Sunday, October 14, 2012

John Sexton on photography

I can never get enough of this John Sexton interview:


I’m going to try to do a little bit better tomorrow than I did yesterday, but on any given day I’m going to try to do the absolute best I can.

It was amazing how a photograph—looking at the contact sheet—brought back those memories thirty years ago in Yosemite or three days before.

Photography is such an important aspect of the way we record our lives today—whether you’re picking up your prints from the drugstore, or whether you’re going to great lengths in your own darkroom, photography has that ability so effectively to conjure up all of these these emotional responses. You remember so many things about the experience that aren’t even conveyed, aren’t physically in the photograph.

Photography is an act of recollecting. We think of photography as a spontaneous process, but oftentimes—especially working with film—you expose the negative, you process it, something else comes up; you may go back to a negative in a few days, you may go back in a few years. Even if you print it right away, a few years later you might interpret it differently because of other photographic or other experiences you have.

A photograph that’s an effective photograph—one that’s made from the heart—I think, should reveal not only that which is in front of the camera—the subject—but it should also reveal the element behind the camera: the photographer.

And you also have to expect that you need to have a good day of photography even if you don’t expose film. Some days you just can’t see anything. Then you start trying a little bit harder, then you’re for sure not going to see anything. You try and say, “Even if I don’t make photographs today, as long as I’m looking, as long as I’m trying to be open”—have an enjoyable day, enjoy the experience. If you photograph the landscape, you’d better love being in the landscape, with or without a picture to prove you were there.

I still like the magic of the silver process. I like the fact that when I expose that piece of film it needs to be exposed properly. I like that discipline that’s necessary. I suppose that I like the uncertainty—that I don’t know until the negative is processed exactly what I have. And in terms of the print, I find that the tactile qualities, the sensuous quality, of a silver gelatin print is different that even the finest examples of digital output today, unless that digital output happens to incorporate a silver gelatin print.

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