Janet Malcolm
[Writer, b. 1934, Prague, Czechoslovakia, lives in New York.]

 If you scratch a great photograph, you find two things; a painting and a photograph. 
 I was always trying to take art photographs, but the most interesting pictures were the snapshots. The artsy pictures were boring, always. 
 The heavy odds against finding the desired… work of art in the mess and flux of life, as opposed to the serene orderliness of imagined reality, give a special tense dazzle and an atmosphere of tour de force to any photographs that succeed in the search. 
 Are pictures there for anyone to “take”? Or are they made by the photographer? 
 There are good photographers who might elevate themselves to the ranks of the great simply by burning most of their work. 
 [Richard Avedon’s] camera dwells on the horrible things that age can do to people’s faces—on the flabby flesh, the slack skin, the ugly growths, the puffy eyes, the knotted necks, the aimless wrinkles, the fearful and anxious set of the mouth, the marks left by sickness, madness, alcoholism, and irreversible disappointment. 
 As time goes by and millions upon billions of photographs are cast into the world like so many blurry, hasty, and partial, if not false impressions, one’s confidence diminishes in the seeing-is-believing claims of photography, and one’s suspicion grows to a near-certainty that the camera is no better equipped than the eye to tell us what we want to know about the world. (1976) 
 The camera is simply not the supple and powerful instrument of description that the pen is. 
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