Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Several years ago I bought a book called "The World Of Henri Cartier-Bresson" at A Photographer's Place on Mercer Street. In it, there's a picture I had never seen before in any other Cartier-Bresson book. The picture (above, right) is from Japan in 1965 and it's got a wonderful, slightly chaotic, multi-directional composition to it. The receipt for my copy of that book is dated February 10, 2001. Less than two weeks before I bought the book, however, I took a picture (above, left) that is eerily similar to his. The reason I know it was taken two weeks before I bought the book is because when I shot my picture, at a flea market on 24th and Sixth Avenue, I had just come from a bookstore nearby where I had bought a different HCB book ("Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work"). And my receipt for that book is dated January 28, 2001. Of course even though this is a huge coincidence, and it wasn't until probably several months later that I registered the similarity, it is a huge nod to Mr. Cartier-Bresson and the undeniable pull his work has had on me.

This all comes to mind because of a different-but-somewhat-related thought I had this weekend, walking through Union Square Park, when I came upon a young woman sitting on a bench playing her acoustic guitar and singing. I thought to myself, "What can you really do with just your voice and an acoustic guitar that hasn't been done already?" And then a parallel idea occurred to me: what she was doing with her music is pretty much what I do with my photography. It's not a rule I live by, but I definitely am a big believer in "one camera, one lens" type of photography, just as this woman was performing with "one instrument, one voice." Music and photography is a very easy and often-discussed comparison. But it begs the question, "What is it, exactly, that I think I'm doing with my photography that hasn't been done already?" Is there really anything I will have "achieved" at the end of my career that will have gone beyond merely "experimenting within tradition"? I suppose there's a lot of material out there I could read, and one title in particular comes to mind (and is a phrase I love to use), The Anxiety of Influence. In the end, I suppose we should all just stick to our guns and do what comes naturally, and not, as Cartier-Bresson said, get bogged down by "proving or asserting [our] own originality."


Blogger Ulrich Hilger said...

I second the 'stick to our guns' and 'one camera, one lens' points you make.

June 11, 2008 2:58 PM  

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