[Photographer, b. 1938, New York, lives in New York.]
Arriving at the rim of this famous landmark, they shuffle about, searching for a sign that says “shoot here.” With one pre-set image labeled GRAND CANYON in their minds, blinding them to what lies below, they search for the one and only “right” spot to stand.
“Tough” meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became.
We think of photography as pictures. And it is. But I think of photography as ideas. And do the pictures sustain your ideas or are they just good pictures? I want to have an experience in the world that is a deepening experience, that makes me feel alive and awake and conscious.
I think about photographs as being full, or empty. You picture something in a frame and it’s got lots of accounting going on in it—stones and buildings and trees and air—but that’s not what fills up a frame. You fill up the frame with feelings, energy, discovery, and risk, and leave room enough for someone else to get in there.
We all experience it. Those moments when we gasp and say, “Oh, look at that.” Maybe it’s nothing more than the way a shadow glides across a face, but in that split second, when you realize something truly remarkable is happening and disappearing right in front of you, if you can pass a camera before your eye, you’ll tear a piece of time out of the whole, and in a breath, rescue it and give it new meaning.
[Photographs] teach you about your own unraveling past, or about the immediacy of yesterday. They show you what you look at. If you take a photograph, you’ve been responsive to something, and you looked hard at it. Hard for a thousandth of a second, hard for ten minutes. But hard, nonetheless. And it’s the quality of that bite that teaches you how connected you were to that thing, and where you stood in relation to it, then and now.
The thought for us [street photographers] was always: “How much could we absorb and embrace of a moment of existence that would disappear in an instant?” And, “Could we really make it live as art?” There was an almost moral dimension.
I believe that street photography is central to the issue of photography—that it is purely photographic, whereas the other genres, such as landscape and portrait photography, are a little more applied, more mixed in the with the history of painting and other art forms.