Ernest Cole (Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole)
[Photographer, chronicler of Apartheid, b. 1940, Eersterust, South Africa, d. 1990, New York.]
In my observation of the Black man’s life in South Africa as presented in House of Bondage, my personal attitude was committed to exposing the evils of South Africa.
[Photographer, b. 1869, Berlin, Germany, d. 1942, New York.]
...I went back to my studio to get a camera. The one thought uppermost in my mind was not to bring some of my possessions to a place of safety but to make photographs of the scenes I had been witnessing, the effects of the earthquake and the beginning of the conflagration that had started in various parts of the city. I found that my hand cameras had been so damaged by the falling plaster as to be rendered useless. I went to Montgomery Street to the shop of George Kahn, my dealer, and asked him to lend me a camera. “Take anything you want. This place is going to burn up anyway.” (On photographing the San Francisco earthquake of 1906)
[Dictator, b. 1926, Mayari, Cuba, lives in Havana.]
We are very sorry that we didn’t have a photographer with us during the revolutionary war or during the first years of struggle, while we were underground, or during the advance to Moncada. We should have taken some photographs but we didn’t think about it... We would have loved it if only an amateur had photographed us. Even Che, who was an amateur photographer and liked to try almost everything, didn’t have a camera with him at the time... Now, after almost thirty years, you feel sadness and regret for not carrying a camera with which you could have taken the pictures that would now speak for themselves. On those occasions, as on so many others, it is only after time passes that people realize that they have been through historical moments that will never be repeated, and that the memory fades.
Huỳnh Công “Nick” Ut
[Photographer, b. 1951, rural Mekong Delta, province of Long An, Vietnam, lives in Los Angeles.]
When we moved closer to the village we saw the first people running. I thought ‘Oh my God’ when I suddenly saw a woman with her left leg badly burned by napalm. Then came a woman carrying a baby, who died, then another woman carrying a small child with its skin coming off. When I took a picture of them I heard a child screaming and saw that young girl who had pulled off all her burning clothes. She yelled to her brother on her left. Just before the napalm was dropped soldiers had yelled to the children to run but there wasn’t enough time. (On his photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing the village of Trang Bang, Vietnam after it was napalm bombed in 1972.)
[Musician, photographer, and collector, b. 1942, Blackpool, Lancashire, England, lives in Encino, California.]
What I shoot are moments that disappear in the blink of an eye if you don’t have the courage or the discipline to have your camera with you. I can’t tell you how many fucking times I missed Elvis coming back on the elevator... and it pisses me off! I still try to carry my camera every single moment.
[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.)
[Photographer, b. 1895, Hoboken, New Jersey, d. 1965, San Francisco.]
I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history...
[Writer and critic, lives in New York.]
The Abu Ghraib images—digital images, taken by amateurs—have strengthened, not undermined, the status of photographs as documents of the real. No written account of the tortures could have made such an impact.