a dramatic alteration of the starting point. It is a wonderful interpretation of that moment by Ansel."

Bruce Barnbaum


I don't think there was ever a time when creative choices didn't play a role in fine art photography. From time to time I reference my article 'Photography And Truth', and this quote applies to that concept quite aptly.

Quick Quotes: Galen Rowell

I began to realize that the camera sees the world differently than the human eye and that sometimes those differences can make a photograph more powerful than what you actually observed.

Galen Rowell


I read this quote by Galen Rowell and said to myself.....now there is part one of the answer to the eternal, infernal question "did it really look like that?"

Quick Quotes: Julian Scnabel

Traditionally, photography is supposed to capture an event that has passed; but that is not what I'm looking for. Photography brings the past into the present when you look at it.

Julian Schnabel


This quote really speaks to me.  At first glance the two ideas may seem similar, but they are different as night and day. To capture the past means you can look at and remember it. To bring it into the present means that, to some extent, you can re-experience it.

Quick Quotes: Irving Penn

A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it.

 Irving Penn


It is incredibly difficult to make a really good photograph.  Communicating a fact is easy, touching the heart is more difficult, leaving the viewer a changed person is something to aspire to......

Quick Quotes: David Bailey

Photography is (a means by which we)...learn to see the ordinary.

David Bailey


I love this quote because it speaks about what photography means to me. It is when I'm out with my camera that I really begin seeing and start to realize the potential of what things can truly look like if viewed in different ways. Funny how you sometimes have to put something in front of your eyes in order to use them to their fullest.

Quick Quotes: Don McCullin

“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


I think that this is the key initial step to making photographs that effectively communicate something. I believe it goes for any type of image: portraits, landscapes, macro, sports. Anything. Extraordinarily well said by Don McCullen!

Quick Quotes: Dan Winters

Lately, I have been reading "Road To Seeing" by Dan Winters. It has been some time since I posted a quote and something he wrote in the book stuck with me.  He was discussing the great W. Eugene Smith's photo essays and realized he would never produce essays like Smith's, recognizing that this was at least partly related to life taking him in a different direction than the path that Smith took:

"It is important for us not to compare our work to the work of others, as challenging as that may be.  It is simply human nature to look outside ourselves, rather than face that which exists internally. Comparison is ego based and unproductive in the long run"

Dan Winters

 
Road to Seeing
By Dan Winters
 

I like that!


What do I think of the book overall?  

A bit of a difficult question.  When I wrote this post and scheduled it for the New Year I was only about a third of the way through the book.  Now I'm two thirds of the way through and my opinion is a bit different.  Let me explain.

The first part of the book is focused on Winter's adolescence and early adult life as he winds his way through finding his calling and 'advancing' through the various stages of becoming the renowned photographer he is today. It is this part of his writing that I found most compelling, as it includes insights into 'seeing' and interpreting life via photographs.

The middle third of the book, where he talks about specific 'celebrity' shoots, how they evolved, and his ideas behind each of the sessions I found far less compelling. Yes, it was of some interest to hear Winter's thought process behind each shoot but the section lost, at least for me, the message value.  Maybe it is because I don't shoot many portraits.  Maybe it is because I won't find myself photographing celebrities. At any rate, I found the focus to be more on the celebrity than the 'bigger' message.

And of course none of this should detract from the fact that the photographs are both beautiful and beautifully reproduced.

At almost 700 pages it is hardly a quick read, but, as we said in high school, it goes quickly because there are lots of (gorgeous) photos. At $60 it also isn't a 'casual' book purchase. I hesitate to give a final opinion as I still have another third or so of the book to go, but I would have to say that though it has 4.5/5 stars on Amazon I would personally only give it a 3 overall, though it clearly has 5 star moments!

Quick Quotes: Minor White

"Reaching a 'creative' state of mind through positive action is considered preferable to waiting for 'inspiration'."

Minor White


I have been doing a fair amount of reading about the creative process lately and this quote sums up a good deal of important information.  Inspiration, at times, just arrives.  But the vast majority of the time it comes to those who are working, and working hard, at creating. It's the 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration thing. 

It reminds me of the time I asked my teacher, the late Nancy Rotenberg, how to work through those inevitable periods where it seems like you can't find anything that inspires you to make photos.  Her answer was to just get the camera out and start photographing whatever is there in front of you.  Work at it and the inspiration will come.  She was quite wise!

Quick Quotes: Ruth Bernhard

There is no such thing as taking too much time, because your soul is in that picture.

Ruth Bernhard


This quote by Ruth Bernhard, a photographer best known for her classic nude studies, is one that I find comforting.  I frequently find myself spending long periods of time trying to get images to appear just the way I would like them to.  I sometimes think that perhaps I would be 'more productive' if I left the images at 80% of what I want them to be, because most people would probably not notice the subtle changes....but I never do leave them till I have them just right, at least from the standpoint of my vision. I guess that is because my soul is in them!