Fragments And Quotations
"Forgetting our divine
cloud slid off the face of the moon, and there was a
little light, she could see the grey trunks of the old
fruit trees and the bunched tops of the elms. There was no
colour, but there were shapes."
"In my London by night subjects I generally found a spot where I could place my camera, or some handy railings, like those of Leicester Square, on to which I could strap it. Sometimes I would take my whole-plate camera tripod and rest it on that, but useful places like the parapet of the Thames Embankment or the back of a seat were generally sufficient ....
.... I could not help noticing the effect of the reflected lights on the pavement. I was always looking out for new ideas, so the next wet night I was on the Embankment with my (camera) and my whole-plate tripod upon which I could rest it. The only people about were on the seats, London's outcasts, and I was fortunate enough to be able to make a trial exposure of about ten minutes. When I developed the plate I found that the exposure was not far out, but the halation of the simple gas jets was something tremendous, like Saturn's rings, and all down the roadway were dozens of streamers, produced by any vehicle carrying a lighted lamp, although the lamps were only lit by a candle ....
When I visited the Royal Photographic Society's exhibition I was surprised to find two extra large enlargements of my London by gaslight series made by the Autotype Company. When my slides were put on the screen each evening most people remarked, "An absolute fake!" ....
At that time people had not forgotten the Fenian outrages that had taken place around Westminster, so that I excited a certain amount of curiosity, not to say suspicion. When I was making my first exposure on the Embankment in the pouring rain a bulky City policeman all complete with beard approached me and said "What are you supposed to be doing?" "Taking a photograph," I answered. "What!" he exclaimed. "At this time of night and in this rain?" "Yes," I replied. "That's why I am taking it." He said nothing more but stood by with his arms folded under his huge cape and just slightly nodding his head, as much as to say, "Poor fellow! No doubt queer in the head!" As each cab passed my hand would shoot out and remain in front of the lens until it had passed. This no doubt puzzled him very much, so he went and leant against the parapet for support, keeping a watch on me all the time .... Then I grabbed my camera and tripod and made towards Waterloo Bridge. After I had covered about 200 yards I turned round so as to have a final look at him. To my great surprise he was not more than 30 feet away, so I put on the pace and reached Waterloo Bridge first, this being, I believe, outside the City boundary and his beat. When I was doing Trafalgar Square they never interfered, but they nevertheless kept a sharp eye on me. The picture of the lion at the base of Nelson's Column, with Whitehall in the background, shows just by the lion's paw a policeman's helmet .....
Being at a friend's
house one evening and noticing a slight fall of snow with
the moonlight shining on it, I rushed home and got my
(camera). I made for Wandsworth Common, but
there was nothing worth wasting a plate on there. However,
in the distance I saw some lights. It was the
Surrey Tavern in the Trinity Road. The next
thing was to find a suitable foreground. There
it was, just a solitary tree, so I got my camera, rested
it on the tripod stand and surveyed the scene.
It was 10.30 pm, freezing hard, and the moon
was full. I had once read of somebody taking a
moonlight effect of the Alps with a one-hour exposure, so
I decided to give this one hour .... I was nearly frozen
stiff, so I started to run round the bushes away from the
"PR: Are you shooting any series or themes?
SH: I don't approach it that way. Light varies so greatly that you'd be extremely limited if you want to keep it unified in a tight thematic way. "Aberrant light," lighting that is out of the ordinary, is as much of a theme as I pursue
PR: Do you think that poses a problem in exhibiting your work?
SH: Yes it does.
Curators and critics get very uptight with eclectic
vision. They're much more comfortable with themes, when
they see you are following something right down the line,
when you've done it a number of times. The continuity
makes it easier to judge. If you've done it ten times,
they can say "that person does such-and-such" and write
about it more "knowledgeably". There's a natural
insecurity involved that makes it harder to approach work
with a broader base. What's wrong with "experiments in
night photography"? If your exposures go from a 1/4th of a
second to five hours, exploring aberrant lighting, that's
a rather incredible theme, isn't it! But the concept is
hard to handle critically. If you don't have a theme, and
work in varied circumstances, your view is considered
eclectic. Those kind of people don't become recognized
until after they're dead. Then they publish the images one
at a time and think they're sensational"
"I am not interested
in shooting new things – I am interested to see things
Shadows for him accrued a soulful new resonance from then
on, conjuring not just an awareness of life's fragile
mysteries but also a wistful yearning for a greater
heavenly than those glittering stars we hold
"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera"
"Every image he sees, every photograph he takes, becomes in a sense a self-portrait"
should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be
Three quotations from James Attlee
"If you sit in a garden as dusk falls you will notice the colour leaching out of the flowers; the eye's sensitivity to greens and blues is enhanced while its sensitivity to red decreases, a reversal of daylight vision knows as the Purkinje shift. Just as in a black and white photograph, the lack of colour visible by moonlight makes the architectural structure of the landscape more apparent"
"(Thoreau) brought his keen eye to bear on the visual appearance of the nocturnal world in his essay 'Night and Moonlight'.
The leaves of the shrub-oak are shining as if a liquid were flowing over them. The pools seen through the trees are as full of light as the sky ... All white objects are more remarkable than by day. A distant cliff looks like a phosphorescent space on a hillside. The woods are heavy and dark. Nature slumbers. You see the moonlight reflected from particular stumps in the recesses of the forest, as if she selected what to shine on.
As light fades in the New England woods, Thoreau's eyes switch from photopic (cone) to scotopic (rod) vision. White and silver features assume a new importance by moonlight as he loses the ability to discern colours in his surroundings"
"My search for moonlight has taken me across the world and out into my own back garden"
not to be found by touring to Egypt, China, or Peru; if
you cannot find it at your own door, you will never find
be going, for the night wanes and dawn is at hand.
The stars have gone forward, two-thirds of the
night are already spent, and the third is alone left us"
day, water, sun, moon, night - I do not have to purchase
these things with money"
is an endless night so awful to contemplate that it can
make us love life and value it with such passion that it
may be the ultimate cause of all joy and all art"
unconscious obsession that we photographers have is that
wherever we go we want to find the theme that we carry
is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing
which ones to keep"
"Night was come, and
her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too serene
for the companionship of fear"
time I see a crowd of photographers surrounding a subject
my impulse is to go in the opposite direction"
moon develops the imagination, as chemicals develop
night, O sweetest time, though black of hue,
makes one conscious of beauty everywhere, even in the
simplest things, even in what is often considered
commonplace or ugly. Yet nothing is really 'ordinary’, for
every fragment of the world is crowned with wonder and
mystery, and a great and surprising beauty"
look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could
lucky if you take one, maybe two good pictures in a year"
most difficult thing is what is thought to be the
simplest; to really see the things which are before your
"The photographic image... is a message without a code"
"Photography has something to do with resurrection"
real body, which was there, proceed radiations which
ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the
transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the
missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the
delayed rays of a star"
is a time of rigor, but also of mercy. There are truths
which one can see only when it’s dark"
photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason
that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts"
that I have achieved are these dreams locked in silver"
stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how
can strip from the world that spiritual dust and grime
with which our eyes have covered it"
"It's not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human."
is like life... What does it all mean? I don't know - but
you get an impression, a feeling...."
is nothing - it's life that interests me"
is a literature of light"
the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to
learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography
dies with it. Every professional should remain always in
his heart an amateur"
has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it"
want to do my own thing. If people like my work, all the
better. If they don't, too bad"
yourself with your subject and the camera will all but
take you by the hand"
have to hurry up if you want to see something, everything
photograph is an opportunity to glimpse the interior of
are no rules for good photographs, there are only good
is a contest between a photographer and the presumptions
of approximate and habitual seeing"
makes photography a strange invention is that its primary
raw materials are light and time"
takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You
need less imagination to be a painter because you can
invent things. But in photography everything is so
ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to
see the extraordinary"
photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding
something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it
has little to do with the things you see and everything to
do with the way you see them"
does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbs and
surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces
within us which are dominated by our reason during the
sometimes happens, perhaps because of the very real
aesthetic appeal of astronomy and the almost
incomprehensible vastness of the Universe, that the more
solidly practical and duller mentalities tend to see the
study as an "escape from reality" - surely one of the most
thoroughly lop-sided views ever propounded.
The knowledge obtained from astronomy has
always been, and will continue to be, of the greatest
practical value. But, this apart, only the
most myopic minds could indentify "reality" solely with
the doings of man on this planet. Contemporary
civilization, whatever its advantages and achievements, is
characterized by many features which are, to put it very
mildly, disquieting; to turn from this increasingly
artificial and strangely alien world is to escape from unreality; to return to the timeless
world of the mountains, the sea, the forest, and the stars
is to return to sanity and truth"
is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects
photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed,
touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be
moving because it has been dignified by the attention of a
photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of
rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no
longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a
photograph is to participate in another person's (or
thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely
by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all
photographs testify to time's relentless melt"
moon in its first quarter, when it rises at four or five
o'clock in the evening, is bright, cheerful, silvery; but
in the last quarter, when it rises after midnight, it is
copper-coloured, gloomy and foreboding .... Anyone given
to going out much at night must have noticed this.
The first quarter's cresent, even when slender
as a thread, sheds a faint but cheerful gleam, at which
the heart lifts, and throws clearly defined shadows on the
ground; the last quarter's crescent gives a feeble, fitful
light, so dim that it casts almost no shadow"
"The spiritual world is such an immediate and compelling reality that the indigenous peoples believe it must once have been more accessible to human beings. In every culture, we find the myth of a lost paradise, in which humans lived in close and daily contact with the divine. They were immortal, and lived in harmony with one another, with animals and with nature. At the centre of the world there was a tree, a mountain or a pole, linking earth and heaven, which people could easily climb to reach the realm of the gods. Then there was a catastrophe: the mountain collapsed, the tree was cut down, and it became more difficult to reach heaven. The Story of the Golden Age, a very early and almost universal myth, was never intended to be historical. It springs from a strong experience of the sacred that is natural to human beings, and expresses their tantalising sense of a reality that is tangible and only just out of reach ....
separate the religious from the secular. This
would have been incomprehensible to the Paleolithic
hunters, for whom nothing was profane. Everything they saw
or experienced was transparent to its counterpart in the
divine world .... When you contemplated any earthly
object, you were therefore in the presence of its heavenly
counterpart .... the purpose of a myth was to make people
more fully conscious of the spiritual dimension that
surrounded them an all sides and was a natural part of
the real problem here is that we are all dying.
All of us. Every day the cells
weaken and the fibres stretch and the heart gets closer to
its last beat. The real cost of living is
dying, and we're spending days like millionaires: a week
here, a month there, casually spunked until all you have
left are the two pennies on your eyes"
sets out to draw the world.
deal in things which are continually vanishing and when
they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which
can make them come back again"
work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my
ability to understand it"
photograph the world as it is. I photograph
the world as I would like it to be"
within wheels in a spiral array,
. . . . .
Form beautiful? Because, I think, it helps us confront our
worst fear, the suspicion that life may be chaos and that
therefore our suffering is without meaning"
work is to discover your world and then with all your
heart give yourself to it"
progressed further with my project, it became obvious that
it was really unimportant where I chose to photograph. The
particular place simply provided an excuse to produce
work... you can only see what you are ready to see - what
mirrors your mind at that particular time"
"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"
what you look at that matters, it's what you see"
camera is a fluid way of encountering that other reality"
night, an atheist half believes in God"
"What I take from my
nights, I add to my days"
"This dead of midnight
is the noon of thought,
"Learn to reverence
night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the
banishment of night from the experience of man, there
vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which
gives depth to the adventure of humanity"
"A man is a very small
thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders"
"Someday, when you
both have cars and are driving at night, you can remember
as you pass the woods in May, that many baby horned owls
are turning their heads as you go by"
"Photography, as we
all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality
with which we create our own private world"
"Photography is a way
of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught
on film is captured forever... it remembers little things,
long after you have forgotten everything"
exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it
appears to be"
"I wish more people
felt that photography was an adventure the same as life
itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth
expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting"
"To be nobody but
yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and
day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest
battle which any human being can fight; and never stop
"If people sat outside
and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a
"I had become, with
the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and
time - those two companions without whom no journey can
yield us anything"
"I have long thought
that anyone who does not regularly - or ever - gaze up and
see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with
countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental
connectedness to the universe"
"What worse illness
can there be than acute conventionality. You should pray
every night that you don't wake up with it"
“photography” has its roots in Greek, roughly translating
to “writing of light.” Just as text is most interesting
when free of superfluous words, photography using little
light is often the most intriguing. Night photographers,
consequently, are some of the most captivating “writers”
in the medium."
"The gray sea and the
long black land;
"So when my feeble sun
of life burns out,
"The shades of night
have fallen now,
".... we're being
pulled through time against our will toward death"
"It is, however,
necessary to combine the two things, solitude and the
crowd, and to have recourse to them alternately; the
former will make us long for people, the latter for
ourselves, and the one will be a cure for the other: our
distaste for the crowd will be cured by solitude, our
boredom with solitude by the crowd"
"The world rests
in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are
released from the prison of shape and the burden of
exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature
within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient
womb. Night time is womb time. Our souls come out to play.
The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for
identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night."
important is to simplify. The work of most photographers
would be improved immensely if they could do one thing:
get rid of the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity,
you are more likely to reach the viewer."
"There are two ways to
live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The
other is as though everything is a miracle."
"And one by one the
nights between our separated cities are joined to the
night that unites us."
for the night sky: A trillion asterisks and no
"The man who has
seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight
has been present like an archangel at the creation of
light and of the world."
"I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day."
"For my part I know
nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream."
"The things of the
night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not
falling on the city
looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had
plenty of sleep."
for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of
point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to
explain things with words."
photograph what you love."
image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly
contains an ocean. A photographer is aware of the tiny
moments in a persons life that reveal greater truths."
has nothing to do with cameras."
have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better
camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t
belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point
photograph, what I’m really doing is seeking answers to
weird that photographers spend years or even a whole
lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together,
don’t even amount to a couple of hours."
object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful
state which makes art inevitable"
rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist"
"Art is a
marriage of the conscious and unconscious"
the medium in which we unconsciously encounter the dead.
Yet, herein lies photography’s hidden truth. Photographs
are not signs of presence but evidence of absence."
"There is no
doubt [for me] that many photographers share a
preoccupation with longing. They grapple to understand
longing through the act of photography because it is a
reproductive media with the ability to romanticize.
Photography is subjective and on the extremity can produce
fictional representation as metaphors for longing. Through
any artistic act; memories can be embellished to achieve a
dramatized new reality. Photography is a media with the
ability to render a convincing picture of reality when in
fact it is anything but [real]."
Awe is "the feeling we get when confronted with something vast, that transcends our frame of reference and that we struggle to understand. It's an emotion that combines amazement with an edge of fear. Wonder, by contrast, is more intellectual - a cognitive state in which you are trying to understand the mysterious".
Minor White is a photographer whose philosophy really resonates with me:
"…innocence of eye has a quality of its own. It means to see as a child sees, with freshness and acknowledgment of the wonder; it also means to see as an adult sees who has gone full circle and once again sees as a child – with freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder."
"…all photographs are self-portraits."
"One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are."
"Sometimes we work so fast that we don't really understand what's going on in front of the camera. We just kind of sense that, 'Oh my God, it's significant!' and photograph impulsively while trying to get the exposure right. Exposure occupies my mind while intuition frames the images."
“When gifts are given to me through my camera, I accept them graciously.”
"If all your life means to you is water running over rocks, then photograph it, but I want to create something that would not have existed without me."
All the complicated details
Dear Mrs Anthes: I was really moved by your letter. It is true that the number of people striving ardently for the right and worthwhile things is small. But the existence of these few is what makes life worthwhile.
".... THIS IS A PLACE CALLED TODAY
"An artist adopts a radically different view regarding the importance of time than a businessperson does. Instead of perceiving time as a merchantable facet doled out incrementally according to marketplace demands, an artist portrays time as an agent of destruction."
"I have to admit that I've ... always felt burdened by nostalgia, by a desire to stop time, to recapture things that have been lost. A sense that everything, absolutely everything, is on a journey from which there's no return."
"It is necessary to create constraints, in order to invent freely."
"I am not so weak as to submit to the demands of the age when they go against my convictions. I spin a cocoon around myself; let others do the same. I shall leave it to time to show what will come of it: a brilliant butterfly or maggot"
"..... distance lends enchantment"
"We are fireworks - burning shapes
"Photographs that convey a “sense of place” blend the physical characteristics of a scene, landscape or object with the mysterious essence that emerges from gradually and perhaps unconsciously inhabiting a place over time. The photograph ceases to become an objective document. Instead, it takes on a particular feeling that is invested with something that is often intangible, revealing a deeper understanding of what lies beneath the surface.
How is this “sense of place” communicated in a photograph? Many components including light, content and composition are important, as are clarity and craftsmanship. A well made photograph, for me, is the visual equivalent of a poem, evoking feelings and emotions. A quote from an essay in The Atlantic by Mark Yakich, “What Is a Poem,” states… “A poem helps the mind play with its well-trod patterns of thought, and can even help reroute those patterns by making us see the familiar anew."
"John Loengard, the picture editor at Life, always used to tell me, ”If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.""
"I have a dream… photography allows me to share it with you."
"Photography is what emotions look like."
"You either see, or you don’t see. The rest is academic. Photography is simply a function of noticing things. Nothing more."
"Only photography has been able to divide human life into a series of moments, each of them has the value of a complete existence."
"If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph."
"The camera basically is a license to explore."
"So we wandered out into the transparent half light of multitudinous stars. The last crimson feather of sunset, which had hovered long in the West, had been blown away with the breath of the night wind, and the moon, which would presently rise, had not yet cut the dim horizon of the sea, which lay very quiet, breathing gently in its sleep with stir of whispering ripples."
"The stars had begun to appear in the blue velvet of the sky, and to the east the horizon seen above the black silhouette of the village was growing dove-coloured with the approach of moon-rise."
"As you attempt to climb a higher mountain or aim at a higher target, the things around you become increasingly dramatic and of import. That happens by necessity because if you're aiming and working hard at something difficult and profound, you life is going to become increasingly difficult and profound. That might be exactly what you need as an antidote to the implicit limitations that you face as a human being."
"Personal websites are called personal websites because they are just that: personal. Thus, the primary objective still is to have a place to express ourselves, to explore ourselves, a place that lasts while the daily storms pass by. A place of consideration, and yes, a place of proudly sharing what we do, what we think, and what we care about. A place to contribute your voice and help others. A home on the internet. A place to tell your story."
"I have never beheld the first indications of the rising of Orion without a peculiar feeling of awakened expectation, like that of one who sees the curtain rise upon a drama of absorbing interest."
"When considering your lifetime as a photographer, for the first half you should listen to everyone's opinion of your work, for the last half you shouldn't listen to anyone at all."
"If I see another "Arch Of The MIlky Way" photograph, I'm going to throw up." (from a personal email to another night photographer).
"There are billions of photographs out there and millions of photographers. The sad truth is nobody cares about your photography. But you care about your photography. Your photography keeps you enthusiastic and interested in life. Your photography helps make you feel creative and inspired. So my suggestion: "focus on making your photography personal" (taking photos for yourself) rather than caring what the outside world thinks about your photographs ..... By doing a personal project, you do your project on your own means and by your own standards. The only measure of “success” for your personal project is how you feel about it at the end."
"There is at least one case on record of a match
being played by moonlight - in Paris between an English team and a French
team. The ground on which the game had
to be played was wanted in the afternoon for some races, and these taking
longer than was anticipated it was dark before the football match could be
started. Fortunately it was full-moon
time, and before the match had been in progress long it was not the light of
the sun but the light of the moon which enabled the game to be carried on. It was finished, too, though whether the
story that one side played two extra men during the second half without either
the referee or the onlookers noticing it is true I cannot say."
"... but I did find myself wondering why I myself should worry about deep time, deep ecology, or deep anything else, trapped as I was - as we all are - in the anxous shallows of mortality"
"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best"
"If one day one grasps that their busyness is pathetic, their occupations frozen and disconnected from life, why then not continue to see like a child, see it as strange, see it out of the depth of one’s own world, the vastness of one’s own solitude, which is, in itself, work and status and vocation?"
"The death of the spirit is to lose confidence in one's own independence and to do only what we are expected to do. At the same time, it is a mistake to expect anything specific from life."