Sam Abell
[Photographer, b. 1945, Sylvania, Ohio, lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.]

 My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it. 
 Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment—this very moment—to stay. 
 A mad, keen photographer needs to get out into the world and work and make mistakes. 
 Photographs that transcend but do not deny their literal situation appeal to me. 
 Above all, it’s hard learning to live with vivid mental images of scenes I cared for and failed to photograph. It is the edgy existence within me of these unmade images that is the only assurance that the best photographs are yet to be made. 
 But there is more to a fine photograph than information. We are also seeking to present an image that arouses the curiosity of the viewer or that, best of all, provokes the viewer to think—to ask a question or simply to gaze in thoughtful wonder. We know that photographs inform people. We also know that photographs move people. The photograph that does both is the one we want to see and make. It is the kind of picture that makes you want to pick up your own camera again and go to work. 
 My first priority when taking pictures is to achieve clarity. A good documentary photograph transmits the information of the situation with the utmost fidelity; achieving it means understanding the nuances of lighting and composition, and also remembering to keep the lenses clean and the cameras steady. 
 In my work, the most elaborate—and essential—accessory is a standard tripod. For spiritual companions I have had the many artists who have relied on nature to help shape their imagination. And their most elaborate equipment was a deep reverence for the world through which they passed. Photographers share something with these artists. We seek only to see and to describe with our own voices, and, though we are seldom heard as soloists, we cannot photograph the world in any other way. 
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