Berenice Abbott
[Photographer, writer, teacher, b. 1898, Springfield, Ohio, d. 1991, Monson, Maine.]

 There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own. 

Larry Clark
[Photographer and filmmaker, b. 1943, Tulsa, Oklahoma, lives in New York.]

 ...I didn’t know what other people were doing because I was working in a vacuum—just me. I wasn’t looking at art. I wasn’t not looking at anything. 
I made a point not to look at anything because I was afraid that I’d be influenced. 

Robert Mapplethorpe
[Photographer, b. 1946, Floral Park, Long Island, d. 1989, Boston, Massachusetts.]

 I would see a young kid walking down 42nd Street and then go into a magazine storefront, which were places I didn’t know anything about. I became obsessed with going into them and seeing what was inside those magazines. They were all sealed, which made them even sexier somehow, because you couldn’t get at them. A kid gets a certain kind of reaction, which of course when you’ve been exposed to everything you don’t get. I got that feeling in my stomach, it’s not a directly sexual one, it’s something more potent than that. I though if I could somehow bring that element into art, if I could somehow retain that feeling, I would be doing something that was uniquely my own. 

Roger Ballen
[Photographer, b. 1950, New York, lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.]

 The thing that influences me the most is my own pictures. 

Joel-Peter Witkin
[Photographer, b. 1939, Brooklyn, New York, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.]

 My grandmother had only one leg and in the morning I would wake up and smell her gangrenous leg. Where most kids would wake up and smell coffee, I would wake up and smell grandmother’s rotting leg. 

Edward Weston
[Photographer, b. 1886, Highland Park, Illinois, d. 1958, Wildcat Hill, California.]

 By all means tell your Board that pubic hair has definitely been part of my development as an artist, tell them it has been the most important part, that I like it black, brown, red or golden, curly or straight, all sizes and shapes. (To Museum of Modern Art curator Beaumont Newhall, after being told the museum was reluctant to show nudes revealing pubic hair.) 

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

 Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees. You may see and be affected by other people’s ways, you may even use them to find your own, but you will eventually have to free yourself of them. That is what Nietzsche meant when he said, “I have just read Schopenhauer, now I have to get rid of him.” He knew how insidious other people’s ways could be, particularly those which have the forcefulness of profound experience, if you let them get between you and your own vision. 

Larry Clark
[Photographer and filmmaker, b. 1943, Tulsa, Oklahoma, lives in New York.]

 [Eugene Smith] was always writing these diatribes about truth, and how he wanted to tell the truth, the truth, the truth. It was a real rebel position. It was kind of like a teenager’s position: why can’t things be like they should be? Why can’t I do what I want? I latched on to that philosophy. One day I snapped, hey, you know, I know a story that no one’s ever told, never seen, and I’ve lived it. It’s my own story and my friends’ story. 
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