Ben Shahn
[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. 

Edmund Hillary
[Mountaineer, b. 1919, Tuakau, New Zealand, d. 2008, Auckland, New Zealand.]

 As far as I knew, he [Tenzing Norgay] had never taken a photograph before—and the summit of Everest was hardly the place to show him how. (On why there is a photo of Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Mount Everest during the first successful climb, but not one of Hillary.) 

Paul Strand
[Photographer, b. 1890, New York, d. 1976, Oregeval, France.]

 I read the other day that Minor White said it takes twenty years to become a photographer. I think that is a bit of an exaggeration. I would say, judging from myself, that it takes at least eight or nine years. But it does not take any longer than it takes to learn to play the piano or the violin. If it takes twenty years, you might as well forget about it! 

Robert Heinecken
[Photographer, b. 1931, Denver, d. 2006, Albuquerque, New Mexico.]

 I was never in a school situation where someone said, “This is the way a photograph is supposed to look.” I was completely open to cut them up, or do anything like that. I think if I had been in touch with people earlier, then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that. It would have been too bizarre. 

Eudora Welty
[Writer, b. 1909, Jackson, Mississippi, d. 2001, Jackson.]

 They taught me. The subjects taught me, and my response is what I photographed. 

Walker Evans
[Photographer, b. 1903, St. Louis, Missouri, d. 1975, New Haven, Connecticut.]

 Nobody knows what art is, and it can’t be taught. It’s the mind and the talent of the eye of the individual who is operating the machine that produces what comes out of it. 

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

 ...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. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
[Photographer and painter, b. 1908, Chanteloup, France, d. 2004, Paris.]

 What do you think I’m a professor of? The little finger? (On offers of honorary doctorates.) 
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