Photography Quotes

Here is a collection of quotations related to photography. If there is anything that opens our eyes to the myriad facets of photography, it is reading what the masters and critics have written or said about the art.

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"The photographic enthusiast likes to lure us into a darkened room in order to display his slides on a silver screen. Aided by the adaptability of the eye and by the borrowed light from the intense projector bulb, he can achieve those relationships in brightness that will make us dutifully admire the wonderful autumn tints he photographed on his latest trip. As soon as we look at a print of these photographs by day, the light seems to go out of them. It is one of the miracles of art that the same does not happen there. The paintings in our galleries are seen one day in bright sunshine and another day in the dim light of a rainy afternoon, yet they remain the same paintings, ever faithful, ever convincing. To a marvelous extent they carry their own light within. For their truth is not that of a perfect replica, it is the truth of art."

- E.H. Gombrich, art critic.

"The photographic image ... is a message without a code."

-Roland Barthes, French thinker.

"I shutter to think how many people are underexposed and lacking depth in this field."

- Rick Steves, travel guide and author.

"...the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads—as an anthology of images."

-Susan Sontag, On Photography

"Photography does not create eternity, as art does; it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption."

- André Bazin (1918–1958), French film critic.

"To visualize an image (in whole or in part) is to see clearly in the mind prior to exposure, a continuous projection from composing the image through the final print."

-Ansel Adams, The Camera

"These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago... I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me."

-Ansel Adams, in the preface of Jacob a Riis: Photographer & Citizen

"The term accessories has come to include a host of photographic gadgets of questionable value..."

-Ansel Adams, The Camera

"I am always surprised when I see several cameras, a gaggle on lenses, filters, meters, et cetera, rattling around in a soft bag with a complement of refuse and dust. Sometimes the professional is the worst offender!"

-Ansel Adams, The Camera

"Notebook. No photographer should be without one!"

-Ansel Adams, The Camera

"To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things."

-Ansel Adams

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."

-Ansel Adams

"There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept."

-Ansel Adams

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."

-Ansel Adams

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."

-Ansel Adams

"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop"

-Ansel Adams

"A good photograph is knowing where to stand."

-Ansel Adams

Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.


Senseless photographers practice random acts of beauty; intelligent photographers practice consistent acts of selflessness.

"A photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see."

-Roland Barthes

"This is a perfect world
I'm riding on an incline
I'm staring in your face
You'll photograph mine"

- from Perfect World on the album Little Creatures by Talking Heads

Now we see as through a glass darkly, but then, face to face.

-Corinthians 1:13

"If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."

-Robert Capa

"The crude creations of mortal thought must finally give place to the glorious forms which we sometimes behold in the camera of divine Mind, where the mental picture is spiritual and eternal."

-Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

"People think that all cameramen do is point the camera at things, but it's a heck of a lot more complicated than that!"

-Larry in Groundhog Day

"Just as a fisherman cannot catch fish unless his line is in the water, a wildlife photographer cannot shoot great wildlife images unless he or she is out there with camera in hand and the knowledge of what to do then the 'magnificent moment' occurs."

-George H. Harrison, in Magnificent Moments: The World's Greatest Wildlife Photographs

"Life is like a good black and white photograph, there's black, there's white, and lots of shades in between."

-Karl Heiner

"Photography concentrates one's eye on the superficial. For that reason it obscures the hidden life which glimmers through the outlines of things like a play of light and shade. One can't catch that even with the sharpest lens."

-Franz Kafka, as related in Gustav Janouch's Conversations with Kafka

"You press the button and we do the rest."

-Kodak advertisement

"You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it."

-Pentax advertisement

"I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn."

-Pablo Picasso

"...everything looks worse in black and white."

-Paul Simon, Kodachrome, from Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-86

"Kodachrome, it gives us those nice bright colors
Gives us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph
So momma, don't take my Kodachrome away..."

-Paul Simon, Kodachrome, from Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-86

"She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said 'Be careful his bowtie is really a camera'"

-Paul Simon, America, from 1964/1993

"Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures."

-Susan Sontag, On Photography

"When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself."

-Edward Steichen, quoted in Penelope Niven's Steichen: A Biography

Too many cameras and not enough food
'Cause this is what we've seen."

-Sting, Driven to Tears, from the album Zenyatta Mondatta

"The question is not what you look at but what you see!"

-Henry David Thoureau "As I 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."

-George Tice, as quoted in Susan Sontag's On Photography

"A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever."

-Mark Twain

"Photography is 90% sheer, brutal drudgery!"

-Brett Weston

"Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn't photogenic."

-Edward Weston

"We look at a painting to know the painter; it's his company we are after, not his skill."

-James McNeill Whistler

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