Phrase of the Month Archive

Phrase of the Month kindly provided by George Redgrave

November 2018

To be a photographer one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for all that there is no guarantee that will become an artist – only the journey matters.

Harry Callahan (American photographer 1912-1999)

October 2018

The characteristic failure of much contemporary photography has been its banality and lack of nourishing content.

Jon Szarkowski, “Creative Camera” magazine 1969

August 2018

Shadows and light reflected off the shopping centre floor may seem rather uninteresting, but the ephemeral and evanescent are just as concrete as mountains or buildings to the camera.

Paul Hill “Approaching Photography” Photographers’ Institute Press 2nd edition 2004

July 2018

There could be as much grandeur in a photograph of forms made by the light and shade on the back wall of your house as there is in the picture of a distant mountain range.

Paul Hill “Approaching Photography” Photographers’ Institute Press 2nd edition 2004


June 2018

It is important to recognise that both sharp and blurred photographs are constructs. Both are versions of experience, evidence of the fact that photography fabricates as much as it records. Neither is more true or more real.

Adam D Weinberg “From the Heart: the Power of Photography ” Aperture nd

May 2018

To see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.

Stephen Shore quoted in ‘Tate etc’ issue 41 Autumn 2017 page 23

April 2018

Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.

Elliott Erwitt, quoted in “Street Photography Now” by Sophie Howarth & Stephen McLaren, Thames & Hudson 2010 (page 13)

March 2018

Many amateur photographers force their models into complex and laborious poses and postures because here as elsewhere the “natural” is a cultural ideal which must be created before it can be captured.

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography – a Middlebrow Art”  (In French 1965) English translation Polity Press 1990

January 2018

Ray Moore … saw photographs as a reflection of self and images as a catalyst for thought and feeling that were created through the person, rather than the camera.

“A Green and Pleasant Land” exhibition label, Towner Gallery Eastbourne, 30 September 2017 – 21 January 2018

November 2017

One of the problems about being associated with photographers is that you may become corrupted, tempted, tainted. The problem is that you may wish to acquire a camera beyond your needs and indeed means.

John  Curtis “Bluff your way in Photography” Ravette Books 1987

October 2017

To see something ordinary, something you’d see everyday, and recognise it as photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.

Stephen Shore, quoted in “Tate etc” 41 Autumn 2017 page 23

September 2017

Through the snapshot the everyday became a space of performance

Joanna Lowry “Creative Camera” August -September 1997

July 2017

The gaze: a prolonged, contemplative look regarding the field of vision with a certain aloofness and disengagement. To be able to gaze is a sign of leisure, education and seriousness … It stands in strict opposition to the glance which is a subversive and furtive look.

John Taylor “A Dream of England” Manchester UP 1994

May 2017

If amateur photographers force their models into awkward poses and postures it is because the “natural” is a cultural ideal which must be created before it can be captured.

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography – A Middle Brow Art” 1965 (English translation Polity Press 1990) page 81

April 2017

Paul Strand avoids the picturesque, the panoramic, and tries to find a city in a street, wthe way of life of a nation in the corner of a kitchen.

John Berger (ed Geoff Dyer) “Understanding a Photograph” Penguin 2013 page 43

June 2016

I’ve always been drawn to visually complex photographs. Many of my early photographs contain more than one element, have more than one point of focus. As the years have passed they’ve become even more complex.

Alex Scott “On Street Photography and the Poetic Imagze” Aperture 2014

May 2016
Paul Strand avoids the picturesque, the panoramic and tries to find a city in a street, the way of life of a nation in the corner of a kitchen.

John Berger “Understanding a Photograph” page 43. An anthology of his work edited by Geoff Dyer and published by Aperture in 20

April 2016
A photographer, through the choice of the instant photographed, may try to persuade the viewer to lend that instant a pat and a future.

John Berger “Understanding a Photograph” Aperture 2013 page 75 (Original essay “Appearances” 1982)

March 2016
The media often seek to render the photograph unambiguous and to link the excess of signifier to one sole signified. The most vulgar of these is the caption, since it is a statement of the insufficiency which it is designed to alleviate.

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography – a Middle-brow Art” Polity Press 1990 (English translation) Original French edition 1965

January 2016
One of the last vestiges of urban politeness is the detour that pedestrians make around tourists photographing their friends.

American Photography – Vicki Goldberg & Robert Silberman, Chronicle Books 1999 page 19

December 2015
The creation of a photograph, like the writing of a diary, can be a personal experience which is rewarding on its own terms. If there is a certain self-indulgence to this endeavour there is also a fundamental honesty which gives the work validity and historical significance.

Clark Worswick “An Edwardian Observer – The photographs of Leslie Hamilton Wilson” Penwick 1978

November 2015
When photographers take pictures they hold mental models in their minds, models that are the result of the prodding of insight, conditioning and comprehension of the world. At one extreme the model is rigid and ossified, bound by an accumulation of its conditionin … At the other extreme, the model is supple and fluid.

Stephen Shore “The Nature of Photographs” Johns Hopkins UP 1998 page 78

October 2015
“Mrs Cameron was an ardent believer in lack of sharpness … and that sharpness of focus was not, as photographers believed, the acme of photographic work.”

Obituary of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) in “The Photographic News” quoted at an exhibition of her work at the Science Museum London (24/09/15-28/03/16)

August 2015
The “natural” is a cultural ideal which must be created before it can be captured.

Pierre Bourdieu, Photography – a Middle-brow Art Polity Press 1990 (English translation) Original French edition 1965

July 2015
In conferring on photography a guarantee of realism society is merely confirming itself in the certainty that an image of the real which is true to its representation of objectivity is really objective.

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography – A Middle-brow Art” (In French 1965) English translation Polity Press 1990

May 2015
The photographic image turns a piece of paper into a seductive illusion or a moment of truth and beauty.

Stephen Shore “The Nature of Photographs” Johns Hopkins University Press 1998 page 78

April 2015
Pictures exist on the mental level that may be co-incident with the depictive level – what the picture is showing but does not mirror it.

Stephen Shore “The Nature of Photography” Johns Hopkins UP 1998, page 17

March 2015
Much photography of the city has viewed it, and continues to view it, in terms of the bizarre, even the surreal. The photographer roams the city in search of the strange.

Graham Clarke “The Photograph” Oxford UP 1997 Page 83

February 2015
The quality and intensity of a photographer’s attention leave their imprint on the mental level of the photograph.

Stephen Shore “The Nature of Photographs” Johns Hopkins UP 1998 page 65

January 2015
The photograph is free of limits, just as its subject matter is infinite. The ‘moment’ is thus its greatest asset, for the moment is also unique, and it is the moment that the photograph brings into focus.

Graham Clarke “The Photograph” OxfordUP 1997 page 215

December 2014
“The ‘Amateur Photographer’ (magazine) shows quite clearly one of the ways in which stereotypes are created, in this instance showing an emasculated view of the world in which any social or political reality has been removed.”

Terry Dennett & Jo Spence in “Representative Photography”

November 2014
The theory of signs, inspired by Charles S Pierce, seems outmoded regarding the binary coding of photographic contingency.

Hubertus von Amelunxen “Cafe Creme” No 17 1996 page 32

October 2014
Brassai (Gyula Halasz) took up photography on his thirtieth birthday in 1929. He said, “It was becoming urgent because I had no more room inside me for the pictures I’d accumulated – mainly during my nocturnal wanderings in Paris.”

“Brasai” Diane Poirier (Flammarion 2005)

September 2014
The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history toward that which was outside time.

John Berger “Appearances” in an essay which is collected in “Understanding a Photograph” by John Berger edited by Geoff Dyer (page 68) Aperture 2013

July 2014
Gary Winogrand’s stated motive, that he took photographs to see how things looked when they have been photographed, can be seen to have inspired a generation of photographers.

American Images: Photography 1945-1980, Penguin 1985, Peter Turner (Ed.) page 125

June 2014
When you focus a lens it’s blurred just in front and just behind. It’s very pretty just a little in front and just a little behind. It’s too sharp when exactly focussed. Beauty is killed by precision.

Jaques Henri Lartigue 1927 (Exhibition of the work of Lartigue, Hayward Gallery London 2004)

Hampton Sides, introduction to “The Polar Bear Waltz” page 5

May 2014
Really good photographers aren’t like you and me. They perceive the world differently. They catch things, subtle situations, funny contrasts, strange plays of light – that others would miss.

Hampton Sides, introduction to “The Polar Bear Waltz” page 5

April 2014
Photography’s a kind of sport, like plucking butterflies out of the air. One has to be quick. I was a champion at tennis so I’ve got a sharp eye.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue 1937

March 2014
“To measure the light when calculating their exposure time, early photographers would monitor the relative dilation in the eyes of pet cats.”

David Yorath “Photography – a crash course” Silverdale Books 2003 page 100

February 2014
“The field of speculation on future technology is strewn with writers choking as they try to eat their past words.”

Tim Hughes, Cyclists’ Touring Club magazine Feb/Mar 1999

January 2014
The subjects of most amateur photographers come from the Impressionists: pictures of gardens, little houses, holidays…

Christian Boltanski “Creative Camera” May 1992

December 2013
Benjamin Brecknall Turner has treated the sky as if it’s as solid as the building; the reason is he has a big camera and he saw the world upside down…the sky was as important as the stone.

Martin Haworth-Booth – caption to a photograph of Whitby Abbey at an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum 2003

November 2013
In Tony Ray-Jones’s work… The gaps between the components of the image have as big a role to play as the main subject matter itself. He often pushes the subject to the edge of the frame to establish a tension in the balance of the photograph, yet one that works perfectly. These are the distinguishing features of a most eloquent and poetic eye.

Martin Parr “Only in England”… Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, Science Museum London 21 Sept 2013 – 16 March 2014

October 2013
Photography, as used in conceptual art, enabled artists to connect with the banal subject matter of the “everyday” .

David Brittain in the introduction to “Creative Camera – Thirty Years of Writing” Manchester UP 2000

September 2013
I do not pose people, I poise people.

Bruce Davidson.

August 2013
Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander discovered from snapshots how the eccentricities of amateur picture taking – the awkward gestures, the uncomposed views – could be a style in itself when adopted deliberately.

Eyewitness – 150 Years of Photojournalism, Richard Lacayo pages 166-7 TimeLife Books 1998

June 2013
“The central act of photography, the act of choosing and eliminating, forces a concentration on the picture’s edge – the line that separates in from out – and on the shapes that are created by it.”

John Szarkowski “The Photographers’ Eye” Secker & Warburg (US ed 1966, UK ed 1980) page 9 col B

May 2013
The photograph acts as a catalyst, exciting mental activity which exceeds that which the photograph itself provides.

Victor Burgin “Thinking Photography” Macmillan 1982 page 9

April 2013
Jeff Wall divides photographers into two camps, hunters and farmers, the former tracking down and capturing images, the latter cultivating them over time.

Charlotte Cotton “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” Thames & Hudson 2009 page 49

March 2013
Members of photographic clubs seek to ennoble themselves culturally by attempting to ennoble photography, a substitute within their range and grasp for the higher arts.

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography – a middle-brow art” 1965 (English translation 1990 Polity Press, Cambridge page 9)

February 2013
Through the snapshot the “everyday” becomes a space of performance.

Joanna Lowry “Creative Camera” Aug – Sept 1997 page 279

January 2013
Forget the camera, forget the lens, forget all of that. With any four-dollar camera, you can capture the best picture.

Alberto Korda – the photographer who took the iconic picture of Che Guevara

December 2012
The photographic apparatus lies in wait for photography, it sharpens its teeth in readiness. This readiness to spring into action on the part of the apparatus, its similarity with a wild animal, is something to grasp hold of.

Vilem Flusser “Towards a Philosophy of Photography” 1983, English translation – Reaktion Books 2000 page 21

November 2012
“It is important to recognise that both sharp and blurred photographs are constructs. Both are versions of experience, evidence of the fact that photography fabricates as much as it records. Neither is more true or more real.”

From the Heart: The Power of Photography – A Collector’s Choice by Adam D. Weinberg and Mark Haworth-Booth Aperture 1998 page 18

October 2012
I find that the profession of photography gives a certain sharpness to visual observation. It gives one a clearer visionary sense than that of the average person, whose perception is generally somewhat dulled by watching too much television.

Robert Doisneau “Dialogue with Photography, interviews with Paul Hill & Thomas Cooper” page 77 pub. Dewi Lewis 1998

September 2012
Not through the technique at his command but through his vision of the world does the photographer create pictures of significance and lasting value.

Beaumont Newhall  “Focus: The Memoirs of a life in Photography” Little Brown 1993 (Quoting himself from US Camera 1937)

August 2012
John Urry described ‘the tourist gaze’ which ensures a separation between the one who does the looking, assumed to be familiar and like ‘us’, and that which is looked at, assumed to be different and strange.

Liz Wells “Photography – A Critical Introduction” Routledge, London 1997

July 2012
Merely by announcing its subject, the photograph grants both meaning and significance. The banal, the marginal, the momentary, are given status within an assumed cultural register.

Graham Clarke “The Photograph” Oxford UP 1997 page 22

June 2012
Peter Galassi has highlighted Cartier-Bresson’s surrealist strategy of depaysement – ‘to uproot an ordinary fact or incident from its expected spatial or narrative context, thus revealing a hidden poetic force.’ Such dislocation and discontinuity for Galassi transforms ‘the ordinary incident into an image of rapture’.

Mark Durden “Creative Camera” February/March 1998

May 2012
Much of the new photography underlines the extent to which the landscape is very much bound by an atmosphere of melancholy, just as in our own snapshots of scenes we invest them with a personal dimension which records a lost past. The moment, not so much the scene, is retained.

Graham Clarke “The Photograph” Oxford UP 1997

April 2012
“The reason that camera clubs have been irrelevant to the growth of photography as the most powerful medium of visual communication ever used is that they are primarily concerned with the production of pretty images, not with revealing the truth about the picture’s content.”

Bill Jay, “Creative Camera” September 1971 (Collected in “Creative Camera – 30 years of writing” edited by David Brittain, Manchester University Press 1999)

March 2012
“The zeal with which photography is pursued in all circles today indicates that those with no knowledge of it will be the illiterates of the future.”

László Moholy-Nagy Dutch magazine, i10, article 1927 English translation in “Photography in the Modern Era”  Ed: Christopher Phillips, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1989

January 2012
Ray Moore preferred subjects on the edge of civilisation where there were traces of human existence. He described his main subject as the no man’s land between the real and the fantasy – the mystery in the commonplace – the uncommonness of the commonplace.

From the notes to the Royal Academy exhibition of photography 1839-1989 – 12 British Contemporaries

December 2011
“A photograph gives us the naked truth which must be clothed by the imagination.”

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

November 2011
“One of the pictorial devices used in tableau photography to engender anxiety or uncertainty about the meaning of an image is to depict figures with their faces turned away from us, leaving their character unexplained.”

Charlotte Cotton The Photograph as Contemporary Art Thames & Hudson 2004 (rev ed 2009)

September 2011

Mark Haworth-Booth “British Contemporaries”  in “The Art of Photography 1839-1989” Royal Academy of Arts London

August 2011

Beaumont Newhall defining the “Equivalent” quoted by Wynn Bullock in “Dialogue with Photography” Eds. Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper 1979

April 2011
Photospeak  Gilles Mora  Abbeville Press, New York 1998

March 2011
John Stezaker,  Fragments  Photographers’ Gallery London 1978

January 2011

The ‘decisive moment’ theory has been criticised for holding photography in thrall to a formal academicism that is inevitably incompatible with documentary objectivity. Robert Frank broke with this elegant aesthetic of selective distanced reportage in his book “The Americans”. In Frank’s view, “Every moment is valuable”. 
Gilles Mora “Photospeak” Abbeville Press 1998

October 2010

I came, I saw, I photographed. Photography allows the individual to pay homage to beauty and achievement as if in some religious ritual.
Mark Galer   “Photography: Foundations for Art & Design” 4th ed 2007

September 2010

The nature of photography is that, as you work, you continually record a world that has gone for ever; yet you continuously see the new world unfold in front of you. The old and the new are in uninterrupted contrast.
David Hurn
Wales, Land of my Father   Thames & Hudson 2000 page12

August 2010

I subscribe to that school of thought which says that you should look at your mistakes and accidents as your subconscious strategies … as your perspective changes, what was opaque at the time becomes clearer. The medium has this amazing consultability that extends far beyond the surface of the image.   Paul Graham

July 2010
A photograph is not just an image but an “image act”, encompassing not only its production but also its reception and contemplation … This concept encouraged many French photographers to practice “photobiography”.

Gilles Mora, “Photospeak” Abbeville Press 1998, page 145

June 2010
“Philip Stokes said of the experience of looking at other people’s family albums, “In every dreary litany there is an instant when a window opens onto a scene of fascination that stops the eye and seizes the mind, filling it with questions or simply joy.”

Quoted by Liz Wells in, “Photography – A Critical Introduction” Routledge 1997 page 44

Feb 2010
“It could be argued that photography has the function of helping one to overcome the sorrow of the passing of time, either by providing a magical substitute for what time has destroyed, or by making up for the failure of memory, acting as a mooring for the evocation of associated memories, in short by providing a sense of conquest of time as a destructive power.”

Pierre Bourdieu “Photography, a middle-brow art” 1965 (English translation Polity Press 1990)

November 2009
“For Henri Cartier-Bresson, the decisive moment was not when he pressed the shutter button but when he viewed the contact sheets.”
Prof. Paul Hill De Montfort University Leicester . (Talk October 2009)

October 2009:

Photography with its stress on visible phenomena, and their peculiar recognisability, places a prominent question mark against the validity of abstractionism in art; which occasionally succumbs to convention and dogma and has exhausted the possibilities of self-referential variation on formal models.
“How You Look At It”  by Heinz Liesbrock  pub Thames & Hudson 2000

September 2009:
“The knowing portraitee adopts a pose which anticipates the representational image and takes account of the fact that this piece of paper will outlast the actual person who is the subject of the portrait, becoming the “flat death” which both exposes that which has been and precedes actual death.”Roland Barthes “Camera Lucida” (English edition 1981)

May 2009:

“Since indexical relationships to the world are being created en masse by snap-shotters, any photography with artistic aspirations must be on the look-out for ways of differentiating itself, and these are to be found in the realms of the iconic and the symbolic.”Thomas Wagner, “how you look at it” Thames & Hudson 2000 page 93

February 2009:
“Such images (of sunlight on the walls of her home), of course, are of a piece with the drama that unfolds in a darkened chamber where the Cartesian subject is born: photography re-stages in an allegorical register, the illumination of a self conceived almost literally as refracted or projected light.”  Brian Dillon, writing about the photographer Uta Barth, in “Portfolio” magazine #48 (December 2008) page 42.

November 2008:

Photography has particular qualities thanks to its profoundly anarchic character and its unique relationship with reality, a relationship which has little to do with truth, visual or otherwise, but everything to do with the emotional charge generated by the photograph’s operation as a memory trace.
John Stathatos  “Positively Art” 02 Exposed, Tate Gallery  Jan-April 1998 p.5

March 2008:

“The notion that photography might be creative was confined primarily to the entrenched bastion of the amateur club, with their ‘rules of thirds’, annual salons, and circuit judges of formidably narrow minds.”

Gerry Badger “Through the Looking Glass – Photographic Art in Britain 1945 – 1989” Barbican Art Gallery 1989 page 24 

August 2007:

“Sighting familiar objects, scenes, friends or fun through a little window and clicking a small key are obviously child’s play,and the ensuing childish results offer the vastest possibilities for innocent amusement and practical exploitation by advertisers,

camera clubs, photographic year books, salons and prizes.”Lincoln Kerstein – essay in Walker Evans ‘American Photographs’ MOMA  (2nd ed 1962 p 189)

August 2006:

As its best photography appearsnot to be characterised by the absence of stereotypes but a kind of hesitation between them.

John Stezaker ‘Fragments’ 1978.

March 2006:

Although photography is intimately linked to the passage of time, to mutability and alienation, it also promises escape into permanence with moments able to last for ever.

John Taylor “A Dream of England” – Manchester Univ Press.

January 2006:

The umbilical cord linking the photograph to its referent has been well and truly broken.

Jane Fletcher – “Portfolio” No. 42 page 10

September 2005:

Photography: a bastard left on the doorsteps of art by industry”.


July 2005:

“Amateur Photographers’ clubs are places where one gets high on the Structural complexities of cameras, where one goes on a photographic trip. They are post-industrial opium dens”.

Towards a Philosophy of Photography

Vilem Flusser – Page 58

May 2005:

“Be explicit to yourself of what your criteria are”.

Lez Well

Lecturer in History of Photography – University of Exeter

March 2005:

Sally Mann said:

“My new work is far less iconic, less stylised. The photographs are filled with the detritus of every day life.”

We attempt to emulate her.