There are a lot of quotes out there. You can pretty much just type any word into any quote database and come up with something. One quote that has stuck with me since high school is one by Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never quit." Admittedly, one of the reasons it has stuck with me is because it was easy to memorize (I try to be practical when I can). But more than that, its simplicity speaks volumes to the work ethic I have lived by and want to continue to live by, especially when it comes to my passion.
Another favorite of mine: "Be the change you want to see in the world," by Ghandi. Who doesn't love a good Ghandi quote? That one is particularly special to me because of the importance it places on embodying the positive change necessary to make the world a better place. I know I’m not always a shining example of this, but I try.
So, what about photography quotes? These aren't so common. I would venture to guess that the only people who look up photography quotes are those who try to take it seriously (like me), which, I suppose, isn't a very large demographic – and note, I said “try.” So, for those less well-known photography quotes, here are a few:
"Photography is the art of frozen time...the ability to store emotion and feelings within a frame." -Meshack Otieno
"Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real." -Ansel Adams
"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." -Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Photography is truth." -Jean-Luc Godard
The last one, "Photography is truth," is my favorite. Again, I find myself drawn to its simplicity. Upon discovering these quotes, I found myself thinking about how I would define photography and how I would articulate what it means to me. I felt that Godard's quote was the most accurate; however, it was still lacking something. Photography is actually more than just truth (“truth,” in this case, is the world we see around us every day). Many pictures reflect the world around us, but I wouldn't necessarily publish all of my photos in a gallery. No, I normally only select one or two from the batch of the hundreds of shots I’ve taken, and then I have to do some type of refining and editing to make it visually interesting (sometimes I have to start from scratch and re-do it in order to get it right). The less refining and editing you have to do, the better, of course, but whether it takes place before the shot or after, every good photograph effectively uses the basic elements of composition, exposure, and lighting, among other things. So I would have to take Godard’s quote one step further to say that, “Photography is truth in its finest, most memorable form.”
Unlike traditional art mediums, such as watercolor, oils on canvas, or any form where the artist creates something from the imagination, photography is limited only to the images presented to us by the world. It is the purest form of telling a story from the things that are seen with the naked eye (with the exception of those who take Photoshop editing to the extreme). I will caveat that by saying that I am an advocate of artistic license in photography, as long as it doesn’t completely change the nature of the subject. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way…
“I do not object to retouching, dodging or accentuation as long as they do not interfere with the natural qualities of photographic technique.” -Alfred Stieglitz
And finally, I leave you with this, another one from a photography icon, Ansel Adams…
"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." -Ansel Adams
So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you define it, how you get there, or what led you to it…just do whatever it takes to construct that “good photograph.” It’s up to you to define what a “good photograph” is and whether or not your audience gets it.