Larry Sultan
[Photographer, b. 1946, Brooklyn, New York, d. 2009, Greenbrae, California.]

 I love making pictures, even if most of the results are lousy. 
 Ambiguity is really important to me. Part of the difficulty facing photographers is that almost any subject matter has accumulated a representational history, so to find a new discursive space, a space to wander around those subject matters, is a real challenge. 
 I always thought of a great photograph as if some creature walked into my room; it’s like, how did you get here? What are you made of? And no matter how many pictures I make, I have never depleted that quality of mystery. 
 Like a ventriloquist who laughs at his dummy’s jokes, I keep trying to make photographs that seduce me into believing in the image—all the time knowing better, but believing anyway. 
 What’s important to me is that [photographs] have the appearance of being documents of what goes on. I like the illusion of veracity, that they look like life rather than movie stills. I don’t want them to look fabricated. 
 ...I think finding that room to make pictures that don’t jump off the wall as, or detonate as dramatic, either in lighting or in form or in composition or in subject matter, but more ordinary, that’s the challenge. 
 Literature especially has an interesting relationship to photography—to observation, to description, to fiction: taking something that you see and elaborating, jamming, and I think, staging.... taking that moment of observation and letting it go, giving it some wings, following it, rather than nailing it. You’re riffing off of reality. 
 ...when it comes down to making work that really sings, I don’t know if I can teach any of it. I don’t even know if I can do any of it half the time. It’s so much about failure, it’s so much about making pictures that are so utterly boring and overstated, you’re endlessly disappointed. And in that process you hopefully find something that draws you back and calls to you. 
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