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

 Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment—this very moment—to stay. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
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