Top 20 Quotes from Legendary Photographers

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Quotes from Legendary Photographers

Legendary Photographers Quotes

Although fairly new in the larger scope of things, the art photography has been blessed by a number of amazing masters. Luckily for those of us still developing our art, many of these masters have left behind a body of works and words that can guide us, inspire us, and remind us of truths we may have forgotten, truths that perhaps teeter on the edges of our thoughts, but have not yet found their landing place in our hearts.

And though most of us have seen their work (i.e. the dramatic black and white landscapes of Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz’s iconic portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono), few of us have had the opportunity to hear them speak with words. So without further ado, here are 20 of the most revealing, illustrative and/or inspirational photography quotes from legendary photographers:

Richard Avedon

“My photographs don’t go below the surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.”

Robert Capa

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

“Like the people you shoot and let them know it.”

David LaChapelle

“You just do what you love, and then a style happens later on. People put it together and decide it’s yours.”

Helmut Newton

“What I find interesting is working in a society with certain taboos – and fashion photography is about that kind of society. To have taboos, then to get around them – that is interesting.”

Berenice Abbott

“What the human eye observes causally and incuriously, the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.”

Henri Cartier Bresson

“What reinforces the content of a photograph is the sense of rhythm – the relationship between shapes and values.”

For more, read quotes by Henri Catier-Bresson.

Diane Arbus

“The Chinese have a theory that you pass through boredom into fascination and I think it’s true. I would never choose a subject for what it means to me or what I think about it. You’ve just got to choose a subject – and what you feel about it, what it means, begins to unfold if you just plain choose a subject and do it enough.”

Annie Leibovitz

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”

Jerry Uelsmann

“And young people who are learning digital skills discover that the real challenge is coming up with an image that resonates, first of all, with yourself and hopefully, with an audience. They can learn all these new techniques and think that they’re easier to use, but creating great images isn’t about the tools.”

Ansel Adams

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.”

For more, read famous quotes by Ansel Adams.


“There are many photographs which are full of life but which are confusing and difficult to remember. It is the force of an image which matters.”

Eddie Adams

“I’m not a great believer in the power of the moving image. A still image has greater lasting power. A still photographer has to show the whole fucking movie in one picture. On the screen, it’s over and back in the can in seconds. A still picture is going to be there forever.”

David Bailey

“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.”

“The first half of the 20th century belongs to Picasso and the second half is about photography. They said digital would kill photography because everyone can do it but they said that about the box brownie in 1885 when it came out. It makes photography interesting because everyone thinks they can take a picture.”

Dorothea Lange

“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion…the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

“You know, so often it’s just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swooping out in a cloud of dust: sitting down on the ground with people, letting children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you just let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you are apt to receive it, you know?”

Robert Frank

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”

Additional Picks

Edward Weston

“Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.”

“Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.”

Irving Penn

“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.”

David Alan Harvey

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”

Alfred Stieglitz

“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

Steve Mccurry

“Most of my photos are grounded in people, I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.”

Do you have advice you’d like to give to future generations of photographers?  What do you think they should know?  What do you think would help them find their way in this most accessible and rewarding art?

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Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.

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