Aaron Siskind’s Own Distillations

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“When you make a picture by yourself… and you look at it, just looking at it is one thing and then when you show it in class for other people to see, it’s something else. Sometimes, the pleasure from the picture disappears completely, the meaning of the picture, the value of the picture. Then when you take that same group of pictures and you put it up in a public place, it is something else again. The picture is being given a trial at various stages; it is being tested. You see it differently; you see it on the wall; you see it more in relation to other pictures, or you think about it in that way. So that there are various conditions under which you see it. In the book it is different, too. So all these conditions will arouse different kinds of thought, different kinds of feeling. Hell, what else do you want from a picture.”

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“We don’t know what photography is. Photography is what people make it. All it is is just a matter of definition and a definition is merely a matter of convenience. Any statement of what photography is always comes after the photography has been done, it doesn’t come before. So the definition to a large extent is determined by the practice, and I think it is too early to say you can do this, you can do that, and you can’t do the other thing.People are trying to protect their little area and it is a lot of nonsense. Sometimes the motivations are clean and clear and other times they are not. You use whatever you can or you use whatever people around you are using, so that they can understand what you are doing. Nobody make photography by themselves; it is all made in groups. People are influenced by each other. All of these statements about what is right and what is wrong about photography is a wrong way to approach it. Then again, it is what is meaningful, what is beautiful, what is exciting, what is esoteric, what realizes certain ideas you have—ideas of forms and so forth. Those are the things that matter. And in the end what matters is the pleasure you get out of it. Not fun-pleasure, but deep-pleasure.After all, art is not necessary; it is an ornament.It is something else, something that flows out of the civilized parts of our nature. You can live without it, but you live much better with it.”

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