Quotes on Photography

For our first week of class we were asked to look in the back of On Photography by Susan Sontag quotes that she included in an appendix and choose our favourite one. After reading a number of the quotes, one by Paul Rosenfeld resonated with me. He wrote:

Life appears always fully present along the epidermis of his body: vitality ready to be squeezed forth entire in fixing the instant, in recording a brief weary smile, a twitch of the hand, the fugitive pour of sun through clouds. And not a tool, save the camera, is capable of registering such complex ephemeral responses, and expressing the full majesty of that moment. No hand can express it, for the reason that the mind cannot retain the unmutated truth of a moment sufficiently long to permit the slow fingers to notate the large masses of related detail. The impressionists tried in vain to achieve the notion. For, consciously or unconsciously, what they were striving to demonstrate with their effects of light was the truth of moments; impressionism has ever sought to fix the wonder of the here, the now. But the momentary effects of lighting escaped them while they were busy analyzing; and their “impression” remains usually a series of impressions and superimposed one upon the other. Stieglitz was better guided. He went directly to the instrument made for him.

Upon reading this quote, I immediately connected with the concept that Rosenfeld describes, having experienced it from both the point of the photographer and the viewer of photo of such an image. The ability to see a moment and capture the all the vitality and detail that are present in a mere second is amazing. It seems as if the image will come flying off the page or screen at any moment.

Though, this quote also causes me to think that sometimes it may seem that a photographer, speaking from some experience, strives to take the photo that best captures the moment. When they initially do not capture what they see, they continue to analyze and repeat the process in hopes of achieving the goal. In this case, it seems to me that the photographer may not be so different from the impressionist painter. They can both be so focused on capturing the “truth of the moment” that it can pass while they attempt to achieve the perfect image of it.
I feel that with a camera it is possible to capture these moments if you focus less on achieving the perfect representation and just live in the moment because you experiencing it to the fullest, thus any image will have more meaning connected with it.


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