Hunter Thompson
[Writer, b. 1937, Louisville, Kentucky, d. 2005, Woody Creek, Colorado.]

 These horrifying digital snapshots of the American dream in action on foreign soil are worse than anything even I could have expected. I have been in this business a long time and I have seen many staggering things, but this one is over the line. Now I am really ashamed to carry an American passport. (On photographs of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq) 

James Thurber
[Writer and humorist, b. 1894, Columbus, Ohio, d. 1961, New York.]

 Has photography gone too far? It would be cowardly to answer the question I have posed with a time-worn and evasive “Yes and no,” just as it would be flippant to answer it with “Who cares?” and ignorant to reply “I do not know.” I think there can be no question but that photography has gone too far, but I feel confident that it can get back, if it wants to. In that phrase “if it wants to” which I have italicized, there might seem to be a certain ominous significance, but as a matter of fact there isn’t at all; I italicized it simply because I wanted to sharpen the interest of my readers, if any are still sticking with me. The whole subject of photography has to be italicized for the average reader or he will turn to some other subject quicker than you can say “Alfred Stieglitz.”

Several years ago I remember going to an exhibition of photographs in the modern manner. Most of the pictures were highly artistic. There were photographs of balls of twine, of shadows cast by the Sixth Avenue “L,” of a lady’s hand holding some eggshells and rubies, of a horse’s mouth taken from the ground just in front of the horse by a photographer who was laying on his back (it was a gentle old horse), of a girl laying on her back as seen through a champagne glass, etc. It was difficult for me, an amateur, to know what to say about many of the pictures, especially the one of the horse’s mouth, because you could see his teeth and the picture looked at first like a balloon landing in a cemetery. So I didn’t say anything.

This kind of photography started, I believe, in fairly recent years. Somebody, maybe Man Ray (I never go into any subject thoroughly enough to know much about it), first began to take pictures of such groupings as a litter of tenpenny nails, a white door-knob, an elk’s tooth, and a strip of silk torn from a gentleman’s dressing gown. Thus one picture led to another until now there are several hundred million photographs of this nature, no two of them exactly alike but thousands of them seeming to be exactly alike. Any given object, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, has been photographed in juxtaposition to every other known object. I have seen photographs of sparkplugs lying next to hairpins; a chipmunk’s skull with bachelor’s-button for eyes; a woman’s hand holding the sawed off part of a double-barreled shotgun; a silk hat in which several eggbeaters and a whiskbroom had been tastefully arranged; and a Bengal tiger studying with mild alarm a plate of buttons from a naval officer’s mess jacket.

Personally, I don’t care how many strange photographs are taken and exhibited. All that worries me is what is going to happen to me. I like to be photographed, and I come from a long line of ancestors who liked to be photographed. My Grandfather Fisher liked to be photographed so well that we have one old Fisher family album in which there is nothing but photographs of my grandfather. In not one of them, however, is he shown lying on his back with a dahlia in his mouth. 

Peter Turnley
[Photographer, b. 1955, Fort Wayne, Indiana, lives in New York and Paris.]

 Photographers do themselves a disservice by talking too much about the equipment they use. Consequently people don’t take them seriously as creators in their own right. When people talk to writers about their work, they ask about their ideas and inspirations. When they talk to photographers, they ask about what cameras or film they use. That’s wrong—as wrong as asking a writer what pencil and laptop he uses. 

William Henry Fox Talbot
[Mathematician and pioneer of photography, b. 1800, Melbury, Dorset, England, d. 1877, Lacock Abbey, England.]

 [The camera] may be said to make a picture of whatever it sees, the object glass is the eye of the instrument—the sensitive paper may be compared to the retina. 

Lars Tunbjörk
[Photographer, b. 1956, Borås, Sweden, d. 2015, Stockholm.]

 I try to take photos like an alien, or a small child. 

Florence Thompson
[Migrant mother, b. 1904, Oklahoma, d. 1983, Scotts Valley, California.]

 That’s my picture hanging all over the world, but I can’t get a penny out of it. What good’s it doing me? (Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother at 75 years of age living in a trailer park near where the famous photograph was taken and surviving on $331.60 monthly social security.) 

Alan Trachtenberg
[Writer and critic, b. b. 1932, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lives in Hamden, Connecticut.]

 Somewhere between what the lens depicts and what the caption interprets, a mental picture intervenes, a cultural ideology defining what and how to see, what to recognize as significant. 

Hippolyte Taine
[Art critic and historian, b. 1828, Vouziers, Ardennes, France, d. 1893, Paris.]

 I wish to reproduce things as they are or as they would be even if I myself did not exist.