Tag Archives: quote

Memorable Quotes- Jerry Uelsmann & Duane Michals

There are a many thoughtful photographers out there who speak eloquently about their work and photography in general, but few are as inspiring as Jerry Uelsmann and Duane Michals. (I could list more, like Kip Fulbeck, for instance, but will limit myself for now.)

Last month I attended the Society for Photographic Education’s national conference, where 82-year old Uelsmann was a featured speaker. Here are a few of the more memorable things he said:

“I asked an historian, “What IS history?”, and he answered, “History amounts to those things that you choose to remember.”

“The camera is a license to explore.”

“The viewer always completes the image.”

“Art is one of those areas where there is more than one right answer.”

“Once you think you know everything, the questioning stops.”

And perhaps my favorite: “I don’t want this presentation to be a snore-fest with yawn-sauce on the side.”

Michals, who is now 85, was equally entertaining and challenging when I heard him speak at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2000. Here are some of his most memorable lines:

“Do not try to be perfect, please. Perfect is boring. Your humanity lies in your vulnerability.”

“Pay attention to your mind. You put crap in your mind, you get crap in your life. You put good things in your mind, you get good things in your life.”

“I think about thinking.”

“Don’t come crying to me because nothing happened. Nothing happened because you didn’t make it happen.”

“You have 2 choices in life: doing and bullshit. Don’t tell me what you are going to do. Show me what you have done.”

“Guess when you were born? You were born now.”

When golfer Arnold Palmer died in 2016, it was written of him, “People loved him because, in a world of sullen superstars, Palmer radiated joy and delight in the treasures of his life… He had a wonderful time being Arnold Palmer and squeezed every drop of juice from the experience.”
The same can be said about Uelsmann and Michals, both giants of 20th century photography.

Making Art Over Time

The Sunday New York Times Magazine recently published an interview with the British actor Charlotte Rampling, whose heyday was in the 1960’s and 70’s. While never completely off the radar, she has a powerful new film out titled “45 Years” that is bringing her a lot of attention. Now 69, she speaks in the article about what it is like to be the center of attention as an older actor, the nature of her career, and the choices she has made over the years.

Here is what she said that hit home for me in particular:

“I wanted to make my life, not a work of art – I didn’t think of it that way – but I wanted to create a visible continuity in what I did. I wanted there to be a thread I could follow and other people could follow.”

That is exactly how I see my own creative choices when I look back over the course of my career. Without consciously having intended to create it, there is an arc of continuity throughout my work that ties it all together. The various series that I am working on now really point this out. My goal is to have some of this new work out in the world in some form by summer.

We’ll see if life allows that to happen!

Optimism & Creativity

Ever since I first learned the meaning of the words “optimism” and “pessimism”, I have known that I am an optimist. Even when things are at their worst, I am still, at my core, an optimist. That is why this quote from the great Nelson Mandela resonates with me:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.”

Being optimistic has helped me creatively in two ways: 1.) It has enabled me to harness fear in a constructive way, and 2.) It has given me faith that times of creative drought will eventually lead towards times of fertility. Looking forward while remaining fully in the present is a guiding principle in all that I do.