Sam Abell Quotes.
‘Woman on the Plaza,’ with its distinct horizon, snow-like surfaces, wintry wall, stunning sunlight, sharp shadows, and hurrying figure, would become the most biographical of my photographs – an abstract image of the landscape and life of northern Ohio where I grew up and first practiced photography.
My dad had been an ardent amateur photographer, and he taught me to compose a photograph from the back to the front, and then populate the picture.
I was known as a 35-mm photographer with a view-camera mentality.
How the visual world appears is important to me. I’m always aware of the light. I’m always aware of what I would call the ‘deep composition.’ Photography in the field is a process of creation, of thought and technique. But ultimately, it’s an act of imaginatively seeing from within yourself.
When I first went to ‘National Geographic,’ I thought I was the least qualified person to step through the doors. But because of my parents and the culture of continual learning they imposed on us, I later came to believe I was the most qualified person who ever worked there.
Editorial photography has to be energetic and visually competitive.
When assignments were over, photography continued. One of the primary reasons it did was that I wanted and needed to have fresh work. Also, it’s very stimulating to be around non-professional photographers. They’re the ones with the purest flame burning about their photography. I appreciate that.
In almost every photograph I have ever made, there is something I would do to complete it. I take that to be the spirit hole or the deliberate mistake that’s in a Navajo rug to not be godlike, but to be human.
I’m interested in smokers standing on ledges, and big box stores, the rise of the suburbs, and the hollowing out of small towns. Self-storage. Things that didn’t exist 50 years ago. Our common culture. What we have agreed is OK to live with.
There are a lot of ways to be expressive in life, but I wasn’t good at some of them. Music, for instance. I was a distinct failure with the cello. Eventually, my parents sold the cello and bought a vacuum cleaner. The sound in our home improved.
That’s who comes to my workshops. I jokingly tell my students that the class could be called “Your photographs: Better.”
This might seem off the track, but an interesting thing to me that others could talk about better than I, but one of the growth areas in photographic education has been the so-called slow photography.
We know that photographs inform people. We also know that photographs move people. The photograph that does both is the one we want to see and make.
My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.
Photographs that transcend but do not deny their literal situation appeal to me.
As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.
My father taught me photography. It was his hobby, and we had a small darkroom in the fruit cellar of our basement. It was the kind of makeshift darkroom that was only dark at night.
Above all, it’s hard learning to live with vivid mental images of scenes I cared for and failed to photograph. It is the edgy existence within me of these unmade images that is the only assurance that the best photographs are yet to be made.
What I’m interested in is modern American history. I’m taken with the changes that have occurred in America in my lifetime.
Life rarely presents fully finished photographs. An image evolves, often from a single strand of visual interest – a distant horizon, a moment of light, a held expression.
I wanted life to be episodic. I wanted to be a magazine photographer and I was willing to do what it took to become that.
I think of myself as a writer who photographs. Images, for me, can be considered poems, short stories or essays. And I’ve always thought the best place for my photographs was inside books of my own creation.
There isn’t an aspect of book creation I don’t enjoy, and there has always been a book in my life to dream about or work on.
I had luck, but I worked hard and I suffered. It’s not just photography I’m talking about. It’s about whatever dream you want it to be.
Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment – this very moment – to stay.
Essentially what photography is is life lit up.
My first priority when taking pictures is to achieve clarity. A good documentary photograph transmits the information of the situation with the utmost fidelity; achieving it means understanding the nuances of lighting and composition, and also remembering to keep the lenses clean and the cameras steady.
A very big part of the life of a photograph is the afterlife.
A mad, keen photographer needs to get out into the world and work and make mistakes.
People say to me, “Who’s your favorite kind of photographer?” Or “Who would be your favorite photographer to have in a workshop?”
And I always say, “My Dad.”
And I always say, “My Dad.”