Clarence John Laughlin
[Photographer, b. 1905, Lake Charles, Louisiana, d. 1985, New Orleans, Louisiana.]
Let us see as steadily and completely as possible the realities of our age: the wasted lives, the scattered and misused resources (human and material), the steel magic of the misdirected machinery, the mad clockwork tragedy of it all.
As a whole, I am interested in the symbolic, rather than the literal use of the camera.
The mystery of light [and] the enigma of time form the twin pivots around which all my work revolves. In addition... my work attempts to create a mythology for our contemporary world.
Everything that I see must become personal; otherwise, it is dead and mechanical. Our only chance to escape the blight of mechanization, of acting and thinking alike, of the huge machine which society is becoming, is to restore life to all things through the saving and beneficent power of the human imagination.
... dissatisfaction with one’s self and dissatisfaction with the world—is necessary—it is one of the prime things that keeps the artist going on—that drives him—happiness, as such, must come in between times, as best it can.
I did not start out as a photographer but, instead, as a writer. Whether for good or ill, this fact has inspired and colored many of my concepts ... Through photography I have also tried to tie together and further my active interests in painting, in poetry, in psychology, and in architecture. Whatever value my photography has, it is only because of these other interests.
In all my work I have been animated with three convictions: 1) that there is no essential reason why the creative imagination cannot work with a ray of light acting upon a sensitized surface as effectively as it can with a brush laden with pigment, 2) that photography is one of the most authentic and integral modes of expression possible in the particular kind of world in which we live, [and] 3) that in photography, as in the other arts, the quality of a man's imagination is the only thing that counts—technique and technical proficiency mean nothing in themselves.
I quite agree with you that the photographer who produces a photograph which is merely technically good, owes more to the discoveries of the laboratory technicians than to himself. However, the imagination transcends all technical perfection, and sometimes even converts a technical disadvantage to a further advantage.