World in Black and White
Do you only shoot in black and white?
Today my passion is still black and white. Today if I have an array
of cameras in front of me the one I would reach for that I would
feel most comfortable with would be a 4 X 5 View camera. I was once
working in a sort of soft light situation. It had rained on some
vivid green ferns in Maine and it was quite beautiful. I was moving
the camera slightly and studying the ground glass. Looking at those
20 square inches, trying to find out just what were the right elements
to include. And then as I frequently do, some times I'll peek out
from underneath the focusing cloth and just look around the edges
of the frame that I'm not seeing, see if there's something that
should be adjusted in terms of changing the camera position. I remember
being shocked when I came out from under the focusing cloth after
a minute or two being submerged within that, at the startling green
color of those ferns. Because on that ground glass and in my mind,
all I was thinking about was how to make them look as silvery as
Your work is very "pure" in the sense that there are
no gimmicks involved. Would you describe yourself as a traditionalist.
And do you see yourself banging the drum for pure photography?
There is a considerable amount of manipulation in the printmaking
from the straight photograph to the finished print. If I do my job
correctly that shouldn't be visible at all, it should be transparent.
I support any procedure that allows photographers to express themselves,
whether that involves color, black and white, platinum, palladium
and digital technology. When the object that is produced, the photographic
image has the ability to make tears come to your eyes; to inspire
you to the point where you have to catch your breath, then nothing
else matters. Whatever it takes to get the image to reach that level
is what that photographer needs to do. And for me, I just have such
a love of the tactile and sensuous quality of a black and white
silver gelatin print. I've never seen a surface that I think is
more seductive in image making.
What words of advice do you give to young photographers starting
When I teach and meet a class for the first time, you realize that
there are people there that have exceptional abilities or have the
potential to do exceptional things and you never know who those
people are. My job is to provide the best information I can. I really
don't have any secrets. I've never met a photographer whose work
I respected that had a secret because the secret lies within each
and every one of us.
The reason I do workshops is so I can learn, and I am fortunate
that I've probably gained more from the whole experience of teaching
than any one participant has. It is all about asking.
Could you tell us what you mean by that?
The best example is Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid process.
His daughter asked him: " Why can't I see the picture now?"
There were a thousand reasons why it would be impossible and yet
he looked at it in a different way. And today we take instant film
Do you have to be a certain personality to be a professional
I think the greatest photographers are the amateur photographers
who do it because they love it. Arnold Newman is a good example;
he is a consummate professional, but he's also an 'amateur' in the
pure sense of the word. We all start in this medium because of the
magic and the challenge is to keep it going.