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. 
 A mad, keen photographer needs to get out into the world and work and make mistakes. 
 Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment—this very moment—to stay. 
 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. 
 Photographs that transcend but do not deny their literal situation appeal to me. 
 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. 
 You know you are seeing such a photograph if you say to yourself, “I could have taken that picture. I've seen such a scene before, but never like that.” It is the kind of photography that relies for its strengths not on special equipment or effects but on the intensity of the photographer's seeing. It is the kind of photography in which the raw materials—light, space, and shape—are arranged in a meaningful and even universal way that gives grace to ordinary objects. 
 And that desire—the strong desire to take pictures—is important. It borders on a need, based on a habit: the habit of seeing. Whether working or not, photographers are looking, seeing, and thinking about what they see, a habit that is both a pleasure and a problem, for we seldom capture in a single photograph the full expression of what we see and feel. It is the hope that we might express ourselves fully—and the evidence that other photographers have done so—that keep us taking pictures. 
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