Category: Quotes
André Kertész | His Inspiring and Lasting Influence

André Kértész remains my largest influence when I am behind the camera. It may have been chance that a professor lent me one of his books when I was eighteen but that chance gift was my introduction into the world of photography. Kértész was the first master whose images I studied and I pored over that book for hours. I could have easily been handed a monograph by Arbus or Avedon or Adams. Perhaps my professor knew what she was doing.

I have been following that initial insight and inspiration ever since. Many times I find myself unintentionally copying Kértész on the street.

There is a gentle humanistic quietness, an easy poetry to his images and a seeming raw, amateurish quality that makes his images readily accessible. The incredible perfection of Cartier-Bresson or Salgado can sometimes create a personal distance between the image and the viewer because the flawless, stunning compositions and technique can render an image almost to the level of a graphic, it being so pure of form and idea. The converse is Kértész’s work with its easy homeyness that is flawed and familiar, inviting and intimate, and in the end, deeply personal. The series of images he made of the glass sculpture that reminded him of his departed wife is a subject of heartbreaking vulnerability, a view that few of the masters have ever let us see.

He is considered the grandfather of street photography. The Getty Museum’s Photography Curator, Weston Naef described Kértész as

a little like Christopher Columbus, who discovered a new world that, in the end, was named for someone else.

Cartier-Bresson also said once said of himself, Robert Capa, and Brassaï, that

Whatever we have done, Kertész did first.

He is also credited by Brassaï as being his mentor and the one who encouraged him to document the nights of Paris.

Except for his celebrated period in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s, he has always been tragically under appreciated and oddly looked over especially after his relocation to the United States. Because of this, he is something of a photographer’s photographer, cherished by those who shoot and those who study those who have shot.

I still find myself looking at a proof sheet, wondering about the familiarity of an image I’ve created until I realize that it is my version of a Kértész.

I am an amateur, and I intend to remain an amateur for the rest of my life. The photograph gets its beauty from the very truth with which it is stamped. This is why I guard myself against any kind of professional trickery or virtuosity.

I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it is marked.

André Kértész, 1930.

We all owe him a great deal.

Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Chez Mondrian

André Kértész, Chez Mondrian, 1926

The Fork

André Kértész, The Fork, 1928

Rainy Day Tokyo

André Kértész, Rainy Day Tokyo, 1968

Café du Dome, 1928

André Kértész, Café du Dome, 1928

martinique

André Kértész, Martinique, 1972

Andre Kertesz Meudon, Paris 1928

André Kértész, Meudon, 1928

Ballet, 1938

André Kértész, Ballet, 1938


Mad Men | Penn Station

This past Sunday, “Mad Men” (Season 3 Episode 2) referenced the venerable architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable when Paul Kinsey and Pete Campbell were meeting with the developers of Madison Square Garden, discussing plans to knock down Penn Station.

It quotes Ms. Huxtable’s article in the New York Times from 1963 about Penn Station, called “How to Kill a City”. The New York Times has offered the full article in PDF to download and read here.

A eulogy in October of ’63 ran in the editorial section:

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.

– “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times, Oct 30, 1963

Comparing the old to the new, Vincent Scully of Yale University remarked,

One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.

The original Penn Station was a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla.

Now it is an underground Habitrail™, lit by yellowed fluorescents and flavored by the odors of Roy Rogers™ and Cinnabon™ stinking down the corridors. Excepting the mad scurry for Amtrak platforms after the track number has finally been revealed on the big board, it is an oppressive space completely without joy.

photographer unknown

photographer unknown

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Life Magazine has posted an entire series by Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers’ farewells at Penn Station here.

Penn Station, circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company

Circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company; click to view the full size image

photographer unknown

Berenice Abbott, printed ca. 1935

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

photograph by Peter Moore

Peter Moore; click to view full size

Peter Moore and his wife Barbara documented the death of Penn Station and published their work, The Destruction Of Penn Station.

photographer unknown

today

The only consolation is that Penn Station’s demolition was a large factor in the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.


Helen Levitt, 1913 – 2009

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this little alcove in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was dedicated to the photographs of Helen Levitt, a small tribute to her work in light of her death in March 2009. I had been familiar with her work in passing but I had never seen any of her photos in person. These small dark prints had such delight and spoke so honestly of the street and in the capacity for the squalor of pre-war New York to be playful and whimsical.

Helen shot on the streets of New York most of her life (excepting a series in Mexico City) and documented the neighborhoods and sidewalk dwellers with an eye towards the lighthearted frolic of daily life that contrasted with the harsh urban streets, giving her images a surrealist quality. She had abandoned her large format camera after seeing an exhibit by Cartier-Bresson and began to use the 35mm Leica, occasionally with a prism to disguise the fact that she was photographing a subject.

She was a film editor and director and worked for Buñuel, works which I have not yet seen. In later years she used color, but for my own tastes, her images from the thirties and forties remain evocative and stirring.

Powerhouse Books has published several books of hers, some of which I will be buying shortly.

From the New York Times obituary.

Changes in neighborhood life also affected her work. “I go where there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Children used to be outside. Now the streets are empty. People are indoors looking at television or something.”

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Helen Levitt, Los Angeles Times, 1963

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1939

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1940

helen-levitt

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

helen_levitt

Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

levitt_wise_guy

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

levitt_tissue

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

levitt_street_drawing

Helen Levitt, Street Drawing, New York, 1940

levitt_sbs21

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

levitt_sbs19

Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

levitt_ny1942

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

levitt_new_york

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

levitt_concerned

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

levitt_4boys

Helen Levitt, New York c. 1940


Helmut Newton | Fuck you money

Helmut Newton said that looking back, he admitted that he had sold his soul “like a whore.” He badly needed and wanted the money for years. It was only until he had enough of what he called “fuck you money” in the bank that he could do what he wanted to on shoots and pursue his own projects.

helmut newton

Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton, Monaco, 98

Helmut Newton, Monaco, 1998


Arnold Newman

Photography is 1% percent inspiration and 99% moving furniture.

Arnold Newman, the master of the environmental portrait.

arnold-newman-pablo-picasso-cannes-1956-374x470

Pablo Picasso, Cannes, 1956

arnold-newman-woody-allen-1996-366x470

Woody Allen, New York, 1996

arnold-newman-yasuo-kuniyoshi-new-york-1941-470x367

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, New York, 1941

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Igor Stravinsky, New York, 1946

Willem de Kooning, New York, 1959

Willem de Kooning, New York, 1959


Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson, one of the great and almost mythical military genius’ of the Civil War, was mistakenly shot by his own men on the night of May 2, 1863 at the The Battle of Chancellorsville.

Dr. McGuire, present at his deathbed, captured Jackson’s last words:

A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

stonewall_jackson

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson


George S. Patton

Though it is worthy of complaint that Patton is too often quoted, I still enjoy his ostentatious style and absolute mastery of logistics. Here are some favorites:

“Audacity, audacity, always audacity.”

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

“A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.”

“All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated.”

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

“Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

On instructions to reconnaissance troops, “Just drive down the road, until you get blown up.”

Patton in WWI

Patton in WWI


Warren Zevon | Enjoy Every Sandwich
warren zevon

warren zevon, unknown photographer

In 2002, Warren Zevon had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His phobia about doctors meant that he did not receive the news until his illness was in the advanced stages.

He was a regular guest and occasional substitute band leader for the David Letterman show. On October 20, 2002, he was the only featured guest on the Letterman show. Warren admitted, “I may have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years.”

When Letterman asked if he had any insights to offer on life now with the perspective he had gained, he replied, “You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute of playing…”


the tree with the lights in it

“Many newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision. To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is ‘something bright and then holes.’ Shown a bunch of grapes, a boy calls out ‘It is dark, blue and shiny….It isn’t smooth, it has bumps and hollows.’ A little girl visits a garden. She is greatly astonished, and can scarcely be persuaded to answer, stands speechless in front of the tree, which she only names by taking hold of it, and then as ‘the tree with the lights in it.'”

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

francis & noelia, los angeles; Nikon F5, 35-70mm, Tri-x

francis & noelia, los angeles; Nikon F5, 35-70mm, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


“Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”
Portrait of Michelangelo (after 1535) by Jacopino del Conte

Portrait of Michelangelo (after 1535) by Jacopino del Conte

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something will arise for later, something better. These things fill in from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

“After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.'”

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life