[Photographer, b. 1869, Berlin, Germany, d. 1942, New York.]
The tremendous development of the camera in recent years has been remarkable. Now almost anyone can take pictures, and most of them are doing it. But it is rather like giving a 6-year-old a pistol. (1937)
I was determined to show people a new kind of photography: there would be no stilted poses; as a matter of fact, no poses at all. I would try to take my sitters unawares, at a moment when they would not realize that the camera was ready. I would show them prints in which a uniform sharpness would be avoided and emphasis laid on portraying a person’s character instead of making a commonplace record of clothes and a photographic mask.
Of the pictures I had made during the fire, there are several, I believe, that will be of lasting interest. There is particularly the one scene that I recorded the morning of the first day of the fire which shows, in a pictorially effective composition, the results of the earthquake, the beginning of the fire and the attitude of the people. On the right is a house, the front of which had collapsed into the street. The occupants are sitting on chairs calmly watching the approach of the fire. Groups of people are standing in the street, motionless, gazing at the clouds of smoke. When the fire crept up close, they would just move up a block. It is hard to believe that such a scene actually occurred in the way the photograph represents it. Several people upon seeing it have exclaimed, “Oh, is that a still from a Cecil De Mille picture?” To which the answer has been, “No, the director of this scene was the Lord himself.” (On photographing the San Francisco earthquake of 1906)
...I went back to my studio to get a camera. The one thought uppermost in my mind was not to bring some of my possessions to a place of safety but to make photographs of the scenes I had been witnessing, the effects of the earthquake and the beginning of the conflagration that had started in various parts of the city. I found that my hand cameras had been so damaged by the falling plaster as to be rendered useless. I went to Montgomery Street to the shop of George Kahn, my dealer, and asked him to lend me a camera. “Take anything you want. This place is going to burn up anyway.” (On photographing the San Francisco earthquake of 1906)