Aaron Siskind
[Photographer, b. 1903, New York, d. 1991, Providence, Rhode Island.]

 As the language or vocabulary of photography has been extended, the emphasis of meaning has shifted, shifted from what the world looks like to what we feel about the world and what we want the world to mean. (1958) 
 My idea of what a picture is: it’s there, it exists by itself, it’s clean, it’s economically stated, it’s pure, it has meaning. 
 The only other things I got from the abstract expressionists is the absolute belief that this canvas is the complete total area of struggle, this is the arena, this is where the fight is taking place, the battle. Everybody believes that, but you have to really believe that and work that way. 
 As the saying goes, we see in terms of our education. We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect. And indeed it is socially useful that we agree on the function of objects. But, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow larger as you approach, group and regroup as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that’s your picture. 
 The main thing that a work of art has to give you is order. It takes all this mess of ours, which is so wonderful and so disturbing, and puts it together for us so that we can contemplate it. It removes you from life so that you can live your life. 
 It makes no difference what the subject matter is. The idea, the statement, is the only thing that counts. 
 The pictures that I can figure out... I lose interest in as pictures. If they are compelling in some way so that you really want to know what they mean—because they deserve knowing—and you can’t find out, that really keeps you interested in them. 
 I may be wrong, but the essentially illustrative nature of most documentary photography, and the worship of the object per se in our best nature photography is not enough to satisfy the man of today, compounded as he is of Christ, Freud, Marx. The interior drama is the meaning of the exterior event. And each man is an essence and a symbol. 
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