[Photographer, b. 1944, Dorchester, Massachusetts, lives in New York.]
I’m often uncomfortable taking pictures, especially if people are grieving, or hurt, or hungry. At such times I have to remind myself that I’m a photographer and that this is my job.
I can photograph someone if I can touch them.
I chose to be a photographer twenty-two years ago, but I don’t know that I’d make that choice again. Back in the early eighties, I still thought I was doing okay, trying to order and shape the world with my camera. Now that I know a bit more about living and dying, about our planet and its complex problems, I’m a lot less comfortable with my images of people. Still, I haven’t a clue what else to do.
Photojournalist? With a few exceptions, those of us working as photojournalists might now more appropriately call ourselves illustrators. For, unlike real reporters, whose job it is to document what’s going down, most of us go out in the world expecting to give form to the magazine, or to newspaper editor’s ideas, using what’s become over the years a pretty standardized visual language. So we search for what is instantly recognizable, supportive of the text, easiest to digest, or most marketable—more mundane realities be damned.
…it is pretentious for photographers to believe that their pictures alone change things. If they did, we wouldn’t be besieged by war, by incidents of genocide, by hunger. A more realistic assessment of photography’s value is to point out that it is illustrative of what’s going on, that it provides a record of history, that photographs can prompt dialogue.
It’s a process of getting to know people. That’s what photography is to me. It’s about paying attention, not screwing up and blowing a great opportunity.
My biggest problem is I’m so uninteresting that all these people forget I’m around.