Photographers on Photography

The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942

Through a carefully curated selection of quotes and images, this book reveals what matters most to the masters of photography. With accompanying text by Henry Carroll, readers will learn what photography actually means to the giants of the genres and how they developed their distinctive individual styles.

Henry Carroll considers the influential figures from past and present who pushed photography forward and continue to do so today. Through a selection of quotations, photographs and interviews that offer telling insights into the minds of masters, Carroll examines the approach to their craft and what matters most. Books on photography tend to be organized by chronology, alphabet, genre or theme. This book, however, is organized by feeling. This piece features a selection of images from the book, which serve as brief introductions to the big ideas and collective viewpoints on thought-provoking photography…

'Photographers are only able to speak in the past tense.' Ryūji Miyamoto
Kobe Ekimae Building, Chuo-Ku, from the series 'After the Earthquake', 1995

At 5.46am on 17 January 1995, the Japanese city of Kobe was shaken to its foundations by a violent earthquake. The quake lasted just 20 seconds and in that time, 6,434 people died and much of Kobe was reduced to fire and rubble. Ryūji Miyamoto’s photographs of the aftermath show contorted buildings collapsing in on themselves. Devoid of people the structures appear like tombstones memorializing a devastating moment in history.

'The more conscious I am of why I'm taking it, the less successful the picture turns out to be.' Fay Godwin
Cùl Mòr from Stac Pollaidh, in the Assynt Region of Sutherland, Highland, 1985

Even for landscape photographers like Fay Godwin, who have time to slow down and contemplate what they are seeing, it seems that overthinking is best avoided. I imagine the only thing running through Godwin’s mind in the lead-up to this exposure was, there’s something about that mountain, there’s something about that cloud.

'Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest.' Lisette Model
Sailor and Girl, Sammy's Bar, 1940

Let there be no doubt about it, photography is easy. Anyone can take a photo. Anyone can take a good photo. Anyone can take a great photo. That’s if we assume, as most of the population does, that a great photo should be in focus, well exposed and show a pretty subject. Lisette Model, however, didn’t subscribe to that definition of ‘great’. Her gritty street photographs taken in the 1940s were direct and in close, depicting working-class and destitute subjects that polite society of the time preferred to overlook.


Photographers on Photography, How The Masters See, Think & Shoot by Henry Carroll is out now.

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