"You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it."
"You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it."
“A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.”
"...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."
“Thinking should be done beforehand and afterwards—never while actually taking a photograph. Success depends on the extent of one’s general culture, on one’s set of values, one’s clarity of mind and vivacity. The thing to be feared most is the artificially contrived, the contrary to life.”
“Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.”
"Doubts arise because of an absence of surrender."
“The greatest tool at our command is the very thing that is photography. Light. Light is our paintbrush and it is a most willing tool in the hands of the one who studies it with a sufficient care.”
-- Laura Gilpin
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979) was famous for her American landscapes and photographic studies of the Navajo. According to a story by Martha A. Sandweiss, Laura Gilpin was unusual in that “No other woman in the history of American photography so devoted herself to chronicling the landscape.” She offered this quote by Gilpin to illustrate this passion:
"What I consider really fine landscapes are very few and far between," Laura Gilpin wrote to a friend in 1956. "I consider this field one of the greatest challenges and it is the principal reason I live in the west. I . . . am willing to drive many miles, expose a lot of film, wait untold hours, camp out to be somewhere at sunrise, make many return trips to get what I am after."
Even when photographing the Navajo, she sees the people as inseparable from their land. To borrow from another story by Sandweiss: “Gilpin's book, The Enduring Navaho (1968), opens with an explicit statement about the relationship between the Dinéh and their land: ‘Within the boundaries of their 25,000-square-mile reservation, more than 100,000 Navaho People, the largest tribe of Indians in North America, are striving for existence on a land not productive enough to sustain their increasing population.’…The sequencing of the pictures underscores her text. Aerial views of the Navajo's four sacred mountains, conveying a sense of the larger physical world in which the people live, precede any portraits of the people themselves.”
What I admire about Laura Gilpin was her passion. It seems to be the common denominator in all really great photographers. What else could drive someone to work that tirelessly, doggedly, patiently returning again and again until you get it just right?
There is one other quality I admire in Gilpin.
During her later years until her death she lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my mother, photographer Nancy Warren, met her. Laura Gilpin had attended my mother’s first show at a Santa Fe gallery. It was a collection of documentary photographs of Spanish Villages in New Mexico, mostly of the people that lived in the villages. Laura sent Nancy a note congratulating her on the show and suggesting that they meet sometime. They did and Laura was very encouraging to a younger photographer who greatly admired her. They attended another photo show together where Laura introduced Nancy to the photographer. This photographer, unlike Laura, was barely polite and couldn’t spare the time to talk to my mother. Laura whispered to Nancy “I like your people pictures better than his.”
The photographer was Ansel Adams.
I saw an exhibit last year at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called “Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities”. It was fascinating to see the similarities between her work and Ansel Adams photographs. I found a video on YouTube about this exhibit that is worth watching.
Not only was she good friends with Ansel Adams, but she was married to Alfred Stieglitz, a pioneer in American modernist photography. There are many good biographies out there about her life so I won’t go into those details here, but my take away from her story is admiration for her wisdom and knowledge of her own needs. She was able to hear the voices inside herself and stay true to her art. She was determined to create good work and have it be judged by it’s own merits and not on the basis of her gender. She had the courage to take risks and do what she needed to do.
"To create one's own world in any of the arts takes courage." ---Georgia O'Keefe
I recently joined an organization called JAWS, which stands for Journalism & Women Symposium. The declaration on their website states: "JAWS supports the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and works toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society."
The first local get-together I attended was great. (I call it a get-together because that's precisely what it was, rather than a formal meeting) I found mostly writers--in fact I think I was the only photographer. That's okay, though, because I consider myself a writer as well as photographer. It was wonderful to gather with a group of women in my field and compare notes. Even though the number of female reporters, editors and photographers is growing steadily, we are still not well represented in management. We still face the unique issues that men don't seem to worry about as much, such as juggling childcare with the crazy hours of a journalist, and being taken as seriously as our male counterparts by our bosses and the public. It is refreshing to have a group to talk to frankly about those issues and have them actually UNDERSTAND what I'm talking about.
I am on their mailing list and the latest topic was a call for quotes by female journalists. Here are a couple of my favorites:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me.”
"Networking is a primary way women discover that we are not crazy, the system is."
-– Gloria Steinem
"Women are in a double bind. If we talk like women we are not respected. If we talk like men, we are not liked."
-– Deborah Tannen
"Information is power and without it we can ‘t make the changes that we need in order to balance our work and family lives."
-– Judy Mann
“In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right”