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There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. ~ Ansel Adams

Photography is the art, science, and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film, or electronically by means of an image sensor

A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z
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Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it. ~ Dorothea Lange
A photograph is a biography of a moment. ~ Art Shay
  • There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
    • Ansel Adams as cited in: Elizabeth T. Schoch (2002) The everything digital photography book. p. 105
  • A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.
    • Ansel Adams "A Personal Credo" (1943), published in American Annual of Photography (1944), reprinted in Nathan Lyons, editor, Photographers on Photography (1966), reprinted in Vicki Goldberg, editor, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (1988)
  • I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term — meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching — there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.
    • Ansel Adams "A Personal Credo" (1943), published in American Annual of Photography (1944), reprinted in Nathan Lyons, editor, Photographers on Photography (1966), reprinted in Vicki Goldberg, editor, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (1988)
  • It shows an image that could only have been produced photographically.
    • Nicholas Allen, as quoted in Is The Shroud of Turin a Medieval Photograph? A Critical Examination of the Theory by Barrie M. Schwortz
  • Pictures produced by camera can resemble paintings or drawings in presenting recognizable images of physical objects. But they have also characteristics of their own, of which the following two are relevant here: first the photograph acquires some of its unique visual properties through the technique of mechanical recording; and second, it supplies the viewer with a specific kind of experience, which depends on his being aware of the picture's mechanical origin. To put it more simply: (1) the picture is coproduced by nature and man and in some ways looks strikingly like nature, and (2) the picture is viewed as something being by nature.
    • Rudolf Arnheim (1974). "On the nature of Photography", Critical Inquiry, Vol.1, n.1, p. 156; As cited in: A. Bianchin (2007), "Theoretical Cartography Issues in the face of New Representation"
  • In photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.
  • Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression.
    • Henri Cartier-Bresson as cited in: Bruce Elder (1989) Image and identity: reflections on Canadian film and culture. p. 114
  • Two studies investigated gender stereotyping in American magazine photos. Study 1 compares cover photos of men and women on face-ism, an index of the degree to which a photo focuses on the face versus the body. Photos of women are found to focus more on their bodies and photos of men on their faces, a finding consistent with previous research. This finding is strongly mediated by other variables, however, particularly the social role of the cover person. Study 2 compares the facial expressions, specifically the mouth positions, of men and women in advertisements from several popular magazines. Women are significantly more likely than men to be photographed with their mouths open, presumably portraying less serious expressions.
  • Black and white are the colors of photography. To me, they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected. Most of my photographs are of people; they are seen simply, as through the eyes of the man in the street. There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism.
    • Robert Frank, in: Nathan Lyons, Photographers on photography: a critical anthology, (1966), p. 66
  • Life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference and it is important to see what is invisible to others.

G - L[edit]

  • You put your camera around your neck in the morning, along with putting on your shoes, and there it is, an appendage of the body that shares your life with you. The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.
    • Dorothea Lange, as quoted in Dorothea Lange : A Photographer's Life (1978), p. vii
  • One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it.
    • Dorothea Lange, as quoted in Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life (1994) by Elizabeth Partridge

M - R[edit]

  • It was October 1966 and the new development of the new satellite system, Hexagon, was underway. The project was a follow-on to very successful Corona satellite program and a complement to the higher-resolution Gambit satellite.
    All these programs required 315,000 feet of film to be dropped in re-entry vehicles from orbit and retrieved in mid-air by U.S. forces. Gambit and Hexagon were declassified late this year, and its engineers were profiled this week by the Associated Press.
  • From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles (100 kilometers) of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth's atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks.
  • The photograph extends and multiplies the human image to the proportions of mass-produced merchandise. The movie stars and matinee idols are put in the public domain by photography. They become dreams that money can buy.
  • The step from the age of Typographic Man to the age of Graphic Man was taken with the invention of photography.
  • The photograph has reversed the purpose of travel, which until now had been to encounter the strange and unfamiliar. ... The world itself becomes a sort of museum of objects that have been encountered before in some other medium.
    • Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), pp. 267-268
  • The image (shadow) being inverted depends on there being an aperture at the cross-over and the image (shadow) being distant. The explanation lies in the aperture.
    The image (shadow): The light reaches the person shining like an arrow. The lowest [light] that reaches the person is the highest [in the image] and the highest [light] that reaches the person is the lowest [in the image]. The feet conceal the lowest light and therefore become the image (shadow) at the top. The head conceals the highest light and therefore becomes the image (shadow) at the bottom.
    • Mozi Book 10: Exposition of Canon II; this is the earliest known description of the inverted image produced by a camera obscura,; as translated in by Ian Jonston in The Mozi (2010), p. 489
  • Photography is a strong tool, a propaganda device, and a weapon for the defense of the environment... Photographs are believed more than words; thus they can be used persuasively to show people who have never taken the trouble to look what is there. They can point out beauties and relationships not previously believed or suspect to exist.
    • Eliot Porter as cited in: Rebecca Solnit (2007) Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. p. 235

S - Z[edit]

  • [U]tilizing the discoveries of scientists, photography was invented by artists for the use of artists. ...Daguerre had acquired a considerable reputation as a painter and inventor of illusionist effects in panoramas and... as a designer of stage settings... Almost at the same time as he invented the diorama... Daguerre began to experiment with the photographic process. ...[H]e would have to be considered... the first artist to utilize photographs for his paintings—before photography was in effect discovered.
    ...Talbot, the discoverer of another photographic process, was an amateur artist who used the camera lucida and camera obscura from the early 1820s as aids to his landscape drawings. Among other... near-discoverers of photography were artists who sought through the camera obscura... the last word in art.
    ...Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce succeeded in fixing what he called a heliograph on glass. Niépce and his son... a painter and sculptor, had been practicing the new art of lithography... Because the litho stones of good quality were difficult to obtain, they... substituted pewter plates. ...[T]he elder Niépce ...conceived of the idea of recording, photographically, [using as negatives, existing paper engravings made transparent by oiling or waxing] an image on the plate and etching it for printing. ...After unsuccessful experiments with chloride of silver, he used another light-sensitive substance called bitumen of judea; the unexposed parts could be dissolved, baring the metal to be etched ...By 1837, with common salt as a fixative, Daguerre made his first relatively permanent photograph...
  • When [Talbot] learned of Daguerre's achievement he promptly published... 'Photogenic Drawing' . During ...1839, after Dagurerre's and Talbot's discoveries had been advertised, other inventors ...appeared ...One claim indicated that certain artists ...thirty years previously, had developed a negative process using diluted nitric acid as a fixative, ...It had not, it seems, occurred to them, as later it did to Talbot, to make the negative translucent and re-photograph it. ...Whereas the daguerreotype was a direct positive process, each photograph a unique image on a ...polished metal plate, photogenic drawing was develop into a negative-positive one allowing for multiple copies ...Talbot's ...calotypes, were printed from oiled or waxed paper negatives. They thus reproduced the fibrous texture [image distortion] of the paper ...Talbot believed that the photograph would become an important aid to artists... the multitude of minute details ...'no artist would take the trouble to copy faithfully from nature'. Talbot wrote this in 1844 in his ...The Pencil of Nature, the first publication using actual photographic prints in conjuction with text.
    • Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography (1968) p. 9. Note: Talbot presented his paper, "Some Account of the art of Photogenic Drawing, or the process by which natural objects may be made to delineate themselves without the aid of the artist's pencil" (Jan. 31, 1839) to the Royal Society, as noted in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
  • Inevitably, the untenable relation between naturalistic art and photography became clear. However much other factors may have contributed to the character of Impressionist painting, to photography must be accorded some special consideration. The awareness of the need for personal expression in art increased in proportion to the growth of photography and a photographic style in art. The evolution of Impressionist painting towards colours one ought to see, and the increased emphasis on matière [material], can well be attributed to the encroachment of photography on naturalistic art. Impressionist paintings may be seen as mirrors of nature, but above all they convey the idea that they are paintings of nature.
  • A photograph is a biography of a moment.
    • Art Shay as cited in interview: Dean Reynalds (2014 February 13) Photographs tell story of decades-long romance. CBS News.
  • Photography is more than a means of recording the obvious. It is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever, whether it be a face or a flower, a place or a thing, a day or a moment. The camera is a perfect companion. It makes no demands, imposes no obligations. It becomes your notebook and your reference library, your microscope and your telescope. It sees what you are too lazy or too careless to notice, and it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
    • Aaron Siskind, cited in: The Amateur Photographer's Handbook, (1973), p. vi
  • Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. [It is] a major force in explaining man to man.
  • Today, I am no longer concerned with photography as an art form. I believe it is potentially the best medium for explaining man to himself and his fellow man.
    • Edward Steichen (1967), cited in: National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Institution), ‎Carolyn Kinder Carr, ‎National Portrait Gallery (Great Britain) (2003). Americans: paintings and photographs from the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, Deel 3. p. 207
  • Photography as a fad is well-nigh on its last legs, thanks principally to the bicycle craze.
  • There is a reality — so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. That's what I'm trying to get down in photography.
    • Alfred Stieglitz as cited in: M. Orvell (1989) The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940. p. 220
  • Photography, if practiced with high seriousness, is a contest between a photographer and the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing. The contest can be held anywhere...
    • John Szarkowski (1973) Looking at photographs: 100 pictures from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). p. 192
  • My own eyes are no more than scouts on a preliminary search, or the camera's eye may entirely change my idea.
    • Edward Weston as cited in: Harold Evans, Edwin Taylor (1978) Pictures on a page: photojournalism and picture editing. p. 75 ; On photojournalism
  • The weakness of the attack lies in its lack of discrimination. It is possible that psychic surgery is a hoax, that plants cannot really read our minds, that Kirlian photography (photographing the "life-aura" of living creatures) may depend on some simple electrical phenomenon. But to lump all of these together as if they were all on the same level of improbability shows a certain lack of discernment. The same applies to the list of "hoaxes." Rhine's careful research into extrasensory perception at Duke University is generally conceded to be serious and sincere, even by people who think his test conditions were too loose. The famous fairy photographs are quite probably a hoax, but no one has ever produced an atom of proof either way, and until someone does, no one can be quite as confident as the editors of Time seem to be. And Ted Serios has never at any time been exposed as a fraud — although obviously he might be. We see here a phenomena that we shall encounter again in relation to Geller: that when a scientist or a "rationalist" sets himself up as the defender of reason, he often treats logic with a disrespect that makes one wonder what side he is on.
  • A photograph does not stimulate the imaginative mood as good music, poetry, or painting does. In short, photography is too literal. And yet I would call it one of the greatest inventions of the nineteenth century-because of its usefulness to science and its documentary utility in all the arts. As a pictorial feature of magazines it has been vastly overdone and is tiresome...A photograph is the surface of something. Of course an artist is concerned with surface appearances, but only as a means of penetrating to the spirit of the thing. Through his own temperament he reveals the way he is impressed as a beholder of the scene. The artist's emotional reactions subject before him, and his obligation to stress its essentials, are the main factors in a work of art.

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