Emmet Gowin
[Photographer, b. 1941, Danville, Virginia, lives in Princeton, New Jersey.]

 [From 1966 to 1970] I was becoming alive to certain essential qualities in family photographs. Above all I admired what the camera made. The whole person was presented to the camera. There was no interference, or so it seemed. And sometimes the frame cut through the world with a surprise. There could be no doubt that the picture belonged more to the world of things and facts than to the photographer. 
 I think our fascination for what is terrible is great. Our need for beauty is great... And oddly, instead of wanting to run away from what is granted a terrible thing to know, I wanted to know more and to hold it as an image. 
 I am pessimistic about a picture’s power to be the emissary of just one thing. What I hope is that the picture says, “Here I am, this is what I am like,” and the person seeing the picture says in return, “You know a lot but you don’t know half of what I know.” 
 [In nature] we may even glimpse the means with which to accept ourselves. Before nature, what I see does not truly belong to anyone; I know that I cannot have it, in fact, I’m not sure what I’m seeing. 
 Photography is such an important instrument in the education of our feelings and perception because of its duality. Photography represents the world we know, and suggests a world beyond what we can see. Creativity is the gap between perception and knowledge. 
 When you’re flying over something, you must be open, receptive, you’re not making anything. You can look at it or choose not to look at it, but it’s not anything you can arrange or change. You can only consent or abstain. You don’t have that feeling on the ground. On the ground, you struggle. 
 Twentieth-century art has allowed me to see things in a cryptic way. I love the butterfly’s wings, which disappear when folded and when open leave this brilliant, intense pronouncement of nature, “Here I am.” 
 We tremble at the feelings we experience as our sense of wholeness is reorganized by what we see. 
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