[Photographer and artist, b. 1898, Kovno, Russia (now Kaunas, Lithuania), d. 1969, New York.]
I said, “Walker [Evans], remember your promise to show me how to photograph?” He says, “Well, it’s very easy, Ben. F9 on the sunny side of the street, F4.5 on the shady side of the street. For a twentieth of a second hold your camera steady,” and that was all. This was the only lesson I ever had.
We tried to present the ordinary in an extraordinary manner. But that’s the paradox because the only thing extraordinary about it was that it was so ordinary.
The artist must operate on the assumption that the public consists in the highest order of individual; that he is civilized, cultured, and highly sensitive both to emotional and intellectual contexts. And while the whole public most certainly does not consist in that sort of individual, still the tendency of art is to create such a public—to lift the level of perceptivity, to increase and enrich the average individual’s store of values... I believe that it is in a certain devotion to concepts of truth that we discover values.
I became interested in photography when I found my own sketching was inadequate.
I confess that Roy [Stryker] was a little bit dictatorial in his editing and he ruined quite a number of my pictures, which he stopped doing later. He used to punch a hole through a negative. Some of them were incredibly valuable. He didn’t understand at the time.