Entre Vues (“Between Views”

Interviews by Frank Horvat about photography with photographers Édouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau, Mario Giacomelli, Hiroshi Hamaya, Joseph Koudelka, Don McCullin, Sarah Moon, Helmut Newton, Marc Riboud, Eva Rubinstein, Jeanloup Sieff, Joel Peter Witkin.

Work published by Nathan, Paris, in 1990.

Introduction (2002)........................................................................................................................ 3 Introduction (1990)........................................................................................................................ 4 Helmut Newton ............................................................................................................................. 7 Edouard Horvat ........................................................................................................................... 23 Robert Doisneau .......................................................................................................................... 35 Mario Giacomelli ......................................................................................................................... 49 Hiroshi Hamaya ........................................................................................................................... 63 Joseph Koudelka .......................................................................................................................... 72 Don McCullin ............................................................................................................................... 87 Sarah Moon ................................................................................................................................102 Marc Riboud ...............................................................................................................................113 Eva Rubinstein ............................................................................................................................133 Jeanloup Sieff .............................................................................................................................148 Joel Peter Witkin .........................................................................................................................163

Introduction (2002)

Between 1983 and 1987, I had serious problems with my eyesight. This gave me the idea of "photographing with my ears", i.e. exploring reality with a taperecorder, somehow as I had done with a camera. I decided that my first subject would be photography itself - as a creative process, more than as a technique. Hence the idea of "talking shop" with a few fellow photographers whom I admired. The hardest was putting those records on paper - which in my analogy was the equivalent to editing and printing. In the following years, my eye problem was treated and my eyesight sufficiently restored to allow me to return to the camera. The result of this experience has been a book, "Entre Vues", published in Paris, in 1990, by Éditions Nathan. Translations into japanese and chinese came out in the following years. The french edition was sold out, but not reprinted. An english publication never took place (don't ask why, publishers have their reasons). In spite of this relative commercial failure, "Entre Vues" had a certain impact. Antiquarian copies still pass from hand to hand, and people approach me in the hope of finding one. Unfortunately I cannot be of any help - which is why I decided to publish this work on the net. I wish to remind the reader that fifteen years have passed since these interviews. Édouard Boubat, Jean-Loup Sieff, Robert Doisneau, Mario Giacomelli and Hiroshi Hamaya are no longer among us. My other partners have evolved, one way or another. My own ideas and my own style of photography have changed. Last not least, photography itself has gone through the digital revolution and has become very different from what it was. The attentive reader will take these circumstances into consideration. Frank Horvat, November 2002.

Introduction (1990)
Translation into english: Charles Martin, Department of Comparative Literature, Queens College - City University of New York, April 2003 cmartin@qc1.qc.edu

When someone asks me my profession, I answer " photographer ". That is easy to say, not as if I had to announce " I am an astrologer ", or "a tax inspector ". It is, however, less simple than to say " a sculptor " or " a plumber ". It seems to me, each time, that I should be more specific and add something like " but a photographer is not what you imagine " or " but what is understood by photography has to be defined ". Of course, I don't add anything. That would be useless: people think they know, they all " take " photos (or let themselves be " taken " in photos). When they talk about it, it's to say " If you take ten rolls of film, there will automatically be one good photo ", or " I took exactly the same photo as you, on the Brooklyn Bridge, only without that person on the railing." (a comment reported by Édouard Boubat). Theorists of photography write things like " The act of photography does not so much consist in seeing‚ as in having been there " (Roland Barthes) or " There is no such thing as a bad photograph-- only less interesting, less relevant, less mysterious ones " (Susan Sontag). For a photographer, such propositions are absurd. Our daily experience shows us that to press a button is not enough to assure that what was in front of the camera ends up inside it. And even if one believes that he has " captured " it, one doesn't necessarily have a good photo. A good photo is a rare thing, almost miraculous, and even the bestamong us only succeed a few dozen (or a few hundred) times in their lifetime. How can thinkers such as Barthes and Sontag see it as no more than the by-product of a technical process? We feel misunderstood. Sometimes that irritates us, other times that gives us a sort of satisfaction, as if we were the holders of a secret, the members of a sect. We recognize our fellows from far off, even when they don't carry a camera, simply because of the way they let their eyes wander, and move on padded feet, like cats stalking. I remember an outing on the slopes of Etna, in the car of a fellow photographer whom I hardly knew. His hesitations in the turns, his lightly touching the brakes at the sight of a tree or a rock filled me with joy: we were two, looking at things in the same way. Perhaps it is the same for plumbers and tax inspectors. Or maybe not: the photographer's solitude may be a case apart, since the photographer is essentially alone while looking through the viewfinder and making the decision to press the shutter release. Of course, the result of his search, the moment that has been called decisive, will be shared by the viewers of the photograph. But all the other moments, all those millions of non decisive moments, all the unfinished searches, gather in us like sediments and make us feel the weight of our solitude.

The need to share this solitude is the motivating force behind the present project. Not being a writer, I used a photographer's approach: I chose some people who seemed interesting to me, I had them talk and I recorded their statements. Then I worked on the recorded tapes as if they were contact sheets and negatives: noting the strong points, pruning the repetitions, giving emphasis to what seemed to me characteristic. Of course, the people I interviewed had the chance to read these extracts and make corrections. Those who collaborated on this project are photographers whom I am a little envious of. When I look at a photo, I always wonder (consciously or unconsciously) if I would have liked to have made it. In most cases, my answer to myself is " no ", either because I don't like the image or, on the contrary, because it is too similar to an image that I could have taken. But it happens that I see photographs that I would have liked to make - but which I know I wouldn't have been able to make: they are the result of a way of working and, more than that, a way of being, that are not mine. It is of those images that I feel envious - and it is the photographers who have made them that I wanted to talk with. Some of them I had known personally since my youth. Boubat used to visit us on Sundays and amaze my children with his magic tricks. With Sieff I had shared a studio in New York. With Riboud I often sat at a café table at place Saint-Philippe-du Roule, talking about Magnum business. Newton allowed himself to be convinced, in the course of a memorable conversation, to try the 35mm format. Sarah Moon used to come show me her model portfolio, that I would look at with admiration and return, saying : " I cannot photograph you, you know the ropes too well. " Others - Doisneau, Giacomelli, Koudelka, McCullin, Rubinstein, Hamaya, Witkin - were familiar to me through their work. The hours spent with them (and the days spent listening to their tapes) brought them into my life. Since then, I cannot look at their photos without hearing the cadences of their voices. This is perhaps, for me, the most precious by-product of this project. Regarding Henri Cartier-Bresson, I don't feel the right to call him my master : at the end of the 1950s, when I met him at Magnum, he criticized my fashion photos (" You have to make a choice " he said " one cannot do reportage and staged photography at the same time "). I did not take this advice and persisted in the direction that seemed right to me. Even worse, I launched into color photography, which he disapproved of. Nonetheless I believe that while overstepping his limits, I never quite abandoned his territory: the rules that I have always followed remain, fundamentally, those that I learned in listening to him and looking at his work. Cartier-Bresson did not participate in these interviews, because he thinks he already has said what he had to say. But he is present in all these encounters, in the sense that it is hard to speak of photography without referring to him. There are some absences that I regret. Irving Penn, one of the photographers I most respect, spoke with me at length but did not want his statements recorded or published. Richard Avedon preferred to keep his thoughts for an autobiographical book. Diane Arbus and Ernst Haas, both of

whom I knew well, have disappeared prematurely. I could cite other photojournalists and fashion photographers whom I admire, but whom I chose not to interview, in order not to delve too often into the same issues. Other absences can be explained by a personal standpoint - or bias. There are photos that have been successful, but that I can in no way identify with. There are contemporary trends that I reject altogether. The choice of those that I wished to interview has been an expression of my standpoint: among the selected photographers, even if they are very different from each other, even if their voices may at times be discordant, I can see a line that connects them and that seems to define a border. The border of " true " photography? I would not presume to go that far. But perhaps the frontier of a " golden age ". I believe that the photographers that I have mentioned (with some others such as Robert Capa, Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Werner Bischof) will be considered one day as classic masters. Just as other classic masters, of other golden ages, they went to work with the naïveté of artisans, simply because the technology of their era allowed them to explore some aspects of the world which had not yet been explored, because there was a public interested in these aspects and because the media were eager to reproduce their images: a meeting of circumstances that lasted a few decades and that may never recur. I had the luck to work in that age and to meet some of the photographers who contributed to its brilliance. I wish these interviews to testify to this luck

Helmut Newton

Born in Berlin, October 31st 1920. 1936 : assistant to a fashion photographer. 1940 : emigrates to Australia and serves in the Australian army. 1945 : fashion photographer in Sidney (mainly for Vogue) 1958 : settles in Paris and begins working for the most important magazines in Europe and the USA, while devoting more and more time to personal projects. Lives presently between Monte Carlo and Los Angeles.
"There is nothing I hate more than good taste. For me, good taste is a dirty word."

Frank Horvat : I think that if I had to explain Helmut Newton to someone who had never heard of him, the first thing I would say would be : "He is the one who has turned the tables on the whole business". You said it yourself, something like "making the system work for you." Helmut Newton : Beating the system. Frank Horvat : I don't know much about your life, but I remember the impression you made on me in the fifties, when we first met. You were a very regular guy, very disciplined. You did the work you were supposed to do, and you did it well. We used to hand jobs to each other, when one of us was too busy to accept them. Then, in the late sixties, you started something that was unmistakably your own, working with phantasies which had been taboo until that time and which were becoming less taboo. This became very successful,

because sexual liberation was in, but also because you were treating the subject with a certain chic, that allowed you to get away with it where others wouldn't. Then you had a heart attack, and this was a turning point. You decided that you didn't have the time to please "them" any more, that from there on you would only please yourself. That was where you turned the tables : by pleasing only yourself you got more recognition and made more money than any commercial photographer would by trying to please his clients. Helmut Newton : I am still very disciplined. Frank Horvat : I know. Sometimes I think : "Here he photographs nude girls, but he could just as well photograph vintage cars or football games, he would do it with the same imagination and the same discipline". Helmut Newton : This is why I continue accepting commissions, even though economically I don't have to. Because making money gives me a kick, but also because 1 think it's important for me to have the discipline, to work for somebody within a given frame. At least from time to time. Frank Horvat : But you also apply this discipline to your personal work. Helmut Newton : You have seen the five books that exist. The next one will be a small paperback, you might call it The best of Helmut Newton, as there are records called The best of Sinatra. I lost interest in coffee-table books, I don't think there is a big market. My second-next book, as I decided with one of my publishers, should be sold for not more than twenty dollars, in whatever country. Also a paperback, two hundred and fifty pages, black-and-white and colour. It will be very personal, with portraits of people that interested me, but also with some pictures that I rediscovered by chance, of me as a very young man in Berlin, dressed up as what I thought ein rasender Reporter should look like. I hope that a lot of people will see it. The only book that I think could be sold for a lot of money, as a luxury object, would be very interesting pornography. That could go for hundred and fifty dollars. But I am not in the market for pornography, not at the moment, although I am very interested in it. Frank Horvat : You mentioned it about a year ago. Helmut Newton : Now I have done it. I have produced a number of photographs. But only three people have seen them, not counting myself. It's an exercise. Because you know, with my background on Vogue - I started on Australian Vogue in 1952 - I find myself, after all these years, with a built-in safety-brake that stops me from doing certain things. And one of the reasons why I want to try so called hard pornography - I dont even know whether it's hard enough - is to see whether I will be able to overcome this. Because if

there is one thing I hate, it's good taste, to me it's a dirty word. Frank Horvat : Goethe said something about Genie und Geschmack not going together, I don't remember his exact words. Helmut Newton : I got to write that down, it's beautiful. Genius and taste don't go together. Frank Horvat : Taste involves limits, which is something you dislike. If I had to define your work with just one word, that word would be "trespassing". Helmut Newton : I like the idea of trespassing. I got to write that down too. It's quite true that what I am aiming at, even when I take portraits, is to get a scandalous picture. I would love to be a paparazzo. I was aware of Weegee in the fifties, I was turned on by Brassai and by Dr. Salomon. He was traspassing, of course. In the most outrageous but in the chiquest possible way. Lartigue was very chic too, but I don't think he trespassed, he was part of the set. Frank Horvat : This brings me to what I feel your photographs are about. What I see may be a nude model in the park of Villa d'Este. But what it makes me think of is Helmut Newton, getting this girl to undress in this place, having his fun in trespassing, in catching that one minute where this picture becomes possible, in spite of whatever taboos there may have been. Helmut Newton : Absolutely, you read the picture correctly. Frank Horvat : And this urge you have now - because I feel there is an urge is not for recognition, or for money, you have plenty of both: it's the urge to tell something about yourself - one may call it narcissism. Helmut Newton : Very true. It is narcissism. This is why I have started this series which I call autobiographical. Or maybe it's not narcissism. You know I am not more narcissistic than anyone else. Actually I don't think it is narcissism, I don't agree there, Frank. It's just that now, at my age, the one thing I don't want to do is repeating myself. I don't want to work for fashion magazines any more, doing the same shit, even if it was good and fun at the time. It's not narcissism, it's - I have just produced a series of autobiographical photographs, as I call them, portraits of four of my doctors, and I put myself into the pictures, I decided they would be more interesting if I was in them. Technically very difficult, as you imagine, I had to check with polaroids, one can never be sure. And two or three months ago I did pictures that had to do with my childhood, around the lakes and woods of Berlin, with girls, and again I put myself into the pictures. It's lovely, like playing a little part in a play. Many photographers like doing self-portraits. I think it's even

more interesting when one is part of a whole mise-en-scène.

Photo Helmut Newton

Frank Horvat : Maybe because it's so contrary to the nature of photography, which is, after all, an eye directed outwards. Photographic self-portraiture is almost paradoxical. This may be why one is tempted to try it. Helmut Newton : I don't know, I did'nt look at it that way. It's just that if the theme had something to do with my life, past or present, it seems a nice idea to put myself in it. I would not put myself into an advertising shot. There has been a series for Vogue, in '79 or '80, they asked me to wear fashion, and then I got this idea. I did it in the Paris Vogue studio, because it was a place I knew well and around which much of my life had evolved. It's a very personal picture, that's why it's one of my favorites. There is first of all me, with my camera, but there is also June, who has got a wonderfully funny expression

while she looks at my naked model, there is the Vogue Studio, with the clothrack, the door to the street is open, you see the cars parked on Place du Palais Bourbon, a place that I have known for twentytwo years, where I had taken thousands of pictures, especially during Haute Couture Collections. The photograph has all the little signals of my life : my models, my camera, my wife, the studio, the Place du Palais Bourbon. That's what I call an autobiographical picture. It's a very good exercise, to me all these are exercises.

Photo Helmut Newton

Frank Horvat : But isn't there a point where you have to stop ? aren't there things that should be left out of photography, that should remain your own ? Helmut Newton : Like photograph yourself fucking ? Wel - there is a friend of mine, a very good photographer, who presented me with a very erotic picture

- should one say pornographic ? - one of the most erotic I've ever seen. And there is nothing much in it, it's autobiographical, but not recognizable. I think if you do it for yourself it's all right, I'm not so sure that I would publish it. I am not an exhibitionist. Frank Horvat : I guess not… Helmut Newton : I might photograph myself fucking, but I wouldn't exhibit it. A picture that I find most amusing is one that June took of me pissing, en contrejour, I'm looking around at the camera, it's taken in the backyard in Ramatuelle, it's evening, very romantic, and you see this stream of piss and the sun shining through. That of course was perfectly all right. Frank Horvat : Some day I would like to go through your files to look again at your older fashion photographs. Helmut Newton : Most of them were not very good. I still have some prints from Australia, they are really bad, aped after American and English fashion pictures. Frank Horvat : I am thinking about the work you did for Jardin des Modes orStern, in the early sixties, there were no sexual phantasies in those. But I remember something which I still find in your present work : this feeling that things may happen. You said that a fashion photograph is a moment without a past or a future - probably meaning that it shouldn't imply any definite past or future, that any extension into a past or a future should be left to the imagination of the viewer. Helmut Newton : This also applies to my non-fashion pictures. Frank Horvat : And it is what I like about them, this awareness of what might be. I guess this is also how you look at life. Helmut Newton : I am like a lot of people. One sits on the beach, or on a café terrace, and one looks around, mostly at women. And if I have really nothing to do, I start spinning a tale for myself, which is one of the most pleasant ways of spending a half hour. This time of year is the best, there are very few people left on the beach. Somehow it happens that every season there is a woman that -- last year there was one, she was German, I spun a tale around her, it was interesting. I never saw her face until the last day, but she had the most extraordinarily beautiful body. I knew she was German because she was reading a book, something like Learning French, her body was just unbelievable, but then I saw her face - Some guy picked her up, the last day, which amused me too, and only then I saw her, she had the most uninteresting, the most boring face, with a fleeing chin, she wasn't even ugly, had she been ugly it would have been more interesting, if you wanted to make love to her you would really have to put a bag over her head. To me

this is all very European, I don't spin this kind of tale in America. Frank Horvat : What happens in America ? Helmut Newton : It inspires me in a different way, I find myself like in the middle of a movie. Frank Horvat : Which is what one feels looking at your photographs : being in the middle of a movie, and wondering what will happen next. Helmut Newton : I am delighted to hear it, coming from somebody who knows about photography. I suppose that this is not the moment to make an interview of Frank Horvat. Frank Horvat : Why not ? Helmut Newton : What I don't understand is the change in your photography. I admired your work of the fifties and early sixties, when you came straight from reportage, and brought all that feeling into fashion photography. What fascinated me was the reality, like that extraordinary picture of all those women on Place de la Concorde, remember ? But then, in the seventies, you changed completely, you came down to the bare bones, to an extent that I thought was boring. All the excitement of your earlier work was discarded in order to get to a simplicity - I am for simplicity, but then it was so simple that there wasn't anything any more for me to grab on to and to get excited. I didn't understand your thought process. Frank Horvat : One of the reasons may be that I am so afraid of missing what happens in front of my camera, that I try to concentrate on one thing at a time and shoot fifteen rolls on it, just to make sure I don't miss it. Helmut Newton : But what can you miss with fifteen rolls, in such a confined frame ? Frank Horvat : Possibly a certain form of perfection, which I tend to push so far that it may seem uninteresting... Helmut Newton : What a strange obsession ! Aren't you afraid of loosing the spontaneity ? Frank Horvat : I try to preserve it. Just as in my portraits, the ones you hate, my main point is to preserve a fraction of a second of spontaneity... Helmut Newton : Oh those. Yes, I really hate those. But at least I am honest enough to tell you.

Frank Horvat : I would like to get the spontaneity and the perfection at the same time, but I am so afraid of missing the one or the other that I keep shooting. What I admire about some photographers, like you, is that you can stop after just one roll, or even half a roll, even in a complicated situation, with dozens of people. Don't you worry : "did I miss it, shouldn't I also try this or that ?" Helmut Newton : I worry myself sick, I swear to you, I think every photographer must. When I go off a job, when I drive home or take a plane, I go through it all and keep saying to myself : "I should have done it this way and not that way". Frank Horvat : But you wouldn't keep the girl there for ten rolls and tell her : "Turn the other way, move your hands differently" and so on and on ? Helmut Newton : I would first do what I set out to do, and then walk around and say to myself : "let's try it another way". But then all of a sudden I get bored and it seems to me that the first way was the right one anyhow, so I just decide "forget it !". I have a very short attention span. That's why I could never make a movie. For me any job that lasts more than two days is no good. It was the same when I was a champion swimmer, a hundred meters was the maximum, fifty was much better. Frank Horvat : It happens to me as well : that I look at my contacts and find that the best picture is shot number one on roll one. But more often it's closer to shot thirtysix of roll ten. Helmut Newton : But is there a big evolution in the rolls ? And in what sense ? Is the background different, do you go back and forward ? Frank Horvat : Sometimes. And the model gets tired and loosens up. And I get tired myself. You know, my problem is that I'm too clever, and that my own cleverness gets in my way. Just as you said about in-built brakes. Maybe when I get tired I forget some of the cleverness, and go back to face things more directly. Helmut Newton : I need every bit of my cleverness. When I'm tired I can't take pictures, I want to go to sleep. Frank Horvat : Talking about your cleverness, Helmut, there is something I would like to bring up : many people try to imitate you, they may have some imagination and some obsessions - who doesn't ? - but what they lack is your sense of graphics. I believe that when your photographs really work, it's the graphics that make the difference. Helmut Newton : I am not aware of that. On the contrary, what I try to do is a

good bad picture. I work it out very carefully, and then I do something that looks as if it went wrong. This is also why I abandoned Kodachrome, it looks too professional, too fine grain, too perfect, I'd rather get what I call funky colour, I don't mind if it's all wrong - as long as it's not too horrible. For the same reasons I like it when the camera is not quite straight, when something happens that's not perfect. But of course I start off with the professionalism. Frank Horvat : Still, I believe that your best photographs wouldn't work without that graphic impact. Helmut Newton : Give me an example.

Photo Helmut Newton

Frank Horvat : Take the nudes with the saddles. The erotic idea is in all of them, of course, one wonders what she was up to and what Helmut was up

to. But the picture that works best is the one with the shadow on the wall, where the composition grabs the eye and puts everything into place. Helmut Newton : I don't agree. The picture that has been reproduced all the time, by Life as one of the pictures of the Seventies, by Time in an essay on decadence, etc., is the one where the girl is on a bed with the saddle on her back. That's the picture that has marked a whole era. You see, I am not aware of graphics, I would rather avoid having them. I like things growing out of peoples heads, like lamp-posts or something. That's funny, I like doing all the things I was told not to do.

Photo Helmut Newton

Frank Horvat : I would now like to retrace what happens when you work, step by step. You wake up in the morning, you brush your teeth, you go for a walk, you sit on the beach, and all the time you think of visual ideas, of possible situations. Helmut Newton : Yes, except that now my pictures are less anecdotical than they used to be. Looking back at my old fashion photographs I wonder : "How the hell did I have the courage to go through all these complications ?" Of course I enjoyed doing them, otherwise I wouldn't have done them. But I couldn't for the world do them again, I wouldn't even know how to, sheer physically. Some photographers, like Avedon or Penn, do practically all their

fashion work in the studio, against a white background, they are so brilliant that they don't need any gimmicks. But if I were to give a picture against a white wall, my clients would say : "Helmut, you didn't try very hard, that's not what we come to you for". And this pressure for Helmut to think up new ideas was getting on my balls. I don't want to do that any more, I've done it. Frank Horvat : But what about this picture where you only see a shoe, and the foot in the shoe, and the creases of the skin that say more than a whole crowd ?

Photo Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton : That was perfect, that's a good picture. But this does not happen very often. It was done after I had finished with the big mise-enscènes. This was also when I started doing portraits. When I do a portrait, I don't think of an idea, I feel a great relaxation, though it may be difficult

psychologically. Starting to work this way has been like a weight falling off my mind, all of a sudden I felt free. I decided that never again would I walk into a fashion room and see twenty-five dresses hanging on a rack, and have some dumb fashion editor say to me - not : "Helmut, choose here" - but : "Helmut, we are going to do these twenty-five". Never again. Frank Horvat : But even now you spend a lot of time thinking of what could be in a picture. Helmut Newton : Most of the time. Frank Horvat : And setting it up. Helmut Newton : There is not much to set up, it's very easy to work here in Montecarlo, much easier than in Paris or New York. They give me a permit for working in the streets, because they know me, it's like living in a village and asking the mayor. I go to what's called Le Ministère de l'Intérieur, they tell me : "We shall be very happy, Mr. Newton, to give you permission to photograph in the streets of Montecarlo, from the third to the fifth." If I decide I need a dog, there is a lady in the building, who has a beautiful dog. If I need a baby, I get a baby. You see, it's easy. It's for Paris-Match, not for a fashion magazine. Fashion magazines have no more credibility, as far as I am concerned. I would rather work for a news magazine, that shows murder and political happenings. There I can still see some credibility. Frank Horvat : Now it's all set up, the model, the streets, the dog and the baby. There you are, with your camera. Helmut Newton : There I am with my camera. Frank, you see, if I don't set it up, what am I going to do ? What do you do ? Do you go out with a girl and God sends you an inspiration ? Frank Horvat : But when it's all there, girl, streets, dog and baby, do you shoot it the way you had in mind, or do you wait for something else, that is godgiven ? Helmut Newton : Sometimes it happens, not very often, that God chooses to give me that ray of sunshine or that cloud, at the right moment. That's why I work outside, because I know that in the studio God can't do anything for me, all he could do would be send a thunderstorm that cuts off the electricity. Outside he can help me, he could also fuck me up by sending a lot of rain, that would make it difficult, but he very rarely sends me light that's no good to me. Practically any light, somehow or other, I can deal with. Frank Horvat : Because you are very clever.

Helmut Newton : No, because any light that God sends me is different. This keeps me interested : "quick, quick, quick, something is happening !" Frank Horvat : So all has to be set up for what you really expect : the unexpected. Helmut Newton : Well, it's not always unexpected. Unfortunately the divine mistake is very rare. Of course it's more exciting when something happens that I didn't think was going to. Frank Horvat : Are these the good moments of your life ? Helmut Newton : Sometimes. A other times I hate it. When I think :"I shouldn't have gone into this, it was a wrong decision, I am too old to waste my time on that shit." When I did that sitting with Ava Gardner, that one photograph with the cigarette, I hated her so much, and she hated me so much, while it lasted, the sitting was dreadful. At one point I thought : "I'll walk out of here, I'll take the plane back." Eventually I went on, I did seven rolls, I knew I had to get it, it was for the Egoïste, the editor did not have much money, she had spent on the hotel, the flight and everything. Had it been forVogue, I would not even have bothered.

Photo Helmut Newton

Frank Horvat : So that was number thirtysix of roll seven ? Helmut Newton : It certainly did not happen in the first rolls. Maybe in the last but one. Frank Horvat : Do you know when you get it ? Helmut Newton : Sometimes I think : "I've got it", but sometimes I just brake up because I can't go on any more, even if I haven't got it, because I don't know how to do any better. I just say : "It's no good flogging a dead horse." The case of that picture was exceptional, I think it happened very late in the sitting. And it was the only one. Frank Horvat : It's one of my favourites. Helmut Newton : It's a good picture of a woman that - you know, she is no

chicken, and it's unretouched. We certainly disliked each other during the sitting, but I just went on and on and on, until the light went and I had to pack up. There is a difference between models and real people. It's very different working with somebody you pay, or doing a portrait of a personality, like an actress. Actresses are fragile in front of the camera, all women are, but actresses more so. I understand them perfectly well, they have so much to protect, so they are insecure. When you like somebody and you want to get a good picture of her you've got to thread very carefully. That's why I wouldn't let anybody, not even June, photograph me during such a sitting. June has done the best pictures of me. I don't know whether she talked to you about that autobiographical work : sometimes, when I can't do it myself, I ask her, I tell her I want to get this or that, and from there on she directs me. It started five years ago, whith this girl Sylvia, nude, in Ramatuelle. At one point I said to June : "Why don't you do pictures while I photograph Sylvia ?" and she did a whole series, some of the funniest photographs that I have seen of a photographer with a naked model. Some day I will put myself with the model, with my long cord, and I will play a part. Frank Horvat : Like the one through the mirror, with the girl lying on you. Helmut Newton : But more so. Maybe I would like to dress up as a dirty old man, or as a costumer. I've been thinking about that for more than ten years, but have never done it. It may be amusing - or maybe it will be terrible. That's the great thing about photography, unless you try it you will never know. Frank Horvat : Now let's go back to the step by step. You have finished your sitting, and you look at the contacts. Helmut Newton : Well first of all I say : "God was I stupid, I should have done it that other way". That happens all the time. Probably to every photographer. Frank Horvat : But there is also, sometimes, the divine surprise. Helmut Newton : Yes, when I feel : "That's really it". And there is another thing, you know, it's still a miracle, to me, that there is something at all on that bloody film. Don't you find that ? Frank Horvat : And also something else, which for me is the decisive test. Sometimes, when I see a contact or a transparency, I have the urge to call someone, my assistant, my wife, anyone who happens to be around, and shout : "Come and look at this !". When I feel like that, I know I have a good photograph. Helmut Newton : I always show my photographs to June. I make a choice and she makes one, sometimes we agree, more often we are totally opposed. But she is an excellent editor, while I really hate editing, I think it's boring. What I find very interesting is that when I get my contact sheets back from the

lab I would choose one shot, but when I look at it a year later something else will interest me. That's why one must never throw anything away. Everything changes, your whole idea about things changes, at least mine does. I do have certain taboos. But these also change, they get less and less as I get older. I used to hate girls that stood like this, the hands like a fish. And then, all of a sudden, when I did the Big Nude book, I thought : "Oh, I like that", and I made the girl stand that way. All of a sudden I started liking it. Everything changes, Frank. I look at things in an entirely different way today than I did five years ago. Frank Horvat : What you say worries me. I wonder how many things I threw away that I should have kept. Helmut Newton : You should be worried. Especially about fashion photographs. I think that the older a fashion photograph is, the more interesting it gets. And there is another thing that I think is important. You tend to go in close. Well I pull back. Back, back, back. Because I found that what worried me when I took the picture, some car going by, some persons, something in the background that shouldn't be there, has become fascinating years later, because it's part of the time captured. So I started going back. I say to myself : "I can always cut it out, if I want". That's what I like about the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4. The person is in the middle, I leave it in the middle, I can cut the sides off later, it doesn't matter. The 35 mm format drives me crazy, I miss so much on the sides. Frank Horvat : But if it's not you to decide, at a given moment, what you want in your picture, how can you feel that it's your picture ? Helmut Newton : I accept anything. I am not that much of an author, that I say this is me because I pressed the trigger. What is more interesting than photographs of a bank robbery, by those automatic things they have in banks, with a wideangle lens ? That's true life. I am not too proud to reject that dog pissing an the leg of my model. I don't say : "Come little dog, piss against the leg of this girl", but if he does it and I click the button, it's my picture. The dog didn't take it ! If I set up a picture and I put myself in it, and I frame it, and I say to my assistant : "Take it", he may have clicked the button, but I took the picture. Of course what I do is very carefully controlled, I do polaroids, I know exactly what I'm doing. But if a stone drops from heaven and hits me on the head and I fall down dead while my assistant clicks, that would be extraordinary, wouldn't it ? Godgiven ! And even more so if I could get up again and see the picture. That would be perfection. I wouldn't reject that picture because it was God who sent that stone down !

Edouard Horvat

Born in Paris, September 13, 1923. Studies in typography and design at l'École Estienne. Photographer since 1946. Staff photographer for Réalité beginning 1951. Independent photographer beginning 1968. Documentary reporting in numerous countries, usually in black and white. Deceased 1999, in Paris.
"I think that the photos that we like were made when the photographer knew how to disappear. If there were a secret, certainly that would be it."

Frank Horvat : At first I wanted to call this book "The art of not pressing the button." People persuaded me against it, saying it wouldn't be commercial, a negative statement wouldn't sell. On the other hand, what is more appropriate to photography than the negative? You may say: "Why not the positive?" You like to be positive, I know, you love people, voyages, life, you love to say that you love those things, and your photos certainly reflect that outlook. I am positive, too, in my own way, but I function differently. I like to define things by what they are not. Rilke, in one of his Elegies, says that we only know a feeling by its outline. It seems to me that we could help people better to understand photography, by saying what it is not, by defining what we refuse. Besides, the etymological meaning of "define" is: "drawing the limit". Edouard Boubat : You are right in saying this. To me, photography is like a quest, or a pilgrimage, or a hunt. I love painting, I love music, but photography is what has allowed me to get outside of myself. If I were eighteen years old, I would take up drawing, if I were four years old, I would study music. But if I were seventy-five, I would continue to photograph. Frank Horvat : You say hunting. Doisneau says fishing, and it's very true for him. One could also say that photography is like sculpture - I mean sculpture in marble or in wood, where the shape doesn't come from what the sculptor adds, but from what he takes away: a process of subtraction, of sorts.

Edouard Boubat : Yes, in a photo there are always too many things, except when it's a good photo. To speak specifically of my own work - because that's what we are here for - I believe that, from the very beginning, I managed to make photos where there was nothing more than what was needed. Take the little girl draped in dried leaves, where everything else is but a blur. It was just after the war, all it shows is that little girl. Click. Or the man with the baby, by the seaside. Nothing but him. Click.

Photo Edouard Boubat

Frank Horvat : Yes, we are here to talk about your work, but also to try to define photography in general - or at least to clarify our ideas about it. Edouard Boubat : On the other hand, we know that there isn't just one kind of photography, as there isn't just one kind of music. Frank Horvat : Of course. One could even say that every important photographer invents his own form. Every great artist broadens the territory of

his art. Picasso made works which, before him, wouldn't have been accepted as painting. Edouard Boubat : Even though, in another way, and at the same time, the territory shrinks. What Robert Frank, Eugene Smith, Cartier-Bresson did, they could no longer do. Or Doisneau. His Paris no longer exists, he could never again find that atmosphere of the 50s. I was told that the same tennis player, photographed in New York, Berlin or Paris, wouldn't "give" the same photo, because the atmosphere wouldn't be the same…. Atmosphere is nothing, and at the same time it's a lot. One notices it when looking at a movie from fifty years ago. This is one thing that a photo can catch, sometimes without intending to. Frank Horvat : I would like to come back to the "refusal". When you say "searching", you mean traveling, walking around, investigating. But your search also involves refusing, deciding that this is not the place you were looking for, not the right angle, not the right choice on a contact sheet, not the right way to make the print. It is this series of refusals which shapes your work, just as a sculpture is shaped by the marble that is removed. Edouard Boubat : I follow you. Millions of unnecessary photos are taken every day. People stand before the Pyramids and photograph them, when for three cents they could buy post cards which show them much better. Frank Horvat : And as they purchase improved cameras, with more motordrives, zooms and automated gadgets, they keep clicking more and more, as if to say: "let's shoot first and see later. There was that American, Winogrand, who said, "I photograph to see how it will look in a photo." A phrase that always bothered me, even though, thinking about it, I ended by understanding what he meant. But I come back to my question: does photographing, for you as for me, imply some kind of refusal? Do you know what you refuse? Could you describe it? Edouard Boubat : I know that one doesn't get more than two or three good photos a year. But there are some blessed moments. I remember a superb morning, in Brazil: I arrive at an old circus, and I know right away that I have to take photos, that something there is being given to me. Of course I took some other photos during the rest of that trip, but without really believing in them, it wouldn't even have been worthwhile developing the rolls, I knew I would never blow them up. There are days when one walks around without getting a single photograph, without running into anything. There I refuse. But there are other times when things are offered to me, like gifts. I arrive, I stroll around town, everything is given. Click. It's like the story of the magic gift, which comes up in many teachings, for instance by the Sufis, but also in some of our own legends. But in order to seize that gift, one has to be prepared. If I am, and if my camera is there at the right moment, click, all I

have to do is accept it. Frank Horvat : You know that these gifts can be given to you, even if they are not always given when you need them, and not necessarily because of your efforts - otherwise you wouldn't call them gifts. Nonetheless, they are destined to you, personally, which means that you have deserved them, in some way, perhaps by some gestures or by some actions, by something that you did or that you avoided doing - and which improved your chances. Some kind of magic acts. Could you define these acts, or at least situate them? Edouard Boubat : You know, in photography we use some marvelous words, like "aperture." One is the camera's diaphragm, which is a mechanical thing, but there is also our own "aperture", our own opening up to reality. Take the photo of the man on the seashore. It was my first trip to Portugal, I believe it was in 1956. In those days traveling seemed extraordinary, there were very few tourists, we had been on the road for two or three days, we arrived at a hotel by the seaside, Sophie was a little tired, and I said, "I am going to the beach," I had only my little old Leica, and that man was there, click. I had only arrived half an hour before, but there he was, with his child, as if he had been waiting for me, and so I took my first photo of Portugal, a photo that will endure. I had come a long way, I had dreamt of Portugal, so in a sense I too was waiting for him, there was expectation on both sides. In some way, a photo is like a stolen kiss. In fact a kiss is always stolen, even if the woman is consenting. With a photograph it's the same: always stolen, and still slightly consenting.

Photo Edouard Boubat

Frank Horvat : I'll buy that. But I shall continue hammering at my point, by asking the same question in another way: when eventually you got your kiss, isn't it as if there had been a discharge? As if some time had to pass before you could get the next one? Edouard Boubat : There is what they call "le coup de foudre", a superb word, untranslatable, "thunderstruck" would be the closest. When I arrived in China for the first time - we had traveled by train, Sophie and I - the train arrives in Peking, click, we get off, we leave the station, there are no taxis, but the hotel is close by, ten minutes on foot. Well, within that quarter of an hour, I have seen all of China. That doesn't mean that I couldn't return there ten times and see it each time in a different way. But it means that from that first moment I'd seen everything, felt everything. Remember when arriving in India, in Calcutta, for example, the road from the airport to the hotel: it's the whole of India. And that hotel in Calcutta, the guy with the stick who keeps away the beggars, and all the people lying on the pavement: the whole of India. Or New York. Between Kennedy Airport and Manhattan, you have seen all of America, you have smelled its scent. And it's the same with portraits. Those first contacts are what I love most. There is always an urge, when photographing, that goes beyond mere intellectual curiosity. Click. Thunderstruck. But I did hear your question: can it be repeated? I believe it can, at least on some occasions. Frank Horvat : But don't you have the feeling that when that kiss has been exchanged, there is something that is drained, as if the batteries had to be reloaded? Edouard Boubat : Absolutely. That spark, that strike of lightening, is something that we can only obtain from time to time, even if we refuse other things, which we know to be of less value. Frank Horvat : So how did you spend your following days - for instance in Calcutta? Did you try to recall the feeling of those first fifteen minutes? Edouard Boubat : My assignment was to cover the life of a man living in the street - as you know, about one third of the people in that city live and sleep on the pavement. What I remember best are the mornings, that is something else I would like to talk to you about, even if it doesn't exactly answer your question. But I am doing it on purpose, just to annoy you a little. I would like to speak of those mornings. Click. I remember people still asleep, like corpses in shrouds, in fact some were actual corpses, in actual shrouds.

Those mornings with that fabulous light - I always loved that light. Or the mornings in New York, we haven't been there together, but we certainly lived the same thing: one goes out to have breakfast, the sky is blue, when you leave the coffee shop, the fellow behind the counter says: "Take care" (English in the original), it's just a wonderful thing. Or that other morning, when I woke up in an Indian village, the previous evening the people had welcomed me, saying: "You may sleep here." So I really slept there, on the ground, there wasn't anything else, I got up very early - when you sleep on the ground you get up early - and I made that photo of the village, with those hens, that cow, in that foggy light. And on that occasion, to come back to your question, there was nothing to be refused, the photo was in front of me. Click. I only shot two or three, there was no reason to take fifty. In those rare moments, when there is nothing to be refused, one doesn't have to shoot ten rolls, the photo is there. Click.

Photo Edouard Boubat

Frank Horvat : Yes, awareness is an essential point. If I had to describe you to someone who knew nothing about you, I would say, "Boubat looks at the world as if he had just landed and as if his eyes had just opened." Perhaps what you search for, most of all, are those moments when your eyes open. As Goethe said, in a phrase that you often cite, "The most difficult thing is the one that seems the easiest: truly to see what is in front of our eyes." The

magical act would be to know how to keep that state of awareness. Edouard Boubat : Every moment has to be lived as unforeseeable. I had the luck to meet Eugene Smith, who for me was one of the greatest photographers ever. I met him in 1950, and already by that time he had many problems with Life, because they kept telling him - him, the greatest of their photographers - "You have to photograph this, to do that…" And he, who was a hypersensitive person, was sick of it, because he knew only too well that one couldn't predict what one was going to find. I also remember a guy, in Africa, who was walking behind me - or ahead of me, I hardly remember - in a kind of forest, and saying to me, "It's not a matter of looking, it's a matter of seeing." I didn't understand right away, but I thought about it. I think he meant that one shouldn't care too much about details, but rather see the whole. In those blessed moments that we spoke about, I see nothing, I am taken in by a whole. Of course I see well enough to frame my picture, click. But when I look at a face, I'm not concerned with details, I don't know if the guy has pimples. I am moved by the whole - that's what I mean by being aware. Frank Horvat : People tell me that I have very little sense of observation, my wife really finds it strange for a photographer. Could it be because I perceive the whole rather than the details? Edouard Boubat : It's exactly what that African meant. Then again, Goethe, whom you just mentioned, also said that the whole and the details should be seen at once. I find it extraordinary, that some people should be able to do that. It reminds me of some painters, where the foreground and the background blend into a whole. You notice it with Bonnard, but also with painters of the Renaissance: everything is blended, but each object has its importance. Still, I believe that the "coup de foudre" is generated by the whole. But then again - and this is where photography is really amusing - you may look at a press photo, no matter which one, let's say of the Queen of England, and find that what's most interesting is not so much the queen, but some small detail, like a horse that's not where it should be, or some other tiny thing. Whether he wishes it or not, the photographer reveals things which he himself had not seen at that moment, but which inform us about that country and that era. In a photo there can be ten thousand more things than he wanted to show. He believes that he only shows the small visible part of the iceberg, but his photo may also reveal what is beneath the surface. Frank Horvat : : I would like to find out more about your secrets. I know that you have often been invited to teach at schools or seminars, and that you have always turned it down, explaining that a photo-journalist's work cannot be taught. But if someone came to ask you the real questions, not: "which camera, which lens, which aperture?" but: "Mr. Boubat, what is your magic formula for obtaining those gifts?" - would you have any answers? Are there things that you eat, or that you don't eat, things that you do before going to sleep, or that you don't do, thoughts on which you concentrate or others that

you avoid? Like that Californian, Minor White, who recommended time for meditation before picking up the camera. That always made me smile, I am not Californian. However, I sometimes think that he was not entirely wrong. But what are your own secrets? Edouard Boubat : I am very much like you: when I get interested in music, or in those spiritual things, I would like to know "the secret". But in fact there is no general rule, each person must find out for himself. We are all different and some of us are more gifted than others. My own formula is the "coup de foudre", the global view. Perhaps because I am unaware of details, just like you. Sometimes, at a party, I don't even recognize people, which often makes me seem impolite…. Or, as another secret, I could tell yo u a little story that may seem beside the point, but that to me is meaningful. One of my first reportages, for Réalités, was about the "Hospice de Beaune". I had the luck to see it while it was still in operation. That hospice was built by a mean man, who had three or four wives at a time, and children all over the place, so his bishop said to him: "To redeem yourself, you have to build something." As a result he built that hospice, in which everything is beautiful, not only the architecture, but even the glasses that one drinks from. He hired a Flemishman - in those days there were no photographers - and commissioned him to paint a triptych, which is still to be seen. But it is not simply an object for your eyes: it used to be opened from time to time, I believe once a week, and all the sick people would come and, just by looking at it, already be half cured. When I take a photo, it's a little like that, I wish people to feel better by just looking at them. "To be cured" may be too strong a word, but why not? Borges wrote: "Every man who reads Shakespeare isShakespeare." When you hear Mozart, you are Mozart. I recall some letters by Mozart, saying: "The only tolerable moments in my life are when I compose." He had debts, he didn't have enough to eat, but when he was composing he was more than Mozart, he was in another state. If you wish, that is my secret. Frank Horvat : This reminds me of some people telling me, "I don't look at trees in the same way since seeing your photos of trees." Edouard Boubat : That was your reason for making them. Though I must say that for me, the most beautiful part of photography is the moment of shooting, the moment when I make a portrait, or a landscape, Then Boubat no longer exists. That's the secret: there is no Boubat any more, no Indian village, in that briefest of moments we become part of a whole, we are no longer separate from the landscape, from the person in front of us. That's why I don't notice the details: because there are no details any more, I don't see them - while at the time same time I see well enough to frame, to know that if I move a little to the left or to the right, the photo may be gone. In that blessed moment, there is no Boubat any longer, nor anything else. Frank Horvat : But why did you choose that particular image of the hen and

the tree, rather than the thirty-five other ones on your contact sheet? Edouard Boubat : In fact, there were no thirty-five others. That photo has a story. Thanks to Eugene Smith, I had been sent to the South of France - I didn't have a penny at the time - to do a story on corn. I was using a Rollei and in a Rollei, you recall, there are twelve pictures. I had finished covering the story, I was going to take a train at six in the evening, it was four o'clock, there was one last photo left in the camera. I pass a yard on the farm, I see my tree with the hen, click, I take the photo, it was simply to finish my roll. There is only one photo of the hen and the tree, it was picture number 12.

Photo Edouard Boubat

Frank Horvat : But what is the difference between this photo and all the others that you made during the trip? Edouard Boubat : I think that the photos that we like were made when the photographer knew how to disappear. It is when people like Lartigue, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson knew how to disappear, that their photos became the Lartigues, the Doisneaus, the Cartier-Bressons. But it takes nerve for that, because everything, in our time, pushes us into the opposite direction, everything we see, everything the media make us believe. Nowadays,

photographers start out with ideas, and their photos become the expression of an idea. To my way of thinking, a photo should not depend on ideas, should go beyond ideas. Frank Horvat : You say "disappear," and I can agree with that. But for me there is another key word, which means almost the opposite: "face up." For me, to photograph is to face up to something. My "gift-moments" come when, one way or the other, I have to face up. That's what I often say to young people, who show me their photos of shadows on walls or torn posters, more or less manipulated in the darkroom. "It's interesting," I say "but you haven't faced up to anything." In my case, before any important photo, I get stage fright, even more so at my present age than when I was less experienced, and in spite of working with a light that I know well, in a studio that I had built to my specifications, with assistants, stylists, make-up artists, hair dressers, who are all there to help me. I may rehearse before shooting, I may shoot fifteen rolls on a subject - but I still get stage fright Edouard Boubat : What can you be scared of? You don't often make technical mistakes! Frank Horvat : I am scared of facing up, of missing the decisive moment. It's the fright of an actor before each performance, even if he has played that role hundreds of times. Edouard Boubat : On the other hand, when I say "I disappear", I also mean that I let Boubat come out even more. That's what must be made clear: because Boubat cannot be reduced to "just Boubat," even though most people are unable to understand this. There is another very beautiful line of Borges, "A writer, who only puts what he intends into his novels, is a very poor writer." In each photo there are ten thousand more things than we intend to put into them. Like atmosphere. To disappear is an act of humility, for sure, but it's also an act of cleverness, I would almost say of slyness. That's what it is! Unless we disappear, we can only show poor Boubat, or poor Horvat. But we don't want to be reduced to a mere Boubat or a mere Horvat or a mere Eugene Smith or a mere whomever! Frank Horvat : But don't you ever get stage-fright? Don't you ever make mistakes? It could be interesting to talk about our mistakes, it's a little like talking about refusals. Edouard Boubat : I don't know if they were real mistakes. Sometimes I envy painters, it is wonderful to remain in front of a bouquet of flowers a whole morning, or even longer. A photographer is like a cloud, pushed all around, always dependent on the exterior world. That's what I sometimes feel as a pain and an error. I would prefer things to depend more on me - all the while knowing that my dependence is also my chance.

Frank Horvat : Edouard, you are like a snake, you slither away from the subject each time that I try to corner you. Edouard Boubat : You say that I escape: but we are speaking of things that are difficult to express. There is a little dilemma that we all face, because we now use those 35mm cameras. Atget only made one or two plates, and each time it was an Atget. There you had a man who knew how to disappear! Our own drama, with these little 35mm cameras, is that we shoot too much. If we truly were strong, we would only make three or four exposures. Of the tree and hen, I only made one; of the little girl in the leaves, only one; of Leila on the boat, only one. The subject gets used up. Now, even Paris is used up. Luxembourg Gardens are used up, there are too many cameras around. But I would like to come back to what seems to me the most important, the search. We see the sufferings of the world, the poor, the less poor, we are there, with our tongues hanging out, in eagerness to know what's going on behind all that. That's perhaps why photographers live to be old. Like Kertesz or Brassaï or Lartigue. I met Cartier-Bresson the other day, he was like a young man, on his feet and photographing for an hour. Ultimately, the photographer is the guy who hasn't found anything, but goes on hoping, until the very last moment. That's what drives him, what keeps him on the run. You asked me where I was going this afternoon. I'll go to the lab, I don't have any photos to take, but nonetheless I'll cross the Seine on foot, by one the bridges. I'll take along my little amateur Leica, not quite a camera to make real photos, but still I may get one, who knows? I walk into the unknown, you see? Photographers stay young because, until the end, they would like to pull off one more good shot. Frank Horvat : It is true that subjects get used up. The trees that I photographed got used up, I couldn't indefinitely go back to the same ones. Your bouquet of flowers gets used up under your eyes. Or, rather, your look gets used up on the bouquet. Your awareness gets used up. Edouard Boubat : Absolutely. There is a word we haven't used yet: virginity. It is a very beautiful word, though nowadays one makes light of it. But it is very important. To make a photograph, the plate must be virgin, but your eye as well. Some say "innocent. Boubat is an innocent guy." I am no more innocent than anyone else. When one has been in Africa or in South America or in India, where there were hundreds of thousands of lepers, one cannot remain innocent. I was in an African village and everyone was shaking my hand and from time to time I would realize that they didn't have fingers. Poor Boubat acted as if he hadn't noticed. Because he had seen them, poor beings, their difficulty in just standing on their feet, the suffering they endured for a bowl of rice. No, I am not innocent. But, still, one must retain a certain innocence to keep one's eyes fresh - and I have that innocence. People say, "Oh, good Boubat, brave Boubat, what nice photos he makes!" But my purpose is not to make nice photos, even though sometimes I like to show bouquets of flowers. But what does it mean, showing a bouquet of flowers? It

means knowing that, behind that bouquet, there is all the misery of the world. Through that bouquet, the photographer may suggest something that is beyond.

Paris, July 1986

Translation: Charles Department of Comparative Literature, City University of New York, September 2003


Martin, College,

Photo Edouard Boubat

Robert Doisneau

Born in Gentilly, Val-de-Marne, April 14th, 1912. Studied lithography at the École Estienne. 1934-1938 - Industrial photographer at the Renault Works. Called up in 1939, joined the Résistance in the following years. From 1946 on, free-lance photographer for the Rapho Agency. Most of his photographs are of people and streetlife in Paris and its suburbs. Lived in Montrouge, a working-class suburb south of Paris. Died in 1995.

"The world I was trying to present was one where I would feel good, where people would be friendly, where I could find the tenderness I longed for. My photos were like a proof that such a world could exist."

Frank Horvat : I'd like to start with some down-to-earth matters, the more profound ones will follow, they can't be avoided. For instance with the fact that you had to earn your living. Some photographers don't have to worry about selling their work, either because they have other sources of income, or because they are brave enough to face deprivation - like Koudelka. Neither has been your case (nor is it mine, for that matter). There were some photos you took simply because you had to make money. Despite this, when one looks through your work of the last 50 years, one doesn't feel any effort to please a client - only the will to say what you had to say. How was this possible? I don't imagine that everytime you pressed the shutter you were saying to yourself: "This shot is for me" or : "This one is to for the client…" Robert Doisneau : I'm not sure that total freedom is such a good thing. When you have to rely on yourself for living, you accept all kinds of assignments. But you cannot help glancing to the right or to the left, as if playing some game with the working hours that you owe your employer - and

in the end the photos worth preserving are the ones you stole from his time. Frank Horvat : So you did made a distinction: "This photo is for myself, that one is for the client." I'm bringing it up because it hasn't always been true for me: in the case of some fashion photos, in particular, I often made myself believe that I was doing them for my self-expression. Robert Doisneau : That was your cleverness, your professionalism. When I was photographing fashion for Vogue, against a white background, I was only acting a part. Watching a fashion show never gave me any particular emotion, never made me think : "I must absolutely photograph that woman, in that dress". Besides, models weren't as friendly as they are now, they always seemed to look down on the little man at the other side of the camera, who was only trying to get his photo. Frank Horvat : Still, you told me that you become very involved in some projects, that you would consider now as a loss of time… Robert Doisneau : : I've made every possible mistake. Because I don't like to obey orders and I always question what I'm told. So I have to try out everything for myself, and that has lead me into many dead ends. For a whole year - for instance - I tried to build a machine to unroll cylinders, in order to reproduce the bas-reliefs made by some farmer, on some pots : in fact I wanted to flatten them out, so that they could be seen at a glance. One had to be really stubborn to keep trying - but I was thinking of Marey‚ about whom I had a vague notion. Though in fact I hadn't done much reading and just plunged into this like a brute. Frank Horvat : I could say the same about myself. All I knew about other photographers' work were a few photos published by magazines. Robert Doisneau : I had seen some of Brassaï's work, but had never heard of Kertesz or Atget - though I had worked in some of Atget's locations, such as Porte d'Italie or the Bièvre valley, and even with a wooden camera on a tripod, like the one he used. But I didn't get to know his work until much later. Frank Horvat : It is interesting to compare your first book on the suburbs with the one published recently by Delpire. Many of the photos are the same, but the whole seems different, as if something essential had become clear. Robert Doisneau : At the time I wasn't aware of it. I only realised it now, while preparing my exhibition in Saint-Denis. It will be my last exhibition - or at any rate the last one of this kind. As it happens, I always came back to SaintDenis, even though it's a long way from my own suburb. This community is an extraordinary mixture, exactly the kind I like : people from all origins, a basilica where the kings of France lie buried, a communist town hall twenty yards further, a canal, a motorway, some huge public housing projects and

endless rows of small suburban houses. It's the juxtaposition that fascinates me - in fact, all my photos are self-portraits, in the sense that I always show people living in the same absurd surroundings as myself. My own suburb was one of two-storey houses, rather grey and dumb, but full of nooks, recesses, makeshift repairs, inhabited by people living between the street and the bistro. Here and there a small workshop, like my father's plumbing business. From my window, in the early morning, I watched the workmen coming to be hired, then going out on their assignments. If they had a few minutes to spare, they would have a drink at the bistro, then walk out slightly dizzy, fetch the handcart and be on their way to the job, which was sometimes far off, with the apprentice pulling between the shafts and the journeyman pushing the cart from behind. Of course they knew me well, sometimes I came along and watched them, soldering is a beautiful sight. Frank Horvat : Why did you say the exhibition in Saint-Denis will be your last? Robert Doisneau : The museum in Saint-Denis is an old Carmelite convent, a place filled with ghosts : Louise de France, the daughter of Louis the XVth, had resided there, but the museum also keeps souvenirs of Louise Michel, the pasionaria of the Paris Commune - again an extraordinary juxtaposition. The idea for my show came partly from the charm of this place. Originally the curator wanted to present the photos I had taken in 1943 and 1944, during the German occupation. It had been a very cold winter, the canal was frozen, children were running on it, gathering coal fallen from the cranes. I suggested I would show ten of my photos from that period, plus 50 that I would take of Saint-Denis in the present. The project took me two years, you don't really get more than one photo a day, and there are days when you don't get any. My recent pictures are more bare, less anecdotal than the old ones. Nowadays people understand faster, they no longer need a story with a beginning, a middle and an end : the beginning will do, they can guess the end. If I said "it will be my last exhibition", it's because four or five years from now I'll no longer have the energy for such an undertaking. I don't really know how it impresses the general public, people tell me, "it's beautiful" - but those who say so are my friends. All I know is that I did it with my last bit of cheek, with whatever means I have left.

Photo Robert Doisneau

Frank Horvat : You say your old photos were more anecdotal. That was actually what I held against them at the time. It must be said that I was an unconditional follower of Cartier-Bresson. When I first came to Paris, I had the nerve to show him some of my Rolleiflex photos. He exclaimed that if God had wanted us to photograph with a 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 camera, he would have put eyes on our bellies. So I bought a Leica and tried to follow his advice, at least as far as I understood it. But that made me intolerant : for instance I found that your photos had too much anecdote and not enough composition, I only saw the drawbacks of the 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 format, the fact that it made you compose around the centre of the image, while neglecting what happened at the edges . Only much later their real significance dawned on me, and it was like a revelation. From then on, the people in your photos began to exist for me, I knew what they were thinking or going to do. Each of them seemed to emit a ray of energy, and your composition consisted in the interplayof these energies. Of course I should have grasped it much earlier. Robert Doisneau : It's partly my own fault. I felt that people didn't know how to read photos, so I thought, "I'll be kind to them, overly so, as I would be with a handicapped person." That's why I resorted to all those little jokes, those sequences, anecdotes, all that cartoon style. Now things are different, people understand fast, you don't have to load the image with heavy symbols, as if to

hit the spectator with a bludgeon. Frank Horvat : In fact it's not only the people in your photos that emit energy, but even the rabbit or the monkey …

Photo Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau : … the houses… Frank Horvat : … and the statues, the characters on the posters. They all seem to have ideas and intentions. Their rays of energy intersect with each other and with the rays coming from the humans. Robert Doisneau : The advantage we have, compared to painters and writers, is that we never lose contact with the rough side of life. It is a lesson in humility and it keeps us from some pitfalls. But above all it nourishes us. Other people's vitality nourishes us, without their knowledge. It has done me good to work on this project in Saint-Denis, to find myself in the streets again, face to face with people. Though I must say that I found them less friendly than twenty years ago, possibly because of today's photographers, who hold their cameras like weapons - so of course the rabbit on the other side doesn't feel too good. I wouldn't dare shoot as they do, I don't have William Klein's nerve. Sometimes the camera pulls me along, but once I've got my photo I wonder, "How am I going to cope with this now, how can I explain it to these

people?" Frank Horvat : I guess that when Klein looks through his view-finder, he mainly sees shapes - while you never forget that they are real people. Except possibly in some of your photos of lovers, where their role seems to take over. To me your lovers look a bit like actors, whereas the characters in the background remain more real, I can always imagine what goes on in their minds. Robert Doisneau : I had a few problems with the law. It appears that people have rights about their own image, and this often prevents me from catching their spontaneity. So I must stop them and say, "I noticed you while passing by, would you mind kissing again?" That's what happened with the "Hôtel de Ville lovers", they re-enacted their kiss. Those with the grocer were a couple I hired.

Photo Robert Doisneau

Frank Horvat : One can tell.

Robert Doisneau : In order to show an amiable aspect of Paris, I presented little "Parisian" scenes, like in those cabaret shows called "Paris will forever be Paris". You may find them a bit soppy, but at the time they sold. The "Hôtel de Ville lovers" were part of a series, on which I had already worked for a week and which I had to complete with two or three photos of that kind. But the fact that they were set up never bothered me. After all, nothing is more subjective than l'objectif (the French word for "lens"), we never show things as they "really"are. The world I was trying to present was one where I would feel good, where people would be friendly, where I could find the tenderness I longed for. My photos were like a proof that such a world could exist.

Photo Robert Doisneau

Frank Horvat : Roland Barthes called it the studium. It's what the photographer intends to express when taking a photo. But beyond this intention, there is the miracle that we expect - and sometimes manage to capture. That is our real motivation. Robert Doisneau : Yes, the expectation of a miracle. It's very childish, but at

the same time it's almost like an act of faith. We find a backdrop and wait for the miracle. I remember a backdrop that never worked for me, possibly because I didn't wait long enough, or didn't return to it often enough. In the foreground you can see the steps of Saint Paul's church, the background is a perfect faubourg, as you imagine them from literature or movies. I frame it in my viewfinder, from rue de Turenne to a shop called Le Gant d'Or, and wait there for an hour, sometimes two, thinking, "my God, something is bound to happen". I imagine events I would like to photograph, one wilder than the other. But nothing happens, nothing. Or if it does - bang - it's so different from what I expected that I miss it. The miracle did take place, but I wasted it, because I didn't pay the right kind of attention. When you are tired, you become unable to react, your emotion is no longer available. Frank Horvat : I had the same experience, in the streets of New York. I would think, "this is a good frame, I'll wait here". But I'm not the fisherman type, like you. If the miracle didn't happen, I would lose patience and move on. Still, I wonder if the expectations raised in those places may not bear fruits elsewhere, at other moments. Like a mould that takes shape in your mind, and remains ready to take in the miracle, whenever it comes. Robert Doisneau : You're right. You move on and you keep that tension, and at the same time that inner calm that makes you ready to catch. Another good preparation is night-time. When I am in horizontal position, my brain gets irrigated, like the cork of a wine bottle that's laid flat. That activates my imagination and stimulates my desire to go out and use my mind. So I rise and go out, eager to see and to marvel. Marvelling is something we don't learn at school - and that isn't given to us every day! Frank Horvat : I have a down to earth question to ask : you found that wonderful title, "Three seconds of eternity"… Robert Doisneau : It was borrowed from Jardin, a poem by Jacques Prévert… Frank Horvat : … but in fact the time you spend with your camera, observing your subjects, moving around them, is obviously far longer than the sum of your exposure times. How long when compared to your lifetime? How many days of a week, how many hours in a shooting day? Robert Doisneau : Plenty. I couldn't count all my hours of mad hope, while expecting the miracle to happen. Hardly a week goes by without at least one day of photography. But sometimes I have the feeling that I'm hounded by a curse. It took me five years to get sacked by Renault - though I had done all I could to that purpose - and three months later war was declared and my freedom was lost again. Now, that I don't have to waste my time with advertising photos, or with complying to the demands of magazines, my wife's illness has fallen on me. For the last ten years, this has detained me from

using my time as I wanted. It's like a fatality. Still, I believe that constraint, and the feeling of exasperation that comes with it, can also become a stimulus to create. Frank Horvat : A photographer's time is peculiar. A musician may rehearse ten hours a day, writers and painters often work regularly, from such hour to such. For us, the time spent with our cameras is relatively short. Though, as you say, our creativity might build up in the intervals. Robert Doisneau : Constraint increases my persistence. I would keep saying to myself, "I will manage to complete this exhibition in Saint-Denis, even if I can only work on Saturdays - which is the day someone else looks after my wife - even if I can't be on the spot in the early morning, or if I can't come back there at night. Maybe this constraint brought a kind of unity to my photos. Frank Horvat : A build-up of the desire to see. Like the cap on the hunter falcon's head. Robert Doisneau : That cap would be an exact description of my feeling. Another thing I feel is that I'm walking around with ghosts : Cendrars, Prévert, Pontrémoli, my departed friends. Every time I caught an image, it was intended for one of them, and it was to them I showed it first. It was like repaying a debt, they were the ones who taught me to see those things. Now they are ahead of me, gone. But sometimes, while I walk, one of Prévert's songs is at my side. Frank Horvat : Coming back to what you said about constraint : photography, after all, is an alternation of opening and closing. Like the shutter. When you say, "I don't speak foreign languages, I don't like to go on big trips", this is a closing, but a closing that you need and that allows other openings. Robert Doisneau : There are like rules we impose on ourselves, rules of a very complicated game, with forbidden areas into which we may not step. Like those lines that children draw on the ground and over which they jump, with their feet crossed : hup heaven! hup hell! It's like hopscotch. I set limits to myself, I avoid photographing certain things - for instance violence. I know that it exists and that some photographers are good at showing it, I don't say they are wrong, but it's not for me, that niche of the market is too crowded. Marvelling, on the other hand, is a mission that few photographers have chosen. We can marvel at an object, a building, a tree. A human being can be even more marvellous, as we don't know what 's going on inside his head. Frank Horvat : Talking about hopscotch: you don't seem to mind having your photos edited by other people, or even cropped without your consent. Few photographers would agree to that. Is it again like hopscotch, a kind of

opportunity for chance? On the other hand you are very lucid about your own work, you seem to know very well what choices and what croppings you prefer. Robert Doisneau : People have a certain idea of me, which means that they expect me to produce a certain kind of images. For me this is fine, never mind if the photos they pick are not always my favourites. Our favourite images are like children who were difficult to bring up, we feel more attached to them because we had to try harder. But they are not necessarily the most successful, some outsider may be a better judge, when he decides: "This photographer is at his best in these photos, so these are the ones that should represent his work." You ought to trust his judgement. Frank Horvat : To the point of letting him crop your photo? Robert Doisneau : Never mind. I got used to having the sides cropped off when I was working in the square format, which doesn't coincide with the proportions of a magazine page. You pointed out, rightly, that I didn't always control what happened on the sides. But this is an imperfection that I accept, it adds a little - shall I say "truth"? No, it's not quite the right word… Frank Horvat : Authenticity? Credibility? Something that makes the viewer think: "this photographer isn't very clever, so he must be telling the truth"? Is it that? Robert Doisneau : Maybe. At the edge you may see an onlooker, or someone stopping by. That's fine with me, the photo will not seem too well constructed, there will be something left to chance, as one leaves a share for the poor. At festive meals, in times past, people used to leave an empty chair, so that an unexpected visiter could find his place. Frank Horvat : After all, the Rollei's drawbacks had their good sides. Another advantage was that by holding the camera on his stomach, the photographer seemed less aggressive. Robert Doisneau : You ended up bowing before the subject, as if in prayer. Whereas with a 35mm camera, you put him straight in your line of fire - that is in your line of sight, so as to shoot right into his face. And if you aren't quick enough, this may annoy him and he will agress you. I understand it now, as more and more often people tend to photograph me, it's like the attractiveness of old ruins, you become picturesque without wanting to. So I realise what it feels to have such a machine pointed at you : if you stick your finger up your nose - click - your fellow photographer won't miss it.

Photo Robert Doisneau

Frank Horvat : Was this bistro scene taken with a 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 camera? I find it miraculous, I can see six, seven, eight rays of energy, as many as there are people. One wonders how you managed to see all that at the same time. Robert Doisneau : Maybe I was drunk. No, in fact I wasn't. Again it shows an absurd backdrop, a completely stupid game. But the atmosphere was lively. Frank Horvat : Even the lady on the poster seems to be involved in the scene. If I cover her with my finger… Robert Doisneau : Yes, a character would be missing. It's true, it is a miracle. It was a world that I knew well and where I felt at ease. Before you can take a photo like that, you have to be accepted by those people, come and drink with them night after night, become part of the place - until they completely forget your presence. Maybe it was with a Rolleiflex, I'm not sure. But it's a good picture, there is the right amount of chance, but at the same time it is well balanced. A joy that you are offered once in a while and that you must not miss. Frank Horvat : You were offered quite a few such joys, and you didn't miss them. But nowadays you feel the need to express yourself in writing, as if

there was something important that photographs cannot convey. Robert Doisneau : I write as I talk. Every Sunday morning I write five or six or seven letters, it comes easily, as if the people I'm writing to were in front of me. But when it's for print I feel paralysed. My vocabulary is limited, my knowledge of the French language is full of gaps. I'm ashamed at the thought that some typist, working for the publisher, will have to decipher my handwriting and may laugh at my mistakes. But the need to write exists. Maybe because I listen a lot : when you photograph, it's not only your eyesight that's involved, but also your hearing, and even your sense of smell, which may be compared to an awareness of music, a kind of short-cut between your surroundings and your emotion. What photography didn't give me was the ability to record such things on film : so now I try, timidly, with my poor faulty memory, to put them in writing. With a little humour if I can, humour is a way of expressing emotions with modesty. When what you're looking at is too tender, or too cruel, you take refuge in humour, it avoids seeming immodest. Frank Horvat : Several photographers that I admire feel the need to express themselves by other means. Cartier-Bresson draws, Boubat plays the piano, Robert Frank and William Klein make films. As if, at some stage in their lives, they had reached the limits of photography. Robert Doisneau : Possibly many people, towards the end of their lives, feel the need to write. Professor Gosset, a famous surgeon, made that remark to me. We cannot accept the thought of our brutal disappearance - so we try to leave some trace of ourselves, to show some of the things we loved. Writing, just as photography, expresses a desire to survive - La Survivance, the title of Boubat's book, wasn't bad. As a child I used to dream of film-making, until I realised that I wouldn't have enough authority to direct a team. So I said to myself that gleaning wild images could be at least as meaningful as creating fiction. Frank Horvat : "Fractions of time snatched from eternity", as you put it in one of your own titles. Robert Doisneau : A memory from my youth comes back to me. You go into the woods on a bike, with a girl. There is the smell of heather, you can hear the wind in the fir trees, you don't dare tell her about your love, but you feel happy, as if you were floating above the ground. Then you look at the clouds beyond the trees and they are fleeting. And you know that within an hour you'll have to go home, that tomorrow will be a working day. You wish you could stop that moment for ever, but you can't, it is bound to end. So you take a photo, as if to challenge time. Maybe the girl will move to another town and you will never see her again, or you will see her changed, tired, humiliated by her everyday life, working as a salesgirl in some shop, with a boss always shouting at her. To me, this desire to preserve the moment seems justified, in

spite of that German priest mentioned by Gisèle Freund, who pretends that the photographic image is a sacrilege. Frank Horvat : Still, he wasn't altogether wrong. Did you always take along your Rolleiflex, when you went into the woods with a girl? I don't believe that you can live the moment fully, and still preserve it in a photograph. You must choose between the one and the other. Robert Doisneau : Yes, we are like taxidermists, stuffing dead birds, that's where the sacrilege lies. But photography may allow us to share some happiness with others. Frank Horvat : It must be said that you don't have much reason to be concerned by this problem. You are not one of those who photograph their wife giving birth, or their mother on her death bed , or themselves masturbating in front of a mirror. Robert Doisneau : What I see around me seems to me more interesting than my small self. I would rather be an observer - no, not exactly an observer, I don't watch other people through a magnifying glass, as if they were insects let me say a contemporary, living at their rythme and sharing their constraints. I certainly wouldn't photograph my wife in a hospital, it would be wrong, nor myself naked in front of a mirror. I don't have any desire to do that. Frank Horvat : Another niche of the market that's getting too crowded! Robert Doisneau : : I wonder what the young will find next. In countries with high human density, they are on the look-out for some gimmick that may allow them to stand out in a crowd : something clever and noisy, that will titillate the nerves of a public all too saturated with images. Like those Japanese who draw figures on their breasts or their hindquarters. They were practically born with a camera in hand, so if they want to get published they have to produce something really shocking. Frank Horvat : What's left to them? Discovering the world through photography was given to your generation - and to a lesser extent to mine. That won't take place again, you can't repeat Columbus's voyage. What point would there be in retaking the photos you took in the suburbs? Robert Doisneau : Besides, the suburbs I photographed have disappeared. Frank Horvat : But even if they hadn't, there would be no reason to photograph them again. What's already in the box can't be caught again maybe that's where the sacrilege lies. How can a photographer look at the Paris suburbs without thinking of your photos? It's true that a new type of suburbs has been grafted onto the old ones, but at the same time our

capacity to marvel has been worn out. When you brought your pictures to Cendrars, he must have been surprised by what he saw, he may have said, "I've never seen anything like it in photography!" Nowadays, you can't show any photo to anyone, without getting some reaction like: "Yes, I know!". Robert Doisneau : It's true that our sensitivity has been hardened. But there may be new ways of seeing. In your colour portraits, for instance, one is reminded of paintings. Colour can possibly bring something new. Frank Horvat : So if the devil offered you a new start - as he did to Faust would you accept the deal? Robert Doisneau : I don't know. There is that word : "already". Life has gone by so fast, despite all the misery, all the moments I wouldn't want to live again. Now it's behind me - already. There comes a time when you have to fade into the background. It's not up to me, now, to imagine new ways to photograph, it's their business, let them cope with it, for God's sake! There may be new answers, different ones. In fact my own recent photos of SaintDenis are different from the ones I took for Cendrars, inasmuch as they imply more than they describe. In the future, the implying could be even more subtle, for even more sophisticated viewers - while avoiding the slickness of advertising, which is the greatest danger, but also the shrillness of television. Before agriculture, people used to gather their food - which could be compared to my kind of photography. Then came the sowing, the harvesting and the breeding, of which commercial photography would be the equivalent. The purpose of these techniques is to produce well-packaged images, based on scientifical knowledge of people's sensitivity, with planned costs and profits, a computerised balance of light, a little more here, a little less there, so as to turn out a reliable, immediately digestible product. But that's not my cup of tea. I've done my share.

Paris, November 1987 Translated into English by Julia Mclaren

Mario Giacomelli

Born in Senigallia (Italy), August 1st,1925. At the age of thirteen, apprentice in a small printers' firm in Senigallia, which he later owned. Began as a painter and amateur poet. Photographer (self-taught) from 1954. Died in Senigallia in 2000.

" I don't know about other people's cameras. Mine is a thing I had cobbled up, it holds together with tape and is always losing parts. All I need to set is the distance and that other thing - what do you call that other thing?"

Frank Horvat : I wonder if your eyes are like your mother's. Mario Giacomelli : I don't really know what my mother's eyes were like. Sometimes I feel there was no difference between us, except that she was dressed as a woman and I as a man. When thinking back, the thing that now seems the most important - and also the most beautiful - is that never, at any time of her life, I found a way of telling her how much I loved her. Maybe because of my bad character, or out of shyness. I never kissed her and probably never even asked how she was. She died a few months ago, and when she was dead I kissed her lips. For me it was a beautiful moment. From then on I started living with her, asking her from time to time if she was alright, if she was pleased with me. But these things are far greater than photography, and I probably shouldn't be speaking about them. Frank Horvat : But do you sometimes look at your own eyes in a mirror? Do you wonder about them? Mario Giacomelli : No. I never look at them and I'm not even very aware of their existence - or only as a doorway. When you take photos, you put yourself in front of some object, which then comes through that little hole at

the front of your camera and lands at the back. So you get a copy of it - or rather an extract. My eyes are the same: an instrument for catching things mid-flight, putting some of them in a box, kneading and mixing them within me and then putting them out again, for other people's eyes. Frank Horvat : What about the camera? It seems that you don't have the same camera as everyone else, a Leica, a Nikon or a Kodak. Mario Giacomelli : I don't know about other people's cameras. Mine is a thing I had cobbled up, it holds together with tape and is always losing parts. All I need to set is the distance and that other thing - what do you call that other thing? I'm not a fan of mechanics. I have had this camera, still the same one, since I started taking photos. It has lived with me, shared many moments of my existence, both good and bad. If I ever lost it... well, the very idea of having to live without it pulls at my heart. Frank Horvat : But where does it come from? Mario Giacomelli : I had it made. By dismantling a camera given to me by a friend and removing whatever seemed useless. I only need distance and that other thing - what's that other thing called again? I don't know how these machines work, what counts is that light shouldn't get in. It's just a box. Frank Horvat : And what film do you use? Mario Giacomelli : Whatever I get. Frank Horvat : 24 by 36 millimeters? Mario Giacomelli : Don't ask me about millimeters ! I use the larger film, not the smaller one. I've never used the smaller one. Frank Horvat : So, six by six centimeters? Mario Giacomelli : Don't talk to me about figures! I only know that six by nine becomes six by eight and a half. Frank Horvat : So you get12 photos per roll? Mario Giacomelli : I can't remember, but I think it's more like ten. Ten, not twelve. What's important is that there shouldn't be too many. Once I won a competition and was given a small size camera as a prize. But I didn't know how to use it, it was too fast for me, it didn't participate as my own camera does, it left me no time to think, made me press the shutter for nothing. I felt deprived of what makes my greatest joy, which is the waiting, the preparing of the image, the winding of the film, the replacing of the roll. My own camera is

exactly what I need, it suits my character. Frank Horvat : At what speed does it work? a thirtieth, a hundredth of a second? Mario Giacomelli : I don't know any more. It doesn't go over two hundred. To photograph from a plane I have to borrow a friend's camera, I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I don't care. It doesn't matter to me, I would take photos without a camera if I could. I've no great passion for mechanics. Frank Horvat : And what's the lens aperture? Mario Giacomelli : It depends. At Scanno, I did nearly everything at a 25th. For landscapes I use 2 and 22. Frank Horvat : Half a second at aperture 22? Mario Giacomelli : I know there is a 2 and a 22, that's the aperture of the lens, I learnt it by heart. Frank Horvat : So you close the aperture all the way. Mario Giacomelli : All the way, always the same. Because it's for landscapes. When it's for people, and there is not much light, I do the opposite : I open the lens. Frank Horvat : Is that what you do when photographing the old people in the hospice? Mario Giacomelli : In the hospice it's a different matter, I use flash. On purpose. Just to add my own meanness to the meanness of the person who created the universe and makes us grow old. It isn't so much to show their skin texture, but to add contrast, to achieve a more brutal effect. The flash alters reality and makes it more my own. Frank Horvat : But doesn't the flash produce something different from what you see? Mario Giacomelli : If I couldn't see it I wouldn't shoot. When you are used to the flash, you don't worry about the existing light, but only about what happens in front of your lens, for instance the expressions on people's faces. I would even say that I know very exactly what I'll get. Frank Horvat : And probably all the better as the hospice hasn't been a oneday or one-week project. You returned there for years, often enough to know

by experience. Mario Giacomelli : What's important for me is to become part of that atmosphere. To shut myself up in that kind of box, be in touch with that small world, live what they live, be perceived as one of their lot. For a whole year, I visited them without a camera, so they would get used to my presence, without that instrument pointed at them. In the end I felt just like another old person.

Photo Mario Giacomelli

Frank Horvat : How old were you at the time? Mario Giacomelli : It was my first project. I was about 30. Frank Horvat : Did you think about it for a long time, before starting it? Mario Giacomelli : : Not at all. The first people I photographed were my wife and my mother. I told them 'don't move', but then I realised that I was unable to press the shutter when a person was smiling, or even looking friendly. I wanted them to appear to me just as I felt inside. So I became agressive and nasty with them - until I understood that what I needed was to photograph

some harsher reality. That's why I thought of the hospice. Frank Horvat : Which was your first big project. Mario Giacomelli : It still is my major project. If I had to choose amongst all the photos I've done, to just keep one body of work, it would most certainly be the hospice. Not for the hospice itself, I couldn't care less about it. My concerns are time and old age. There is an ongoing conflict between me and time, a permanent war, and the hospice is one of my enemy's faces. Before becoming a photographer I used to paint, you may think that painting has nothing to do with time, but yet it was against time I was fighting. I would start a painting in the evening and force myself to finish it that same night, even if it meant giving up sleep. Because my work had to be completed with the same tension I had felt at the beginning: the following day I may become a different person, feeling things in a different way. Frank Horvat : What kind of painting did you do? Mario Giacomelli : I started with earth, which I mixed with other materials, such as leaves, I'm not even sure I should call it painting. After that I tried canvas and real colours. Then I destroyed everything. Later on I wrote poetry, which I also destroyed. Finally I discovered photography and realized that it allowed me to produce something more powerful. Of course it cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth, like a notebook. I also found out that this mechanical instrument, that to some people seems cold, can convey a truth that other techniques can't convey. My first camera was a Comet. I bought it on a 24th of December and took to it the seaside on the 25th. I tried some long exposures, though I didn't really understand how it worked. The waves were coming towards me and I tried to move the camera the opposite way. Three or four shots turned out as I had imagined, the rest was useless. But it was the first contact between the three of us - me, nature and the camera - and it made me realise that this supposedly cold device, which at first had seemed so terrifying, could eventually become an extension of myself. Frank Horvat : Do you do your own developing? Mario Giacomelli : Both my developing and my printing. The trays are over there, on that table, you can see how worn it is by the chemicals. Frank Horvat : And do your photos always turn out as you expect? Or do you get surprises? Mario Giacomelli : If there were too many surprises I wouldn't print them. Most of the time they are fairly close to my expectations, and in some instances match them exactly. Though it's true that some good photos are due to chance. In fact I believe in lucky accidents: there may have been a

detail I didn't foresee, or another one I sensed without realising it. Or I might have missed what I aimed at - and instead got something even better. Frank Horvat : But when you take a photo you know what you aim at. Mario Giacomelli : And if I print it it's because, in one way or the other, it's what I wanted. Frank Horvat :Especially as you give yourself time to think about what you want, and to come as close as possible to that result... Mario Giacomelli : I try to go right into things. I believe in abstraction, but only when it allows me to move even closer to reality. I don't want to just describe an event from the outside, I want to become part of it. Sometimes I think that my most important photographs are the moments I lived without recording them. Like that old toothless woman, who chews uselessly, is unable to swallow her mouthful and ends up spitting it onto the table. They can't see anymore, poor old things. The one next to her - for a while the memory of this stopped me from eating - picks up the half-chewed mouthful, puts it in her own mouth and continues chewing, as if it had been hers. These images are the truest, I know them and you never will, because I didn't record them. Frank Horvat : But they are contained, in some way, in the photos you took. Mario Giacomelli : : It may be that by living constantly with this sort of reality, you end up photographing it without even realising. Frank Horvat : Did you visit them every day? Mario Giacomelli : Whenever I was free. At Christmas and Easter, on Saturday afternoon, on Sundays as soon as I was up and had taken my breakfast. Frank Horvat : So you are a Sunday photographer, in some way. Mario Giacomelli : : I photograph when I find the time. I'm not a photographer by trade, I don't get assignments, no-one can order me about, no-one can tell me "go and photograph". Not even hunger could tell me. I photograph when I want to, when I feel ready. If I can't concentrate I don't photograph, it wouldn't even occur to me. Frank Horvat : But you returned to the hospice every week. Mario Giacomelli : Whenever I didn't have to work at the press. I would spend the whole day with them, holding one of the women by the hand,

bringing sweets to that other one who was always waiting for a son who never showed up - which didn't stop him from taking me to court for photographing his mother. Frank Horvat : And how many photos would you take during one of those days? One roll, two, more than two? Mario Giacomelli :Some days I didn't take any. Being in the hospice is like facing yourself in a mirror, there are days when you don't have the courage to look, when you wish mirrors had never been invented, because what you see is an image of yourself, of your mother, of your children. Every one of those photos is like a self-portrait. I don't have any grudge against old people, nor against hospices. My enemy is time. Even our present doesn't really exist: this very moment, while we are talking, is made up of a bit of before and a bit of after, a composite of past and future. At the hospice this feeling becomes even sharper, like a blade against my heart, everything I see refers to me and hurts me. Some days I'm brave enough to take photos, other days I'm not. It was the same in Lourdes, I don't even know how I managed to shoot at all. I was watching a little girl, I don't know what her illness was, four or five people were restraining her, she kept biting them, at times they would let go and she ran off and they would run after her to catch her again. I put my camera on the balustrade and I could feel the tears pouring down my cheeks, usually I'm unable to cry but that day I was crying like a tap. I still have that image in front of my eyes, these eyes that were able to cry, but unable to look through the viewfinder. My camera was honest enough not to force me. That's why I'm fond of it, why I couldn't live without it: it has the same sensitivity that I have, it doesn't go against my character, it doesn't expect me to do anything complicated, because it knows I couldn't. I can leave it lying about anywhere, even abandon it in a field. This has happened, people saw it as a thrownaway object, which they had no reason to pick up. But these things are better left unexplained… Frank Horvat : So there are situations when you say to yourself : "I can't photograph this". Mario Giacomelli : : It's not that I say it to myself. I just suddenly realise that I'm not taking photos. It happens when I see things I can't accept as real: how is it possible that a human being, after a lifetime of work and struggle, should be condemned to exist in this manner? There are situations that refuse to be photographed. But at other times nothing will stop me, because I know my pictures will not shout against anyone - only against time. Frank Horvat : And what happens afterwards, when you look at your photos? Do you decide, for example, "this one is OK, this one isn't, this other one isn't exactly what I wanted, but it's a step in the right direction"? Mario Giacomelli : I don't know what you're trying to make me say. I think

you're asking me a question that I don't know how to answer. I'm not someone who decides "now I'm going to press the shutter, now I'm not". Sometimes I look at something and my hands are stuck, while at other times what happens in front of me seems natural enough to be frozen in an image because it shows nothing worse than what I have to expect for myself, because it doesn't shout against anyone. Frank Horvat : I was refering to the following step, when you look at your contact sheets. Mario Giacomelli : When I look at my contact sheets, it's as if I lived again through the shooting, except that certain things come to the foreground. The images I choose are the ones that seem closest to how I felt at the time, that best recreate the moments I want to preserve and to share, so that other people may learn to think a little better and to enjoy life a little more. Frank Horvat : My question was about your method. Suppose you have been photographing on Sunday, you developed your film on Monday and you printed the contacts on Tuesday. What goes on in your mind between Wednesday and following week-end? Do you say to yourself: "in this case I have shown what I wanted, in this other case I may do better next Sunday"? Until, after three years or five years, you feel that you have presented what you wanted to present? Mario Giacomelli : This is in fact what happens with other subjects, but not with the hospice. With the hospice, each photo is the souvenir of a day spent with these old people. I don't set programs, I just know that each Sunday will be different. For other subjects, yes, I make preparations. In the case of some landscapes I practically set them up, I ask the farmer to bring his tractor and I say to him: "I want you to make a furrow from this point to that". I almost build my photos, like paintings. While in the hospice I live them, as life itself, from one day to the next and with each experience teaching me something I didn't know before. Frank Horvat : Speaking of the landscapes, you told me you had moved more and more towards abstraction, until you got to a point where you felt the subject was exhausted. Mario Giacomelli : The hospice is like my own life, that goes on and on. While in the case of the landscapes, unfortunately, I came to a dead end. At one stage I decided to view them from a different perspective: not any more from the ground, as they are seen by the farmer who works on them, but from above. It was a different way of getting close to the subject, the land from above wasn't land anymore, but patterns, like the wrinkles of a hand or an old person's face. The farmer has his feet on the ground and plants his potatoes, ignoring that for me, up there, his toil has a different meaning and produces different emotions. The wrinkles of the land, as those of the skin, teach me

things that I didn't know, that he cannot imagine, of which even the pilot of my plane doesn't have an idea. As if someone, by magic, was lighting them with a different light. Some shapes are hidden in the shadows, others are enhanced by the sun, what appears on film is a different world, where landscape may become embroidery. If the farmer, who has abandoned that house, could see it from this height and realise how beautiful it can be, he may not have left it. Sometimes I wonder about the relation between the reality I photograph and the sign it becomes on my print. Are the old people's wrinkles still part of them, do they still contain their suffering?

Foto Mario Giacomelli

Frank Horvat : What you just said, about wrinkles on the land and on the skin, reminds me of the fact that you always go straight to some essential reality: the land, time, old age, suffering, love. That's why my first questions were about your essential tools, the eye and the camera. My next question will be about a third essential tool: words. In many cases you start from words - for instance from some poem that has touched you. I imagine that in such cases your reason for pressing the shutter - or for making your final choice from the contact sheets - is some equivalence between those words and your

image. Mario Giacomelli : Yes, an equivalence to what the word evoked for me. "Luna vedova per strade di mare" (widowed moon over sea roads) - isn't it a beautiful image? - "Io non ho piu sogni da dormire - nel bianco mattatoio di casa mia" (I have no more dreams to sleep with - in the white slaughterhouse which is my home). But my purpose is to re-tell, not to illustrate. I see the images suggested by the poet, but from there on I search for new emotions, as if somebody took me by the hand and led me along a path that looks familiar, but where in fact I have never been. At that point, images that seemed meaningless suddenly start breathing and talking to me. It's my emotion that tells me to press the shutter, because I know that there is something behind them, even tough the beauty of the image may not be obvious, or if the subject matter may seem poor, or even ludicrous. Like this other line: "Un muro vecchio e un cane solo" (an old wall and a lonely dog'). It is an almost silly image, anyone could invent it. But in me it brings out a particular emotion, as if everything was brought back to zero, as if I had to start from nothing. I don't see a dog or a wall any more, just myself, tiny and scared, very close to the end of my life - this life in which I thought I had so many more things to do. But it's hard to talk about all that, if I were really honest with myself, this kind of discussion should drive me stark mad. These are feelings one cannot explain, things that are beautiful - but that one should be ashamed to express. Would you explain an orgasm with your wife? Frank Horvat : There is something else I must ask you: here is this life passing by, with all those precious moments and those ten or twenty thousand photos that you took, each important for some reason. But amongst these photos, there are ten, twenty or maybe forty that have something special - let's call it grace. Like this one, that you took in the hospice, and that was published many times....

Foto Mario Giacomelli

Mario Giacomelli : Do you know why I find it beautiful? At first glance you see an old woman in the hospice. But if you look a little longer, what's left is neither the woman nor the hospice, only a white sea, with a boat floating on the waves. This photo couldn't exist if I hadn't cried so many times within myself, while looking at other events. But I wouldn't say it is more important than others. For me each photo represents a moment, like breathing, who can say the breath before is more important than the one after, they are continuous and follow each other until everything stops. How many times did we breath tonight? Could you say one breath was more beautiful than the rest? But their sum makes up an existence. Another image I like is this one: in one area it still conveys the taste of life, while in the other everything is deformed and decomposed. From here to there time has passed, here the shapes can still be made out, there only stains and dust remain. But from behind, in spite of everything, comes a light. I can feel all that, at least for a moment, even though this photo isn't really a good one. It contains all the anger of my questions: "why live, if death is so near?" I'm past sixty, which means that I bear sixty years of death on my shoulders, more death than life. Such ideas blend in with the shapes and the figures in my photos. Or look at that one, of the two old people kissing : like lovers, she takes his hands and strokes them. No tenderness could be greater than what is happening between this woman and this man. If I take such photos, it's because I would like people to look at them and to live differently. I wonder if these two persons have been capable, in their youth, of this same tenderness. How

many people live without knowing how to caress? How many women have died without ever experiencing orgasm? When I show this photo I'm showing myself, with everything I was unable to understand, everything I should have done differently, everything I would like to start over. Even so, this photo only expresses a tiny part of my feeling - which is why I have to take so many.

Foto Mario Giacomelli

Frank Horvat : But only a few are miracles, only in some instances does the frozen instant have the same impact as the flow it was taken from. The old woman like a boat is one of those miracles, she keeps afloat on the waves of life. Mario Giacomelli : Or maybe it's you who are inventing the miracle. A photo isn't only what you see, but also what your imagination adds to it. My own imagination may add something else, a third person's something else again. But does it matter? What matters is the contact between us, the fact that we talk about trees losing their leaves, about objects we crush underfoot without realising it, about that house dying gently, abandoned by its owner, even though it's the house where he was born, where he learnt to cry and to laugh. One of the walls has a crack which is growing, slowly, until one day the whole

will collapse. But I won't let it happen without being aware of it. Frank Horvat : So you check it once a week? Mario Giacomelli : And I count the days, as if I were to visit my son or my mother. I can talk to it, relate to it - while there are so many people to whom I've nothing to say, because all they can speak about is money. I never speak about money, though I never waste it, not even five lire. For me, the greatest wealth are those small useless objects that other people throw away, little things that don't mean anything to them. Like this house that is slowly cracking up. Every week it waits for me. People may say I'm mad, but I don't mind, as long I'm a madman who's aware of what goes on around him. The really mad ones, to me, are those who never notice. Not that I pretend to see everything, but I try to make out as much as I can, which is why I'm interested in small things. Big things stifle me, I'm not made for big things, I would rather look at the small ones through a magnifying glass.

Foto Mario Giacomelli

Frank Horvat : Which may be why your greatest photos were taken here, in this small town.

Mario Giacomelli : It's here I have to take them, because it's here that I breathe. You can't breathe a bit here, then a bit in a hotel and then a bit in Milano. Here I breathe continuously. Though it is true that by always staying in the same place you end up becoming insensitive to certain things. I've never been able, for instance, to take photos in the streets of my town, I never walk round here with a camera, few of my fellow townsmen even know me as a photographer. I hate being surrounded by nosey people. So I drive somewhere not too far away, just far enough to be plunged into a different world. That's how I make discoveries, just recently I discovered the smell of hay after the rain! Something I had never noticed, just imagine having lost fifty years of this! Can you see how many realities are waiting to be discovered, tiny realities, almost impossible to photograph, but which somehow may blend into my photos. Frank Horvat : In fact, without ever leaving Senigallia, you find ways of looking at things with a fresh eye. Earlier on, in the car, you said "I often take the wrong route, because routes, to me, are always new". Mario Giacomelli : : Because I always have the impression that something is being born, that something new is happening. People ask me "How can you take these photos?" What they don't understand is that it's not me choosing the images, it's the images choosing me. As if the landscape said to me "You fool, do you think it's you making me? Can't you see how beautiful I am on my own?" Some images stop you in your tracks and you try to understand them but in fact they come to you, like a pretty woman looking at you. You say to yourself "Isn't she lovely!" and if she doesn't turn the other way and if you feel she is willing, you think "Madonna! Maybe I'll get to kiss her!" It's the same with a landscape, you see it and think "Madonna!" To be sure the landscape can't run away, and yet I always fear that it may. In order to shoot at two and twenty-two (I had to memorise those numbers, because I never managed to understand them) I must set up my tripod, so I worry that the landscape may disappear the next second and I don't stop keeping an eye on it while I get prepared. Then, when pressing the shutter, I hold my breath. These moments are the greatest joys in my life, as if I were undressing the most beautiful woman in the world - that is, if she will allow herself be undressed. If the photo is a success, it means that she was willing. If not, it has been a lovely dream. E basta.

Senigallia, February 1987 Translated into English by Julia Mclaren

Hiroshi Hamaya

Born in Tokyo, on 28th March 1915. Freelance photo-journalist from 1937. Associated with Magnum from 1960. Travelled to Manchuria (1940), China (1942), the north of Japan (Village in the Snow, 1946), then to Europe and the United States. From 1973, worked on an aerial photography project, in colour, which took him to Nepal, Africa, Greenland, Antarctica, South America etc. Lived in Kanagawa, Japan. Deceased in 1999.

"I like the idea that my work isn't intended only for the Earth, but for the entire Universe!"

Frank Horvat : When I see your work - first Village in the Snow, then People of Japan, then the streets scenes in various countries and finally your aerial views from all over the world, that you call Faces of the Earth - I have the feeling that your whole life was devoted to a single project, a kind of gigantic photographic fresco, started in one spot of Japan, and progressively extended decade after decade, to wider and wider areas. Did you conceive it that way? If that's the case, and if today you consider the project as completed, you are indeed a very lucky man and a very privileged artist.

Photo Hiroshi Hamaya

Hiroshi Hamaya : It is true that photography has not only allowed me to earn my living, but also to meet different people, to learn about animals, trees and flowers that I didn't know about, to discover many changing aspects of the Earth and the Ocean. And what's more - and that seems to me the most important - it has allowed me to approach these entities in a friendly way. In this sense I feel a privileged person. Frank Horvat : But did you imagine, right from the beginning - even if only in a vague way - that your work would take on such dimensions? Were you conscious of a continuity between Village in the Snow, People of Japan andFaces in the Earth? Hiroshi Hamaya : I couldn't say that I have always seen my work as I do now. For years my only purpose was to do documentary photos for magazines, without any idea that they were part of a larger project. It was as if I were carried along by a stream - even though I believed that the current

was taking me in the right direction. But what you say is correct : in hindsight, the sum of my work could be seen as the result of an intention. Take all the portraits I did in the five decades between 1930 and 1980 : nearly all were commissioned by magazines and meant to illustrate particular occasions. But now that I see them all together, printed in a book, I feel as if I had always wanted to produce that book. Maybe this comes from the very nature of photography. Frank Horvat : I said to Marc Riboud that if a Martian asked me what was happening on Earth, I would first show him Cartier-Bresson's photos, and then his own documentary work. Today I would add that if the Martian wanted to know about the physical aspect of our planet, I would show him your aerial photographs.

Photo Hiroshi Hamaya

Hiroshi Hamaya : When I photographed Mount Everest, we were flying at 28,800 feet - which I think was a record for non-military photography. At one point, I needed a better angle, and almost instinctively I opened the door and hung out over the void. At that moment I was only thinking of my photo, but later, after we had landed, I shivered in retrospect. At the same time I said to myself that crashing into that glacier would have been a good way to die : my body would be preserved by the ice, long after the rest of humanity was obliterated by nuclear wars. And maybe one day some Martians would find Hamaya and his camera and wonder who that creature was and what it was up to. Frank Horvat : I guess it's for the same reason - to make them last longer that you have all your books printed on chemical-free paper. But possibly they would be even better preserved in a museum on Mars! Hiroshi Hamaya : I like the idea that my work isn't intended only for the Earth, but for the entire Universe! But it may not be representative enough for a museum on Mars, because I haven't photographed enough pretty girls! Will you introduce me to some when I come to Paris? And can we drink to that? Beaujolais Nouveau or sake? Frank Horvat : I would like to ask you a few more questions on this life-time project and the way it took shape. First of all about your education, your references… Hiroshi Hamaya : I am from the Ueno district, in the centre of Tokyo. When I was young, cameras were very much in fashion, as videos are now. I wanted to be a fashionable boy, a mobo‚ as we called it, meaning modern boy. First I got a job in a photographic company. Then, four years later, I became a freelance photo-journalist. Frank Horvat : But were you influenced by other photographers, as many of us have been by Cartier-Bresson, or as Cartier-Bresson himself was by Munkaczi and Kertesz? Did you admire any great writer or painter? Hiroshi Hamaya : I can't think of anyone in particular. But I do remember a friend of my father's, who had been abroad and had presented me with a camera. I remember the first time I touched that object, it was like a revelation. Frank Horvat : But have you ever been particularly impressed by any photos? Hiroshi Hamaya : Not that I remember. I really was self-taught. At school I didn't work well, I was bad at maths, bad at foreign languages, even bad at Japanese and painting. In part, this was due to the fact that after the great earthquake, my family had to move several times, so I had to change

schools. The subject I liked best was painting, but the teachers didn't approve of my experiments and sometimes criticised me in front of the whole class. Maybe my love for photography came from that humiliation: a photo is something that you develop and print yourself, in the dark, and that remains in the dark until you decide to show it. Of course, photography is less creative than painting : sometimes I tell myself that I'm not a very creative person, there isn't really anything that I can call my own creation, except maybe this house which I designed myself, and these few books I published. The fact that these objects exist gives me a little happiness… Frank Horvat : ...and you like to imagine them in a museum on Mars. Hiroshi Hamaya : ...but at the same time I know that photography is more a matter of finding than of creating. We wander round the world trying to find things and to decide they are important.

Photo Hiroshi Hamaya

Frank Horvat : We talked about the continuity in your work, but we must also speak about its evolution. When looking at Village in the Snow I can feel you physically close to your subjects, blinded by the same snowstorm or soaking in the same steambath. Then, over the years, you seem to move further away. In the case of the aerial photos, that may be due to your subject matter and to obvious technical reasons. But I also feel a distance when looking at

your street photography in various countries, which are more or less from the same period. I'm not meaning it in any negative way : observing reality from a distance may be another way of understanding it, a point of view that comes with maturity. Hiroshi Hamaya : It's true that I've moved further and further away - and now I'm aiming for Mars! But I don't like to think of it as a one-way movement, as you would say that an old person is moving away from this world. I have always worked by alternation. After landscapes, I photographed people. After women, men. After old people, children. While I was photographing landscapes, I also did a series on Japanese women, from Hokkaido in the North to Okinawa in the extreme South. My stability comes from change, and change means progress, according to Daiga Koriguchi, a Japanese poet who lived in France and was a friend of Jean Cocteau. I believe this, but even if change didn't mean progress, I would need it for it's own sake. Right now I'm working with an automatic camera. I don't really think it brings many advantages, but I like the change. Anyhow I've never considered photography to be an art. Frank Horvat : Many of us say so, but I wonder if we really believe it. Saying that photography isn't art makes us sound modest, while at the same time keeping us at some distance from a dangerous area… Hiroshi Hamaya : I am overjoyed to hear that. From now on I will say that photography is art. Shall we drink to that? To our good health! Frank Horvat : My next question may seem silly to you: how can a Japanese be an international photo-journalist? What I mean is : how can you travel round in the world, while only speaking a language that nobody understands? You may answer that, while in Japan, I am in a similar situation - but here many people understand English. Besides, I don't mean the language problem only : you Japanese seem more insular than we are, when you travel you tend to stick together, to eat in Japanese restaurants whenever you can, as if to keep a bit of Japan around you. Of course I'm thinking of tourists and businessmen, in your case it may be different. Still, when I see you sitting on a tatami in this traditional house, facing a cherry tree, dressed in a kimonoand drinking sake, I can't really imagine you in any other way. Hiroshi Hamaya : It's a fact that Japanese people are insular, but maybe I'm a bit less so than others - even though at school I was bad at English. For me, travelling abroad is no problem. Obviously, when in Paris, I don't expect to be taken for a Parisian. But in the US, for example, I don't feel very foreign. During my last trip, I travelled thirty thousand kilometres by car, and in some villages the Indians thought I was one of them and spoke to me in their language. The same happened in Alaska. The worst communication problem I experienced was right here, in Japan, while photographing Village in the Snow. In the eyes of those mountain people, I was just as foreign as you

would be. It was my hardest experience, and it was how I learnt to communicate with people who are very different from me. Now I am so used to it that I don't even realise there are differences. What also makes me feel at ease wherever I am is that I never feel inferior or superior to anyone. The shoeshine man at Shinjuku doesn't impress me any less nor any more than the Queen of Sweden, who awarded me the Hasselblad prize in Stockholm.

Photo Hiroshi Hamaya

Frank Horvat : To come back to your evolution, I have a delicate question. Out of your work, what I like best is Village in the Snow and Faces of the Earth - because they show me some aspects of the world that I didn't know and enrich me by that knowledge. I could say the same about some of your other photos of Japan and several of your portraits. On the other hand, your reportage photos abroad don't affect me in the same way. They show subjects I know already, either from personal experience or for having seen

them in other photos, and they don't give me any information that's new to me - except, possibly, that distance I feel between yourself and your subject. I wonder if their message isn't precisely that distance: maybe that's how a Martian would see St. Peter's Square. What do you think? Hiroshi Hamaya : Your criticism is justified. I was less involved in these photos than in others. Some were taken during trips I was invited on, and published simply to please my hosts, others are from my free moments between aerial photographs. I don't reject these images, I think they are honest representations of what I saw and felt. But I accept your criticism and thank you for your sincerity. Frank Horvat : My next question is a practical one. How could you organise and finance projects as costly as these aerial photographs over the Antarctic or Mount Everest? Hiroshi Hamaya : Some were commissioned by magazines, of course. But most of the money came from my wife's savings. A lot of money. The trip to the Antarctic alone cost 75,000 dollars. Frank Horvat : You are a very lucky man indeed! Hiroshi Hamaya : No longer. My wife died three years ago. To honour her memory and express my gratefulness to her, I scattered some of her ashes over the Himalayas and in the Ganges. Next year I intend to do the same in the Sahara. I would like to leave small parts of her in all the places that I was able to photograph thanks to her help. But what I would like even more is taking her so high up that she would stay in orbit and keep watching me from there. This is not just a metaphor, we used to consider it almost seriously: a few years ago, NASA announced that for a lot of money - maybe a million dollars - they could carry a small load into outer space. At the time we were thinking of my own death, and it was with that idea in mind that I half-jokingly asked my wife if she would accept sending my ashes into orbit. "We may get a discount" I said "because we only need a one-way ticket". She laughed and answered "Why bargain, we can leave the change to the astronaut, as a tip! " But what do you think of our sake? Frank Horvat : Excellent. But I have to ask you another difficult question. I arrived in Tokyo five days ago, and I am still under the shock of what I see. Never, not even in the US, have I seen such a concentration of human beings, of energy, of wealth - but at the same time I've never felt so threatened by such a disorganised proliferation and such a lack of harmony. From a photographer's point of view it's a challenge : how can I organise this mess, or at least make it a little more understandable? Does this question ever occur to you? Hiroshi Hamaya : As a photographer - and as a human being - I need a

certain dose of solitude. That's why I live in this suburb, a hundred kilometres from Tokyo. From time to time, I like to face the city and it's people, but I need some distance. Frank Horvat : I'll ask the question in a different way. You have spent a lifetime showing subjects that seemed important to you : the traditional life in your country, the transformations of this life, the faces of the Earth. But while you were completing this fresco, a new subject took shape, around you and right on your doorstep : this megalopolis that isn't only bigger and more populated than any human habitat ever - but totally different, with different social, ecological and psychological problems. Can this Babylon be the subject of a photographic essay? Can it be shown to the Martians? Hiroshi Hamaya : I've thought about it. In a few days, the last crowd of theShowa era will gather in front of the Imperial Palace. I will face it and photograph it. Frank Horvat : When the death of the Emperor is announced and theShowa era will be over? Hiroshi Hamaya : Yes, I will photograph this crowd, but right now I prefer not to think about it. Frank Horvat : Does that idea scare you? Do you need more courage to face the crowd in Tokyo than to hang out of a plane over Mount Everest? Hiroshi Hamaya : I have the courage to face them, but I don't want to judge them. A photographer's role is to show what words and other forms of expression can't convey. But please have some more sake. It is very specialsake, it comes from the district of Village in the Snow - which was also my wife's home district.

Tokyo, november 1988 Interprète : Goro Kuramochi, G.I.P, Tokyo Translated into English by Julia McLaren.

Joseph Koudelka

Born in Biskovice (Czechoslovakia), January 10, 1938. Studies aeronautical engineering. 1961: first voyage abroad (Italy). Meets Anna Farova, who introduces him to the history of photography. 1961-1967: photographs the gypsies of Czechoslovakia and makes theater photographs while earning a living as an aeronautical engineer. 1967: decides to devote himself exclusively to photography. 1968: reportage on the occupation of Prague by the Soviet army. 1970: leaves Czechoslovakia. 1971: member of Magnum. Lives in Paris.

"Sometimes I photograph without looking through the viewfinder, I have mastered that well enough, it is almost as if I were looking through it."

First interview, January 1987 Frank Horvat : You ask if I have made good use of my vision. I believe I have used it too little. Photographers like Henri (Cartier-Bresson) always have a camera with them and are looking all the time. I don't know how to do that. Right now, for example, I am not looking, my mind is occupied by words. Joseph Koudelka : What do you mean by "I am not looking"?

Frank Horvat : I am not looking with the idea to make a photograph. Joseph Koudelka : How are you looking? Frank Horvat : I am seeing only a few of things around me. Only those that I want to see. Joseph Koudelka : But to see what you want to see, you have to look. And to choose.. Frank Horvat : It seems to me that, to see "photographically", I have to prepare myself in advance. Possibly for a long time. For instance it would be difficult for me, on my way out from here, to make photos of Paris. To see, I would have to go to another city, say to New York, live in a hotel room by myself and start walking through the streets, at first without a camera. And little by little I would begin to see. In the same way, I wouldn't know how to make a portrait of a woman, just off the hip. I would have to think about her, to imagine her. She would have to prepare herself or to be prepared with someone's help. And even then, when I would eventually be facing her, with my camera, I might not feel ready. It could take me two or three hours to understand her, little by little, through the viewfinder. Joseph Koudelka : Perhaps because you want to understand. Me, I do not try to understand. For me, the most beautiful thing is to wake up, to go out, and to look. At everything. Without anyone telling me "You should look at this or that." I look at everything and I try to find what interests me, because when I set out, I don't yet know what will interest me. Sometimes I photograph things that others would find stupid, but with which I can play around. Henri as well says that before meeting a person, or seeing a country, he has to prepare himself. Not me, I try to react to what comes up. Afterwards, I may come back to it, perhaps every year, ten years in a row, and I will end by understanding. Frank Horvat : You prepare yourself in your way. I imagine that when you find a subject that interests you, your photo is, in a way, already prepared within you. As if you had set up a place into which it fits. Joseph Koudelka : What's "my photo"? Frank Horvat : Your photos often are recognizable, which is to say that they have something in common. Maybe the space between the figures, and the tensions within that space.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Joseph Koudelka : I don't know. But I interrupted you, you were speaking about yourself. Frank Horvat : If I have used my eyes well? I fear not having used my time well. Joseph Koudelka : That is the gist of my question. Your time, not only your eyes. Frank Horvat : Look, I met you in person only about an hour ago, though I am familiar with your photos and I remember a few things that I have been told about you. If I had to express the idea that I have of you, in a single sentence, I would say "He lives out of a sleeping bag." That would sum up your way of using your time, which is different from mine, and probably more efficient. It's not that I am dissatisfied with my own life. But I know that too often I have done things that didn't really interest me, or that distracted me from what I thought was my real purpose, because I forced myself to respond to the ideas or the desires of others. I believe that if I was allowed to move back and to relive some hours of my life, the moments I would choose would be those when I was photographing for myself, in the streets of New York or in India. Or even some moments in the studio, when making portraits. Joseph Koudelka : Personally, I have had the good fortune of always being able to do what I wanted, never working for others. Maybe it is a silly

principle, but the idea that no one can buy me is important for me. I refuse assignments, even for projects that I have decided to do anyhow. It is somewhat the same with my books. When my first book, the one on the gypsies, was published, it was hard for me to accept the idea that I could no longer choose the people to whom I would show my photos, that any one could buy them. Frank Horvat : What are your points of reference - I mean in literature, in painting, in music? Joseph Koudelka : There are a few things that I like very much, but that I do not practice. I have always played music, and I would like to listen to it more than I do, but I don't have the opportunity, due to the lack of time and place. When I was a kid, I did a lot of reading, then a little less during my studies, and hardly any since I left Czechoslovakia - always for the same reason, because I do not have a place of my own. When I travel, I don't even know where I am going to sleep, I don't think of the place where I will lie down until the moment I roll out my sleeping bag. It's a rule that I've set for myself. Because I told myself that I must be able to sleep anywhere, since sleep is important. In the summer I often sleep outdoors. I stop working when there is no more light, and I start again in the early morning. I do not feel this to be a sacrifice, it would be a sacrifice to live otherwise. As for my points of reference, I don't know what they would be. Frank Horvat : But, in the world, what seems important to you? Joseph Koudelka : Questions about the world are difficult for me. I mistrust words. I come from a system where words have no value. I got used to not listening much to what people say. Or rather, I listen to them, but I give less importance to what they say, than to the way in which they say it. When someone declares: "I am a communist", (or a socialist, or an anarchist), that means nothing to me. What counts is what people do. Frank Horvat : But what else counts for you? Is it important that your photos be preserved after your death? Joseph Koudelka : It never seemed important to me that my photos be published. It's important that I take them. There were periods where I didn't have money, and I would imagine that someone would come to me and say: "Here is money, you can go do your photography, but you must not show it." I would have accepted right away. On the other hand, if someone had come to me saying: "Here is money to do your photography, but after your death it must be destroyed", I would have refused. Do you understand? Frank Horvat : What matters is that the photos exist. Joseph Koudelka : Absolutely. Not that they be published or that people

admire me. To be known can even be a nuisance. I don't like to feel like the center of attention. I often travel to a horse market in the north of England, where I know just about everyone. When they see me they ask: "Your book, when does it come out? I will never see it, I will be dead before then." And it may be true, some are dead already. But I can always bring to a son the photo of his father, to an old man the photo of when he was not so old. What counts is that the work exists. Besides, I am not someone who likes his own photos very much. Frank Horvat : But I have been told that you put them on the wall to see if you can live with them. Joseph Koudelka : I did that in Czechoslovakia, and I would do it again if I had a home. I lived all the time with the photos of the gypsies. If you live all the time with a thing, and you go on looking at it, you end up either by getting tired of it, or by being sure that it satisfies you. For me a good photo is one that I can live with. It's like living with good music or a good person.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Frank Horvat : Maybe because photography is made essentially of time. I often think that what we show is a point in time, more than a window onto space. Joseph Koudelka : The philosophic aspects of photography don't interest

me. What interests me are its limits. I always photograph the same people, the same situations, because I want to know the limits of those people, of those situations, and also my own limits. It's not so important that I succeed in making a photo the first time, nor the fifth, nor the tenth. Frank Horvat : I know that when you were photographing the gypsies you often went back to the same places, to the homes of the same families. Joseph Koudelka : I had a specific circuit, where I found the same type of situation again and again. It is what I still try to do, but now it's gotten more complicated. I have neither a car, nor even a driver's license, though I hope to get them. When one works as I do, health problems can become a limitation. Some years ago, I suffered from back pains and the doctor told me: "That comes from your lifestyle." So I took care of myself and recovered, but I know that there will be a time when I will no longer be able to live as I do. When I was thirty, I kept telling myself that at forty a photographer is finished. Possibly this was only to force myself to take advantage of my time. Now I am almost fifty. I still make some good photos and I hope to carry on. But I believe that the truly creative periods are those when you live with intensity. If you lose intensity, you lose everything. Frank Horvat : But is it a matter of age? The portraits of women, that I made these last years, are perhaps the project into which I have put the most intensity. Joseph Koudelka : For me, there are few portraits that I truly admire. One time, a funny thing happened : I was near Rome with a pilgrimage of gypsies from Yugoslavia, organized by some Catholic priests. Not actually priests, but some kind of laymen, they earned their living and were nice people. In talking with me, they found out that I was the author of the book about gypsies. They told me that they had a copy of it and that they had cut out the pages, to put them up on the walls of a shack that they used for a chapel. And under each photo the gypsies wrote the name of someone they knew. Frank Horvat : They knew the actual people that you had photographed? Joseph Koudelka : No, they knew others, in Yugoslavia, who resembled them. "We know you very well" they said to me, "we call you Iconar". That reminded me of something that I had said to Henri, one of the first times we met, and that made him really laugh: I said that rather than a photographer, I was a collector of photos. Frank Horvat : Is that your reason for always going back to the same places? Joseph Koudelka : It's the reason why photography was easier in the beginning. It's like a dart game: at the beginning, you can toss them

anywhere, they will always be well placed. Wherever you hit is the right place( in English in the original). But once you start building something, you realize that certain pieces are missing. Frank Horvat : So, when you return to those same places, it's with the idea of completing a series, of which some pieces are still missing? Joseph Koudelka : I have a general idea. But as I cannot go everywhere, I limit myself to a few countries in Europe that I feel are close to my way of being: like Spain, Ireland, Italy, Greece. I often return there and I hope to continue returning until I will feel sure of having reached the limits of my possibilities. But I would rather not talk about projects.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Frank Horvat : Will this work be as important as what you did in Czechoslovakia? Joseph Koudelka : I don't know what's important to the people who look at my photos. What's important to me is to make them. I work all the time, but there are only a few of my photos that I find really good. I am not even sure that I am really a good photographer. I think that anyone working as I do could do the same. But my purpose is not to prove my talent. I photograph almost every day, except when it's too cold for traveling the way I do - as in

this time of winter. Sometimes my photos are OK, other times they are not, but I think that eventually something will come out of my work. I don't worry about it. I also take photos of my own life, such as those at the beginning of the small paperback book: of my feet, of my watch. When I am tired I lie down, and if I feel like photographing and there is nobody around me, I photograph my own feet. They are not great photos, some people dislike them. For a similar reason, I always photograph the places where I sleep, and the interiors where I spend some time. It's a rule that I have given to myself, because these are things that one forgets. Maybe one day I'll make a book with them, nothing but those little photos. It may upset some people who know me only as the photographer of gypsies, and who don't want to see me any other way. But I don't care about what people think, I don't try to change people. Nor to change the world.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Second interview, March 1987 Frank Horvat : You said that you were not very happy with our first interview. I re-read the text, and also I re-read my earlier interviews with other photographers. This made me realize that in the course of these meetings, I partly lost sight of my initial purpose, which was to talk about photography, rather than about photographers. Nonetheless, I would like to begin with a

personal comment. I know several people who consider you somehow as their conscience. I know that you are not trying to play the role of guru, but it is your severity toward yourself which leads other people to look at themselves with less indulgence. Joseph Koudelka : You say I am a conscience. That's the last thing I want to be. It sounds as if I judge others, as if I feel superior. I have only been lucky. Because, at the beginning, I was an aeronautical engineer and was able to do photography without the need to be paid. Later, I continued to be lucky, by having the opportunity to work for eighteen years, without having to accept even a single assignment. But this is no reason to make anyone feel at fault, because my way of doing photography is only one among many - and perhaps not even the best. Frank Horvat : I would like to see some prints of your work, for example some from the last year, that you said were not quite satisfying to you. And I would like you to explain why. Joseph Koudelka : I don't see any reason for doing that. If I am dissatisfied, it's simply because good photos are few and far between. A good photo is a miracle. Frank Horvat : But it may be is easier to explain why a photo is not so good, than to explain why it's good. Joseph Koudelka : But what if almost all are bad? For you, making photos is different, you like to direct. In my case, all depend on what happens, I have to find a situation that interests me. That is why I keep coming back to the same places. But often what I expect doesn't happen, or it happens without my being able to make a good photo. Frank Horvat : But what do you mean by "good"? Joseph Koudelka : "Good" is when a situation is at its maximum, and when I myself am at my maximum. It may happen that I reach that maximum the very first time, by chance, and that I return to the place another ten times, over ten years, without being able to do any better. Or that in looking for a certain maximum I find something else, that I hadn't imagined. What matters is my search, my motivation to go further. But I can not sell this way of working to a magazine, I can't expect them to send me ten times to Lourdes, and to have me come back with some photo that has nothing to do with Lourdes! Frank Horvat : Was the Prague Spring a maximum? It certainly was an event for which you couldn't prepare yourself and that had little chance of

happening again.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Joseph Koudelka : It has been the maximum of my life. In ten days, everything that could happen in my life did happen. I was at my own maximum, in a situation at its maximum. That may have been the reason why I "covered" it better than all those professional reporters, who had come from all over the world. I wasn't even a photo journalist. Someone - who in fact knew me rather well - had written about me that I could succeed in any kind of photography, except reportage. Frank Horvat : Were you aware of it being a maximum, while you were living it? Did you tell yourself every morning: "These days are my maximum, too bad if they cost my life?" Joseph Koudelka : I wasn't thinking about danger. Later, some people who had seen me in front of the tanks said that I could have been killed. But I never thought of that. Even though in ordinary life I am far from brave.

Photo Josef Koudelka

Frank Horvat : Actually, I was mistaken in saying that you were not prepared: the work that you had done during the ten preceding years had been a kind of preparation. Without that work, you wouldn't have been able to photograph the Prague Spring as you did. Joseph Koudelka : Certainly not. But I do not agree with what that person had written about me. I don't care what people think, I know well enough who I am. But I refuse to become a slave to their ideas. When you stay in the same place for a certain time, people put you in a box and expect you to stay there. Frank Horvat : What seems important to me, is that during those days you knew precisely how to see, because you had spent the ten preceding years in training your vision. Joseph Koudelka : I agree with that. But I don't pretend to be an intellectual or a philosopher. I just look. Frank Horvat : And you spend your life looking and saying "yes" or "no" to what you see, by releasing or not releasing the shutter, by choosing or not choosing a contact. It is like the binary system of computers, except with many more a "no" than a "yes". What seems interesting to me, are the ten years of "yes" and "no" that prepared you to make, at the moment of the Prague Spring, photographs that others didn't make. Even though the events

were the same for all. Joseph Koudelka : Another reason was that I hadn't been parachuted into Prague, like the rest. I was a Czechoslovakian, I was photographing in the country whose language I spoke, whose problems were my own problems. And I was working for myself. Too often people with some talent go where there is some money to be made. They begin to trade a bit of their talent for a bit of money, then a little more, and finally they have nothing left to themselves. In Czechoslovakia we didn't have many freedoms, and particularly not the freedom to make money. But that led us to choose professions that we really loved. I always photographed with the idea that no one would be interested in my photos, that no one would pay me, that if I did something I only did it for myself. Frank Horvat : I understand. But what seems the most important to me is what you just said about the maximum. Someone else might have made a few well composed photographs, from behind a tree, and then gone home. You went forward, to search further. Because you had a certain idea of that maximum. Joseph Koudelka : The maximum was in the air. I knew that all the things that could happen in my life were happening. There was a girl I kept running into all the time. At first I was suspicious of her, I imagined KGB spies everywhere. Then that girl approached me, opened her bag and said : "I meet you all the time, you must not have eaten for three days." So I fell in love with her. Everything that could happen did happen. I met all the people whose existence I had imagined. The power of the situation was so great, that it created all those possibilities. Frank Horvat : Yes, but if you had not been prepared by the work of the ten preceding years, the situation might have brought you the same intensity, the same love story, but not the same photos. Joseph Koudelka : That comes from my way of working. After having seen my contacts, I do not only print the good photos, but all those that seem to me of some interest, even if I know that they are botched. And I keep looking at them, so as to integrate that experience into my system. Now I can almost photograph without looking through the viewfinder, I have mastered it so well, that it's almost as if I were looking through it. What I want is to find a passage from the unconscious to the conscious. When I photograph, I do not think much. If you looked at my contacts you would ask yourself: "What is this guy doing?" But I keep working with my contacts and with my prints, I look at them all the time. I believe that the result of this work stays in me and at the moment of photographing it comes out, without my thinking of it. Frank Horvat : Like a computer program. You spend a lot of time preparing your program, so that at a given moment, in front of a very complex situation,

that program permits you to react instantly and correctly. Joseph Koudelka : I would have liked to show you a kind of catalog that I made ten years ago, where I classified my photos according to their composition. If there is something that you like and that you are interested in, and if, in addition, you have some ability and a little energy to spend, it's bound to work. The program will function. But what is important, afterwards, is to leave the program behind and to move ahead. It would be too easy to let yourself become a prisoner of what you have built, to let the results come out automatically. At some point, one must destroy the program, and start a new one from scratch. Frank Horvat : Yes. When I was doing my essay on trees, I realized that as my work was proceeding, my program would get more and more precise, to the point that in the end it became a limitation, making me do the same photographs over and over! Joseph Koudelka : I am not interested in repetition. I don't want to reach the point from where I wouldn't know how to go further. It's good to set limits for oneself, but there comes a moment when we must destroy what we have constructed. Frank Horvat : I agree that we should change the program, but I believe that there are some principles that we shouldn't touch. Joseph Koudelka : Which principles? Frank Horvat : If only I knew! If I do these interviews, it is precisely to find out. One principle could be to always aim for a maximum, as you say. I know photographers who have given up on that. They do a good job, showing what they choose to show, and what indeed is the representation of some reality, but to me that is not enough. Joseph Koudelka : And why do you think some people give up searching for the maximum? Frank Horvat : I only know one answer, which scares me: because they don't have enough energy left. Joseph Koudelka : That scares me, too. We already talked about it in our first meeting, and I told you that the limit could be around forty. It happens to all of us. Frank Horvat : On the other hand, Titian made some of his best paintings at eighty. And so did Renoir, Rodin, Picasso. But painting may be a different

matter... Joseph Koudelka : Possibly. It's also true that Kertesz made some beautiful photos in his last years - but those were not the kind of photos we are talking about, which demand a certain physical fitness, if only to seek out the situations. It seems to me that in painting there is less difference between a masterpiece and a work that is not altogether a masterpiece. Or at least less difference than in photography: because in painting technique is more important. Frank Horvat : Whereas photography depends on the intensity of the moment. I have great admiration for people like Munkasci, who worked with large format cameras, which allowed them to make only one photo in a given situation. He could never give himself a second chance. Joseph Koudelka : You may be right. But I am the product of a different era. If I couldn't shoot lots of photos, I would not be the photographer that I am. Still, the cost of film h as often been a problem. At times, to save money, I had to work with remainders of movie-film, and even to buy film that was stolen. But when I have only three rolls of film left in my bag, I panic. Frank Horvat : I understand that. Sometimes I shoot fifteen rolls in two hours, just for a studio portrait. But that does not keep me from feeling that each sitting is a unique event, which can never be repeated. Joseph Koudelka : When I wake up in the morning, and I feel good, I tell myself: "Today may be the last day of my life." That is my sense of urgency. But I keep wondering about what you just said, that I am a conscience. People have told me that. People much younger than myself have told me: "I would like to work as you do." Frank Horvat : Only they don't. Joseph Koudelka : Perhaps because they have an idea of me that doesn't correspond to reality. When I left Czechoslovakia, I used to live on milk, bread and potatoes. It became something I was known for. So much that once, at the home of some friends in Holland, whom I was visiting, they put in front of me a plate of potatoes, while they treated themselves to goulash. I don't want to be the slave of my legend! Frank Horvat : You refuse to be the slave of money, the slave of your legend... Are you the slave of something? Joseph Koudelka : I am the slave of my mind. I travel alone, I sleep outdoors. Even when I get a lift in someone's car, I separate myself from that person in the morning, and only join up again in the evening. When I arrived

in the West, I didn't speak the local languages, so even when I had the money I didn't know how to get served in a restaurant. I'm still unable to write French, I feel like an immigrant worker. I have spent much of my time by myself, with the result that I'm stuck with certain ideas, that may not always fit with reality. I am the slave of these ideas. Frank Horvat : But don't you think that the real slavery is the one that we choose? Being a slave to money, as I am, is to some extent the result of a choice. The limits of your mind may be something that you have chosen. Joseph Koudelka : I was born with this mind. It comes from someone who was there before me. But in a certain sense, I chose to be as I am, and it is to this degree that I do not feel it as slavery. It may seem slavery to others, who see me from outside-but for me it's freedom. Which doesn't mean that it couldn't change: now I'm the father of a little girl, and I have to earn money like everyone else. I am fifty years old, it's the time of reckoning. I have done what I wanted, now I have to make good use of the time and energy that are left. Look: all these files contain my contact sheets - which doesn't mean that they contain many good photos, only that I have done a lot of work. It will take years to really look at all that. Even if I fall ill, or if I am immobilized for some other reason, there is plenty of work to be done.

Paris, January and March 1987 Translation: Department of City University

Charles Comparative Literature, of New York,

Queens April

Martin, College, 2003

Don McCullin

Born in London, 9th October 1935. Studies painting, then works in a restaurant-wagon. 1953-1955: photographer in the Royal Air Force. 1955: first reportage, about a juvenile gang in his neighbourhood. From 1961: war photographer, mainly for the Observer and the Sunday Times (Cyprus, Viet-nam, Cambodia, Congo, Biafra, Israel, Northern Ireland). After a reportage about the massacre in Sabra and Shatila (Lebanon) decides to quit war photography and to photograph landscapes. Lives in Somerset, England.

"It wasn't my fault if in Sabra and Shatila the light was almost biblical, if what happened in front of my eyes was like a scene out of Goya."

Frank Horvat : I must begin by telling you that I don't feel qualified to talk about war photography, because I have never been in a war. Of course this is not something to complain about - but it means that there are things that I don't know, things that I have missed. When I was ten years old, I was in one of those jewish situations that were typical at the time, where all one thought of was how to avoid getting hit. Actually we were comparatively safe, we had found refuge in Switzerland, which wasn't occupied by the Germans. My main problem were the other boys in school, who harassed me because I was Jewish, and also because I was a fat, awkward kid, who didn't speak their dialect and didn't know how to hit back. I avoided confrontation as long as I could, but one day their gang surrounded me on my way home. In retrospect I must say that they were not unfair, only one came forward to fight me, and he was smaller than myself. But he knew how to use his fists, so I was me who got most of the beating. The reason why I am telling you this story is because, when it was all over and I was again alone, heading home and counting my bruises, I felt as happy as I hadn't felt in a long time : now I had

found out what it was like, and I knew that I could live through it. This is what I mean by saying, about war and suffering in war : "I have missed something". Don McCullin : It's a good story. I have never avoided confrontations. I could stand up to the biggest man. Of course I may be afraid of him, but I wouldn't show it, I wouldn't let a soldier, who is hitting me, see that I am afraid. But you ought not to regret your upbringing, it probably gave you what my upbringing didn't give me. Some people who have read my text in Homecoming think that I am articulate. But I didn't actually write it, I spoke it into a tape recorder, and I had to struggle for each and every word. I grew up in total ignorance, poverty and bigotry, and this has been a burden for me throughout my life, there is still some poison that won't go away, as much as I try to drive it out.

Photo Don McCullin

Frank Horvat : The first thing I thought of your photographs in Homecoming

was : "they are self-portraits". The most obvious self-portraits, in my opinion, are the Man with the Doves and Mister Britain. Did you ever think of them as self-portraits ?

Photo Don McCullin

Don McCullin : I was mocking Mister Britain, but I was paying a lot of respect to the Man with the Doves. He was a miner. I thought : "here is a man grown up in the ugliest landscape of the British Isles, caressing these symbols of beauty and freedom". What I would consider my self-portrait, if I had to, would be the Irish tramp who looks like Neptune. Because of his melancholy, his dignity. It is difficult to associate the word "dignity" with conditions such as I photograph, yet dignity is what I try to show. I find it most in the people who suffer the most, they seem to marshal the energy of dignity, because they will not surrender. Like the Biafran mother with the child at her breast, you cannot

imagine a more dignified human being.

Photo Don McCullin

Frank Horvat : The other thing that your photographs suggest to me is crucifictions. Don McCullin : They are, in a way. I am a professed atheist, until I find myself in serious circumstances. Then I quickly fall on my knees, in my mind if not literally, and I say : "Please God, save me from this". Once I was taken to a prison in Uganda by Idi Amin's soldiers, and beaten, another time I was under very heavy shellfire in Cambodia. I thought : "I will pray to God to get me out of this". And I did get out. There is no doubt that my photographs have a very strong religious overtone, they are like twentieth century icons. When human beings are suffering, they tend to look up, as if hoping for salvation.

And that's when I press the button. Frank Horvat : We all carry the crucifiction within us, whether we are Christians or not. We have seen it in so many representations… Don McCullin : But the representation that I operate seems unfair. I tend to use the crucifiction as a form of convenience. As you may have read inHomecoming, I grew up in a very harsh way, I was badly treated by the system in England, which was run by the last of the Victorian schoolmasters, who were bloody cruel. We had church assembly, in the morning, to sing hymns. Then the masters would come and beat us, for not cleaning our shoes or not doing this or that. I grew up bitter about religion, I don't attend church - but in my mind there is doubt about whether I should. Because I am a compassionate person, and one cannot be compassionate and be divorced from religion at the same time. On the other hand, working for media involves manipulation. I have been manipulated, and I have in turn manipulated others, by recording their response to suffering and misery. So there is guilt in every direction : guilt because I don't practice religion, guilt because I was able to walk away, while this man was dying of starvation or being murdered by another man with a gun. And I am tired of guilt, tired of saying to myself : "I didn't kill that man on that photograph, I didn't starve that child." That's why I want to photograph landscapes and flowers. I am sentencing myself to peace. Frank Horvat : When I look at your photographs I think : "He is compassionate, but in the first place he is compassionate about himself, all these crucified people are himself". But of course one could say the same about Rembrandt or Goya. Don McCullin : But are we not meant to be as Christ was on the cross ? Maybe human beings like crucifying themselves. Frank Horvat : By their feeling of guilt ? But then, having witnessed all that suffering, and shared some of it, don't you come to the conclusion that suffering is something that belongs to our life, that we all have to face at some point ? Which is not to say that the misery you witnessed should be accepted as inevitable. Don McCullin : I agree. In fact I feel as if the last twenty years of my life had been a total waste. People will not change. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't fight to create a better climate, possibly by making statements about other subjects than death and misery. I didn't want to be a war photographer in the first place, I wanted to show landscapes and peace, which is what I am doing now - and which I find much harder than photographing war. It doesn't take much eyesight to photograph someone dying in front of you. Frank Horvat : I am not sure of that. There have been many photographs of

war and misery, but your work stands out. In most of your photographs the eye is drawn to a center, which is a center of suffering… Don McCullin : Like the face of the child standing on a chair and waiting for dinner, in that house in Bradford.

Photo Don McCullin

Frank Horvat : …a center to which the other elements relate. Not always according to Cartier-Bresson's geometry. Your composition is a geometry of feeling, where a suffering face is not just a surface, a circle or a triangle which has to relate to other cercles or triangles. Don McCullin : You know why ? Because I feel that person's pain and I transfer it onto myself. When people look at me as if to say : "Help me" and they can't speak because their jaw is shattered, I try to respond with my eyes, I make my eyes say : "I hear you, I see you, I wish I could help you". But at the same time I am photographing them and I feel shabby, I know that, instead of helping, I am an unnecessary burden to them. I also know that, more often than not, the people I photograph will die, because whatever help may come will be too late. So when I operate alone I try to approach them with dignity. But there is no way of being dignified with dozens of newsmen around, pushing and shoving and punching each other over one injured soldier, shouting to another : "you spoilt my picture", while almost depriving

the man from the oxygen around him. I look at them and think : "Who are these people ?" At night, in Beirut, they used to meet at the bar, talking about day-rates. Or someone would say to another one : "If you get the cover, you buy us champagne". Frank Horvat : Like the Roman soldiers playing dice under the cross. Don McCullin : That's our parallel. They made me feel unclean. Then one day a Palestinian woman hit me, and that blow made me understand that my time was up, that I had to get away from these situations. Frank Horvat : I would like to define a dividing line. On one side are all these representations of suffering, that artists have held up to us over the centuries, as a mirror of our own pain and death. On the other side are the photographs of murder and war, published by cheap magazines. There is a similarity, in as much as these photographs affect the spectator for a similar reason : he understands that what they show could happen to him. But there is also a great difference. Could we define this difference ? Don McCullin : Dont you think that some human beings are closer than others to the energies of the universe ? This may sound ridiculous, but I know that I have a perception of coincidences, which has allowed me to get close to certain situations and to come away alive. Frank Horvat : Eugene Smith said that he had an uncanny foreknowledge of what was going to happen Don McCullin : I was about to use the very same word. I have an uncanny way of being at the right place at the right time. And if the time is not right, I can be patient, stay in that place for hours, willing things to come. The other day I went to photograph the sea, in the West of England. I sat for two hours, looking into the water, willing the clouds to go where I wanted them, until they did just that, and I took one picture and I went home. Of course I don't will other people's death or misery, photographing that is easy, it doesn't require any will. It's much more difficult to photograph peace. Frank Horvat : In many of your landscapes there is some water in the foreground, reflecting the sky, as if the sky was on earth as well as above. Is that your idea of peace ?

Photo Don McCullin

Don McCullin : To me the sky means energy. I want to bring energy into my peace pictures. On the other hand, my favourite time to photograph landscape is evening, I cannot avoid wanting everything to go dark, dark, dark. I also like wind and rain, it messes up my equipment, but I like being in the rain. Frank Horvat : I would like to come back to that dividing line. What is the dividing line between a crucifiction by Rembrandt and a war photograph in the Daily Mirror ? You may not be putting it into those words, but don't you ask yourself a question of this kind, when you have to select photographs that should represent your work ? Don McCullin : One difference is that the pictures in the magazines involve exploitation. The reader is exploited, the people who are photographed are exploited, the photographer is exploited, as I was by the publishers who allowed me to risk my life. When I came back to the office and showed the

pictures, they would say : "God, that's terrible : make it a double page spread!" or : "That's awful, it's a good cover!". And I didn't mind, because it gave me an opportunity to go to the next war. I was like on a high. Frank Horvat : But now that it's over Don McCullin : It's not over, it will never be. I will never get through one of my living days, without these flashes coming back into my mind. I cannot walk here in Belgravia, or into Harrod's, or in Somerset, without it coming back constantly, like a television replay. Men in a doorway, crying, because these Christians in Beirut were loading their magazines to murder them, and did, in front of me, blew them away. I was with Gilles Caron when they executed two. We looked at each other and narrowed our eyes and didn't say a word for the rest of the day. Frank Horvat : What I wanted to ask was : now you are in your darkroom and you wonder : "should this photograph exist ?" How do you decide ? Don McCullin : I can tell you which pictures seem to me more meaningful. One is the Biafran mother. Another one is the Indian family, with the woman lying on a stretcher. She had died of cholera, the children were crying and banging the ground, I was looking up to the sky, trying not to let them see that I was crying. I am very emotional, but people don't know this, I am expected to be the big tough John Wayne of war photography - which I don't want to be. The man kept saying : "What will I do, how will I feed my children ?" So I did something which to this day I don't feel good about : I gave him a fistful of money from my pocket. I felt unclean after that, I thought that if he had thrown it back into my face, he would have been justified. This man had five children, the smallest being a baby in his arms, like my baby, and his dead wife was lying in front of him. To me these are documents. They don't belong to the category of icons, they are not untouchable works of art, to be hung on a wall. Even if they look like an icon. It wasn't my fault if in Sabra and Shatila the light was almost biblical, if what happened in front of my eyes was like a scene out of Goya. I wasn't there to make icons. I had to bring back information, that could possibly prevent other such miseries. I don't want to be called an artist, I don't have the right to practice creativity at the expense of human suffering. Nevertheless I shoot my pictures to the best of my ability. But I am not going to any more battlefields. I may go into the streets again and photograph city people. But most probably this will draw me again to the derelict, I cannot keep away from derelict human beings.

Photo Don McCullin

Frank Horvat : There is something that I would like to say to you, though you may not be able to accept it - not today. I wonder whether you are not worrying about the wrong thing, by believing that the purpose of your work is to alert public opinion about certain problems, in the hope that this may bring some solution. The public's reactions are blunted, and even if they weren't, they wouldn't carry much weight. But what photographs such as yours can do, is to help individual people cope with their own personal suffering. Which is what art has always done, whether you accept the word or not. Don McCullin : Eugene Smith was in the icon business. There is no more classical icon than the dead man surrounded by those women, in the Spanish Village. One couldn't come closer to a Goya.. Frank Horvat : And the Mother with the Sick Girl in Minamata. Don McCullin : That was the last great thing he did, several years before he died. It must have tormented him, because after that photograph he had nowhere to go. He described the taking of it, the bath-house - of course it was all very set up, but that doesn't matter. He said : "I just gave it the kiss of the strobe". Because it was dark in the bath-house, and what was needed was "the kiss of the strobe". He recognized this photograph as his arrival, which was also his end. But my own photographs don't belong to the same league. All there is, is that I have become aware of a limited number of attitudes, by which human bodies manifest their sufferings - there are only so many things one can do with two arms and two legs - and that I know when to expect

them. Like the attitude of women in the Middle East spreading their arms in distress, as in a Michelangelo. I did not have to be a Michelangelo to photograph them, in Sabra and Chatila, all the classical icons were happening in front of me, I could have photographed them with my eyes closed.

Photo Don McCullin

Frank Horvat : Except that the other photographers who where there didn't get the same photographs. Just being there wasn't enough. Don McCullin : What was needed was to harness some dignity, in front of people who were making us look like mongrel dogs fighting over bones unfortunately their bones. I tried, in my sincerest way, even by the way I held my camera, by the way I held my body, by my expression, to show them that I knew what their day had been. I didn't wear fishing jackets, paparazzi jackets, or whatever. Just as when I photograph poor people in England I don't come out of a hotel and go straight into a poor family's home. Sometimes I talk them into letting me sleep in one of their dirty old beds, in some empty room. Also I wasn't worrying about the seven o'clock plane, to make the Lifedeadline on Wednesday. I never airfreight my film, I travel back with it, as with a newborn child, that I wouldn't entrust to anybody. Frank Horvat : And when you are back in your darkroom - what happens

there ? Don McCullin : It's the womb, really. I let the outside world in if I need it, I don't let it in if I don't. The energy inside that room, in terms of my own vibrations, of my thought patterns, my blood patterns, is such that my feet are hardly touching the ground. Every piece of paper that I put into the developer is magic to me, every time I waste a sheet I feel guilty. Do you know how many prints I do, in a whole day's work ? Five, if I'm lucky. It's the same with film, I may shoot only thirty rolls on a three weeks assignment. I don't work with motor drives, I use film with the utmost respect. Recause I believe in the forces of willing and will-power. You can only demand respect from the energies around us if you practice respect yourself. You might think that this is a lot of bullshit, but I do practice it. Photography will screw you every time it gets a chance to screw you, every time you put a roll into the camera. Photography is there for the taking, it's all out there - but it does not belong to me. I have to respect it, because it's so much bigger than I am, it's like the sea. Sometimes I come back and find that the film has been damaged or that the camera's back has been leaking. I don't get angry, I don't smash the camera, I just laugh and think : "It didn't respect me, I wasn't meant to have it". Frank Horvat : I sometimes think of photography as some goddess, who gives her presents or doesn't, according to a whim which has little to do with my deserving. Don McCullin : But I am very good at seducing the goddess - or have been. Though I don't believe that one is meant to do more than one really good picture a year - or maybe just one in a life-time. To be consumed by your work is not a bad thing, but it's not always a good thing. Sometimes I brake off and go out and get raging blind drunk. I suppose that I can't handle the peace process. In the course of a year I used to go to four or five different wars around the world. Now I find normality a bit of a problem. Frank Horvat : When you say : "Only one good photograph a year" you are setting the standard pretty high. But isn't this in contradiction with : "I don't make icons" ? Don McCullin : A lot of what I say are contradictions. I am not an intellectual. But you are right, I am striving for some form of perfection. Frank Horvat : You recognize perfection as something that matters. Of course it cannot weigh up other people's suffering. But couldn't one imagine that in some miraculous way, on scales beyond our knowledge, the perfection of an icon does weigh up some of the suffering ? And some of the guilt ? Don McCullin : That would be the equivalent of a biblical miracle. I have been a photographic leper for the last twentyfive years of my life,

photographing poverty and misery. It would be as if miraculously I had been cured, as if I had received my features back. But wouldn't that be a painful indulgence ? If I thought that I can pay off my guilt by taking a meaningful picture, I would be clearing myself at the expense of the victim. As things stand, I feel that all these negatives in my house, charged with all that misery, all that pain, don't sit happily in their metal container. Their energy creates an uneasiness in the atmosphere, that doesn't let me sit and read, that makes me fidgety, that pushes me to pick and wipe and clean. There is something not right about me, a nervous, uncontrolable energy. What I am saying is that by now I should really be raving mad. If I was a more intellectual person, if I had been to university, I would not have been able to withstand what I have seen, I would have broken like a dry twig. My rough beginning may have helped me keep the balance. I believe that I am really, basically, a reasonably sane person. Frank Horvat : Don't you think that what kept you from madness was also something that has to do with your work ? Don McCullin : My work hasn't been without pain. Once I was injured by a shell, in Cambodia. Not too badly, I got hit in the legs and in the crutch and my ear was blown out. But I had a very strong will to survive. I kept saying to myself : "I am not going to be caught, I'll crawl away". And for about six hundred yards I crawled on my stomach, to avoid getting encircled by the Khmer Rouges - Gilles Caron had been captured by them and butchered, a few days earlier. I thought : "I am not going to be captured by these people". There was a big river, the Mekong. I thought : "If necessary, I'll go into the water and swim away, but I am going to survive". So I survived. I think that madness attacks some people more than others, like a virus, many of those that I have seen in mental institutions are people who have been persecuted. Actually a lot of Jewish people, I can't help feeling that it has to do with the persecution of their history, don't you believe ? Frank Horvat : I tend to believe that what drives people mad is guilt. Guilt that they can't live with. And of course Jews are great specialists in guilt. Don McCullin : I do suffer from guilt, though I think that now it is easing a bit. Lorraine has been trying to tell me : "Don't feel bad about being in a nice restaurant or in a nice hotel". But I still resist going to such places. Frank Horvat : One thing you have never photographed - as far as I am aware - are beautiful women. Though I understand there have been some in your life. Don McCullin : Lots of them. Many were coming to me for the wrong reasons, because they had seen my name in newspapers, as a war photographer. I always thought that was a very bad thing to be called, it had a

ring of mercenary. Frank Horvat : I wanted to point out that there has been physical beauty, even prettiness, in your life, but that for some reason you didn't feel like showing it in your photographs. Don McCullin : Yes, my kids are good-looking, my wife was very pretty when she was younger. I have been associated with a lot of beautiful ladies, they have been a very good balance. But I would rather photograph beautiful landscapes. Frank Horvat : Except that you dont make them look like beautiful landscapes, you make them look like something else, maybe like something inside yourself - which brings us back to mental balance. Don't you think that madness is the feeling of things getting out of shape ? And that what may keep us from madness is the ability of putting things into shape ? Which is what art is about. Don McCullin : People are afraid of madness because they think it only brings bad things. But it doesn't. Sometimes it brings happiness to a person who otherwise would be suffering. What has kept me from madness, really, is self-discipline. Staying in line, keeping myself in check, willing myself to common sense. I keep checking and checking and checking - which on the other hand would be enough to drive you stark raving mad in the first place! By the time you arrive on the other side of the globe you are physically and mentally exhausted. And that's when you are expected to go straight into the action, right off the aeroplane. This was what I did best, the very first day I would rush into the battle, it was all I wanted. Frank Horvat : But you had the right to leave the battle when you wanted - if you survived. Don McCullin : In the beginning I used to shoot a few pictures and run away, thinking : "I've got the story". In the Six Days war, I stayed the one day of the battle for Jerusalem and left the next day. Then I realized that I should never run away, until the thing was finished. And I stayed longer, and longer, and longer. In the citadel of Hue, in 1968, I stayed for two weeks. During the Kippur war I stayed to the end, though I didn't make one good photograph, and I lost my colleague, who was killed on the Golan Heights. When eventually I got to the airport, I was stripped stark naked and searched, I was made to bend over while somebody looked into my ass, to check whether I was smuggling film. I've had every experience one can have, I have been bullied, beaten, threatened, accused of spying. Frank Horvat : The other thing that may have kept the balance is the time you spent in that womb, the darkroom. You came back to it all the time, even

when you were an active war photographer. Don McCullin : All the time. But it's also a very testing room - or womb, whatever you want to call it. The message doesn't go directly from the negative onto the paper, it journeys through me. Sometimes I have to get out of bed at night and go downstairs and open the boxes and look at the prints again, to check whether there is not a mark on that top right hand side. It's another obsession, if I can put up with that I shall probably never go mad. In the darkroom I am not only printing pictures. I am searching, I am having conversations with myself. But that is not madness, believe me, it's being hand-in-glove with madness, without letting madness take over. Sometimes I don't like going into the darkroom, I would rather be in my garden. If you saw my garden you would be amazed, it hangs on the side of a valley, you see cows outside. Lorraine and I lay that baby under the tree and think : "God, this is Paradise". The darkroom can be cruel. You have to talk your way through your printing, alone, sometimes you turn the radio on and listen to trash music. When I finish, I wash everything meticulously, I dust everything, it's like paying a homage to the spiritual power that could destroy me. And I won't let it. Something else will destroy me - but it won't be the darkroom, it won't be photography. I am very strong, nearly ninety nine percent of me is strong and fortified all around. But I am sure there is a crack, somewhere behind me, in my make-up, where the damage will get in and destroy me. Frank Horvat : What you are saying is the exact description of your photograph of Mister Britain. Don McCullin : I don't really think that's a very good picture. I took it because I saw the funny side of it. You know, I am not without humour. Frank Horvat : He is so vulnerable. Don McCullin : I have made him vulnerable by making an ass of him. I've made him look feminine, and that may be the one thing he would kill me for. But I believe in logic, you have to respect logic, if you want to survive. Photography is like an unexploded mine, you must go around it, you must not thread on it, you must respect it - otherwise it will blow your legs off. I have to remain logical. I know of photographers who tip tables over, in restaurants. I don't do things like that, but sometimes I argue with people, when someone comes up and says : "Who gave you permission to take this photograph ?" I say : "Who are you, anyway ?". I won't let people just walk over me, I fight back - which is not always logical, sometimes it makes life even more difficult. These are the little cracks in my make-up. I must keep control of myself and my work, and protect my patch - but then my patch is all over the world, I can't protect that completely.

London, August 1987

Sarah Moon

Born in England in 1940. Studied drawing. Between 1960 and 1966: worked as a model in London and Paris. Since 1967: fashion photographer and publicity filmmaker. Works in illustration, fashion and still life, in black and white and color. Lives in Paris.

"Very often I say to myself: I would like to make a photo where nothing happens. But in order to eliminate, there has to be something to begin with. For nothing to happen, something has to happen first."

Frank Horvat : Your photos are often criticized as too pretty, as if that prettiness was a formula, an easy way out. Sarah Moon : I'm glad you raise the point. It is true that there was this appearance of preciousness, of cuteness, especially at the beginning. I was so seduced by seduction! Now, a whole period of my work seems far away from me, I no longer identify with it. Frank Horvat : I didn't mean that I dislike your older photos. Recently I leafed through your books with a group of young people who work with me. We took a sort of poll about the photos we liked most, and often our choice fell on the oldest, for instance the young woman on the path, with the little dog.

Photo Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon : It's among the ones that I don't reject. Frank Horvat : And the other young woman on a sort of grid, with a little girl who makes a gesture... Sarah Moon : "Charlie Girl", I don't reject that one either. It's a black and white photo. I believe that if I didn't work in commercial photography, I would never work in color. It's in black and white that I visualize.

Photo Sarah Moon

Frank Horvat : But among our preferences there were also some color photos. The still life with fruits, for example. Sarah Moon : The pears. But in that one color is thinned down, manipulated, kind of color without color. That one I like. Frank Horvat : Still, you are one of the very few photographers who have found new ways to deal with color. Sarah Moon : I don't really like color. To make it work for me, I have to mess with it. I believe that the essence of photography is black and white. Color is but a deviance. Except when one works with very untrue colors, such as Polaroid, or as in certain photos by Paolo Roversi, where color is flattened, so that painting is no longer the reference. Frank Horvat : You did, however, find some new solutions, at a time when many people were putting color film into their cameras, while still thinking in black and white (it happened to me) or believing they were doing color photography, when they were only letting themselves be seduced by whatever patch of violent color they found (that happened to me as well, and I'm not proud of it). You increased grain and used it as a kind of filter, to cut out some of the surplus of information recorded by your camera. It's a great idea: as color film carries too much information to be organized into a harmonious whole, you lessen the information by introducing grain, so that

you can deal with what's left, in the same way you would deal with black and white. Sarah Moon : It's true that grain breaks down colors, like a filter. On the other hand, I am less and less interested in grain for my black and white work, I would rather get sharpness and texture. Frank Horvat : Because black and white, by itself, acts like a filter. So grain becomes one filter too many. Sarah Moon : Yes, an easy way out. Frank Horvat : Besides, some of your black and white photos are perfectly sharp. I think of the young woman, with her back to the camera, wearing a polka dot dress and seated in front of a window. It was another one of our favorites.

Photo Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon : Suzanne? Yes, I like that one, too. There are some that I like, of course. But there are many that I now find too cute, that annoy me. Frank Horvat : Another issue that seems to preoccupy you is commercial work. You often insist that working on assignment is not necessarily an obstacle to creativity. I wouldn't dream of contradicting you about this, but I

wonder if that is the real problem. For me the problem lies not so much in the assignment, as in the staging. Can a photo be directed, like a movie? Is directing compatible with the essence of photography? Sarah Moon : I've always felt that photography provides an opportunity for staging, for telling a story through images. What I aim at, is an image with a minimum of information and markers, that has no reference to a given time or place - but that nevertheless speaks to me, that evokes something which happened just before or may happen just after. I know that many people question this way of photographing, but why should there be only one sort of photography? I want to create images with elements of my choosing, narrative or evocative, beyond the document about that particular woman wearing that dress. I give myself a literary frame, I tell a story. It's the only springboard I have found for taking a leap. On the other hand, I am interested in commercial photography because it provides me with a purpose. The agreement between client and photographer seems perfectly fair to me. They give me the opportunity to make images, on condition that I show their product in a favorable light. I get paid for doing it and am given the means to do it well. This submits me to a discipline, which is something I need, because for me it's easier to do things when I find myself obliged to do them. To do them just for my pleasure would seem irrelevant. Frank Horvat : I believe, just as you do, that a photo intended to sell a product can be just as interesting as any other one. But that's not the point that worries me. What I am asking myself is whether a completely staged photo can still be interesting as a photo. Whether there is a threshold, beyond which staging no longer leaves space for the very essence of photography, which is opening a door to the unexpected. For me, this is the greatest problem with assignments. It seems to me that you, in your most successful photographs, allowed for such an opening. And I am sure that when you edit your slides or your contacts, the photo you choose is the one where the unexpected appears. Sarah Moon : It is true that when I create a frame, a setting, I always expect that within that frame some accident or some surprise will come up. To seat someone on a chair, for example, can be the beginning of a photo, even though it may not mean much by itself. But if I say, possibly only to communicate with the model: "You sit on this chair, and you are waiting, as if you were on a platform at a railway station," that may introduce the sense of an event, may help me to create the feeling of a situation. Perhaps it is only a device that I need for myself. But now I feel disturbed by what you say, by its expression of reluctance, as if for you the idea of staging is negative, a minus rather than a plus. Frank Horvat : Yes and no. If I bring it up, it's not to criticize you, though it is true that I want to pull your strings, just to get your reaction. If only because I had to defend myself on that same issue, facing the criticism of my friends at

Magnum, who believed that photography had to be a document and a testimony. For many years they made me feel guilty for not sharing their belief or following their rules. Sarah Moon : I used to feel faulted, too, by the "purists" of photography, who saw me as someone who had sold her soul to the devil, because I cashed in my creativity for money. Which they did too, obviously, since they sold their reporting, for less money but with the feeling that they were witnessing some reality. Whereas I only witness my fantasies, my way of seeing beauty in women, which of course is entirely personal, asocial and apparently superficial. Above all, I felt faulted by the little interest that they had for my photos, while I had so much for theirs. Frank Horvat : Cartier-Bresson once said to me: "You must choose. It's OK to witness reality, as we do, and it's OK to stage, as Avedon does. But one shouldn't combine the two." I didn't accept this, and possibly I was right, since it is precisely my photos of that period that seem interesting today, and precisely because of that ambiguity. But I would like to return to our starting point: you do still photography, but also film. In both cases, you allow a certain margin for the unexpected. Are the rules of the game identical? Does film allow as much margin? Or is there something different, something specific about the unexpected in a still photograph? Sarah Moon : For me it's the same. It's always like a state of grace, like the appearance of something that I hadn't foreseen, that surprises me and stops me. If I only did what I had in mind, there would be no emotion. It would be like keeping one's eyes shut rather than open, like theorizing rather than seeing. Frank Horvat : For me a good photo is one that cannot be repeated. I think of, in some of your photos, the hands of those young women and the way those hands relate to each other. "She caught it once" I say to myself while I look at them. "She couldn't ever catch the same thing again."

Photo Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon : Because it wasn't planned. When I imagine a situation, I don't imagine the hands. For the one eyed cat with the two girls, what I had imagined was: "There is a sick man, and there are two women caring for him." But the composition, the way in which they move in relation to him and to each other, this I decide later, as I shoot. And in those moments I forget the staged elements. But then: what exactly do you mean by "staging" ? The story? The way of telling it? The directing by the photographer? If what you mean is the directing, then every photo could be considered staged. When you say "don't move!" you direct. Frank Horvat : Staging, as I understand it at this moment, is putting in front of the lens what had been in the imagination, as a painter puts outlines and colors on a canvas. If photography is different from painting, it is to the degree to which it depends on the external, and, partly, the unpredictable. Sarah Moon : Yes, like a ray of sunlight that makes everything break up, or an underexposure that hides what's in the shadow... I agree. What you call "staging" is what I call "the frame". To begin with, I choose a place, and that already is staging. I say, "I want the light to come through that window and this part of the set to remain in the shade," because I have decided that in my photo it will be seven o'clock in the evening. But my other reason for staging this is to communicate with the models, with the make-up person, with the hair stylist, with all those people working with me.

Frank Horvat : And also, and this may be the main purpose, because you want the unexpected to arrive in a precise moment and place. You wouldn't know what to do with an unexpected arriving just anyhow or from anywhere. That wouldn't help you, it would only lead to confusion. So you set limits, create openings, prepare traps where you lay in wait and seize it when it appears. Sarah Moon : If it appears. Sometimes it doesn't, or it does but I miss it, or I think it does but I am mistaken. It did appear in the case of the woman with the little dog. That photo was for a calendar, it was to be the last image. I had said to the girl: "It's the time you're going home," so there had been a deliberate staging and directing. But when you look at the photo, you don't think of that, you only feel that something is happening, something that is expressed by her attitude, even though you don't know anything about her. She could be very young or very old, she is without age, timeless. Frank Horvat : But all of this could also be imagined by a painter. What a painter couldn't imagine are the effects of light and shadow, the behavior of the dog, the coincidences between these accidents: that's why a photo has be taken at a decisive moment. It all boils down to the decisive moment. Sarah Moon : Yes, the moment that might or might not happen. The gift that doesn't depend on us. The best we can do is to be ready - and that's the hardest. All the efforts we invest, the intensity, the waiting, the hoping are not enough. Sometimes we work like mad, for hours, in vain, and then all of a sudden, in three minutes, at the right place, the right moment, from the right angle, a stroke of luck expresses what we wanted to say. In film, this can come through the acting, the editing or the music - in a way it's much easier. Frank Horvat : It's another language. Sarah Moon : As I'm talking with you, I realize there are many questions about photography that I have never asked myself. Perhaps I keep myself from asking them. At the beginning, there was a sort of drive in my quest, possibly because I didn't know what I was looking for. Then, when my photos began to be accepted, I became aware of certain things, a little as in psychotherapy, where the analyst doesn't give you explicit answers, but refers you back to what you have expressed, and that in turn changes your outlook. Frank Horvat : And what did you become aware of? Sarah Moon : Of my limitations. Ultimately we keep saying the same thing, even if we try to say it differently. Always the same song. Though in the beginning, I had the impression that each photo was a discovery. Frank Horvat : I wonder if it's really the same song. I know that this can be

the problem with assignments, and also with success in the media. It's success that keeps us singing the same song, the one they keep asking for. But is it really your only song? There may be other ones... Sarah Moon : I believe so, too. But I don't know where they are. If I knew, I would sing them. Sometimes I believe that I hear a note ... Frank Horvat : There is another sensitive point I would like to touch. One of the leaders in our poll was the photo of the little girl in the street, who appears to spin in a ray of light. We noticed it in one of the catalogues. However, in "Little Red Riding Hood" of which it is part, that photo didn't particularly strike me. Perhaps because I don't care so much for this little book...

Photo Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon : What is it you do not like about it? Frank Horvat : The very fact of the sequence. I cannot look at the sequence without imagining Sarah staging it - so there is no mystery left. Whereas in front of the single photo I wonder: "Who is this little girl? How did Sarah meet her? What happened?" Sarah Moon : It is true that from all these narrative series, intended to appear on three of four magazine spreads, I only show one image in my exhibitions

or my books. As if I had only worked for that photo. What bothers you about a series? Is it the variation on a theme? Frank Horvat : It's that it takes us backstage. Sarah Moon : And possibly the fact that I tell a story with a beginning and an end, instead of letting each image, by itself, suggest a beginning and an end. Repetition gives a key, and with that key, one no longer feels the same curiosity. I agree with that. Very often I say to myself: "I would like to make a photo where nothing happens." My dream would be to achieve that purity. But in order to eliminate, there must be something there to begin with. For nothing to happen, something has to happen first. When I work on a set, with a lot of props, I end up by throwing most of them out, or by mixing them up, or by using mirrors so that one doesn't know what is part of the set and what isn't. I would like to get rid of all the make-up, so that the make-up would be forgotten, to take off all the clothes. I spend my time eliminating things, with the hope that there will be something left that will surprise me, that will make me forget that I am in a studio, in front of a model that I have booked, on a set on which I have spent hours fussing, with lights that it has taken a whole day to set up. Ultimately, what makes me press the shutter is a feeling of recognition. As if suddenly I felt: "yes, that's it ". In fact, these are the very words that come to my lips. I "recognize" something that I had never seen until that moment, that is beyond all my intentions. As in that photo of the polka-dot dress, with Suzanne's back. What I like about it is its weight. It was a moment when I was photographing something else. Suddenly I turned around and there it was. That's what I mean by "a gift". Frank Horvat : I have been told - or did you say it? - that you are extremely near-sighted. Sarah Moon : As a mole! that's why I have to work with a tripod. But it helps for sensing the light, and also for judging the relations between shapes. I'm good at both. It was only when I started photography that I became aware of it. People would say to me: "But it's not sharp!", and I didn't understand, because that was the way I saw things, I had never worn glasses in my life. Frank Horvat : How do you edit your slides? On a projector? Sarah Moon : Simply on a light table, with a loupe. You know, I make the same photo two thousand times, over and over, expecting it to happen, being afraid of missing it. I only stop when the people who work for me refuse to continue. And even then I have regrets, I keep telling myself that something else might yet happen. Frank Horvat : Frank Horvat: It's the same for me. What I find astonishing, is that I tend to shoot more and more, while at the same time leaving less and less room for the unexpected. When I photograph in the street, on the

contrary, where millions of things happen all the time, I don't take that many shots or insist on a given situation. While in my studio, with a light that I know well, in front of a model that I have directed into an attitude I find acceptable and from which I only allow her to try some slight variations, like turning her head or moving her fingers - I could go on shooting ten rolls: because I expectsomething from those fingers. Sarah Moon : Me too. I am there, in front of her, having no idea of what she should do, and even if I had one, not knowing how to tell her. I feel that it has to come from her, it's like hypnotism, I look and look and wait. Of course, from time to time, I click the shutter, if only to encourage her, to encourage myself, to encourage everyone around. Frank Horvat : But do you know when you've got the photo? Or are you never quite sure? Sarah Moon : Sometimes I know. But most of the time, even when I believe I've got it, I can't stop myself from searching further and soon I forget that I thought I got it. Frank Horvat : It's exactly the same for me. Sarah Moon : Because it happens so fast. And a second later I'm not sure any more that it has happened. At a given moment, I tell everyone: "That's it, we have finished!" but then I ask them to stay for one more roll, just in case, and then for another one. Because I am always afraid of having missed something, in spite of all the trouble I took to bring together all those elements, which tomorrow won't be there. The passing of time makes me panic. When I feel moved by the beauty of a young woman, what overwhelms me is the impermanence, the feeling that it must be captured in that particular instant. I see beauty appearing and disappearing, and I feel disheartened, because I am never sure that I live up to the privilege, that I do what has to be done to convey what I saw. Our anguish, our feeling of guilt stems from the knowledge that it depends on us, on our way of seeing what's in front of our eyes. Not only that particular sitting seems too short, not only that working day, but our whole life as photographers, we are always afraid that it may already be over. Maybe I shouldn't go too long without working, my engine should run every day, because when it doesn't, I don't give myself a chance to make things happen. I should accept the risk of failure, tell myself that failure is not the worst: even though I can't afford failing an assignment, I have at least the right to fail what I do for myself. I should simply say to myself: "Every day I'm going to make a photo."

Paris, November 1986 Translation: Charles Martin

Marc Riboud

Born in Lyons, 24th June 1923. 1944-45 : Member of the French Résistance 1945-1947 : studies engineering in Lyons 1953 : leaves his job as an engineer to be become a free-lance photojournalist. 1953 - 1979 : member of Magnum Numerous travels, particularly in the Far East. Works in black & white and colour. Lives in Paris.

"The target of our line of sight is reality - but our framing can transform it into a dream."

Marc Riboud : My first reaction at the very idea of this interview was to refuse to talk about photography. Why dissect and comment a process that is essentially a spontaneous reaction to a surprise? This can't be analysed - or you would have to discuss endlessly about how different people, according to their sensitivity, react differently to a surprise. But I'm no psychologist, and anyhow talking about photography embarrasses me. On the other hand, and in an apparent contradiction to what I've just said, I feel more and more interested in specifying my thoughts. After all we are no machines, even though we work from behind a machine : we think before taking a photo, we think- though not much - while taking it, and we have to think about it afterwards. It may be important to put these thoughts into words, rather than to leave them as a vague, ever-changing cloud, moulding itself to our moods or to the moods of others. It may be a good thing for a photographer to be pinned down and forced to express these thoughts - and I don't mind you pinning me down. Frank Horvat : Let's try and keep it down to earth. When I hear you saying, "I have to edit my photos from the last thirty-five years, in order to choose a

hundred for an exhibition", I can't help thinking of the twenty or thirty thousand you will not choose - though you had probably been interested in whatever their subject was. Could we analyse the criteria that make you choose some rather than others? Marc Riboud : Obviously subject matter is only one criterion among others. I have photographed thousands of interesting subjects, but they didn‚t always produce good photos. Frank Horvat : On the other hand, can a less interesting subject make a good photo? Like the one that's on the cover of your catalogue? Marc Riboud : I would say that when a photographer is not interested in the subject, he can easily fall into aestheticism. Some people have criticised that particular photo, finding it out of place in my exhibition. But I see more in it than just form : you may call it a mix of distance and intimacy, which is typical of my way of working. And also a certain restraint, even though it shows a naked woman. The subject, for me, is the home of Anna Farova, a close friend. The girl is Anna's daughter, Isabelle, and the book she is holding is Cartier-Bresson's Photo-Poche, that I just brought her. The other book you see is Les Résonances de l'Amour, a present from Anne Philipe. The postcards on the fire place are significant as well : there's one from Sicily, sent by Martine Franck, on which one can read "Santa Anna"‚ and another with the logo of the exhibition organised by Anna Farova in Plessy. What the photo shows is the secret garden of a woman who is important to me, a very brave woman, as she proved it during the struggle about "Charter 77". It is true that in some ways this photo is different from my other ones, but on the other hand it has something that's common to all, a natural approach to the subject, with no bizarre angles, no technical gimmicks, no lighting effects. It shows a certain restraint, but at the same time a visual tenderness.

Photo Marc Riboud

Frank Horvat : If I had to choose a single photo to represent your work, it could well be this one. I can see the intimacy. But what strikes me even more is a visual relation between three essential elements. If I hide the cat, by covering it with my hand… Marc Riboud : …then the photo no longer works. Frank Horvat : And the same is true of the nude and the statuette. Marc Riboud : The whole has to be visually organised. One detail that keeps bothering me is that book. I placed it there because it's a book I like, it was the only staging I did - apart from the nude, of course. In fact a publisher had requested a photo with a nude, for some project, but I didn't have one in my files, so I asked Isabelle to pose for me. Someone remarked that my photos are never built around a single central element, like an object or a person, but that the eye is always invited to wander around. Originally this probably came

from my shyness, but then it became integrated with another trait of my character, which is my love for geometry. Frank Horvat : So you are looking for coincidences. Marc Riboud : I don't like that word, it makes me think of chance. Like those photographers who like to catch bizarre people walking in front of bizarre posters. What I am looking for are connections in space, between elements playing against each other, so that the whole gets to express something. A visual surprise, but within a well structured form. Frank Horvat : In other words: the viewer should be surprised, but at the same time he should feel that what is surprising him is part of an order. Marc Riboud : It's as with every other form of expression. When you read Proust, you are brought from one surprise to the next, but at the same time you are carried along by his style, which is like wonderful music. Photography may be a minor art, or a marginal one, but it can be extremely exciting because it has to fulfill the same demands. Frank Horvat : It was considered minor, or marginal, when we became photographers, and this was possibly what saved us from one of the diseases of our time, which is the obsession with originality. No one expected us to be original. We were like on rails, in a system that seemed intended to last forever. We didn't have to ask ourselves big questions about photography, all we had to do was to open an issue of Life and look at work by Henri CartierBresson, Robert Capa or Eugene Smith. This was even more true in your case: you became a photographer as you would have become a painter in the Renaissance, by being Henri's disciple and never imagining a different direction. Though eventually this didn't prevent you from producing a body of work different from his, unmistakeably and entirely your own. But I don't believe that at the time you had any qualms about photography, you only wanted to be a witness to what happened in the world… Marc Riboud : Not at all, I never wanted to be a witness. I just went into the world - or rather around the planet. You mustn't get carried away with grand words, things are much simpler. As a matter of fact my beginnings were slow. I was intimidated by the atmosphere of Magnum, and particularly by the personalities of Cartier-Bresson, Capa and Chim, who to my eyes were the examples to be followed. I considered them far superior to myself, who didn't have an idea about photojournalism and was unable to travel the way they did. But at the same time I had a strong instinct for independence: so the first thing I did, after being accepted into Magnum, was to leave Paris and France for two years. As a result I didn't have much contact with other Magnum photographers. I knew a few things about their style, which wasn't only a way of photographing, but also a way of living. As you said, the idea of setting myself apart, by what today we call a photographic identity, wouldn't have

crossed my mind - no one used that term anyway. When we met we didn't talk about our "great photos", but about places we had discovered, people we had come to know, we swapped phone numbers of friends or adresses of eating places, or we related some adventure. It's true that Cartier-Bresson and a few others had a strong tendency to teach and even to moralise, and thus to exert a kind of subconscious pressure, not only about photography, but about everything else, even about how to store your camera in your bag. I had great respect for them, so I ended up being influenced, and I don't regret it. But I was also a rebel, as I had been with my family, when I went into the Résistance or when I quit my job as an engineer. Frank Horvat : And later on? After the Sixties? For many of us that was a period of doubt. Some Magnum photographers withdrew to their family lives and to their specialties. Some major magazines, such as Life‚ disappeared. There was no stand to witness from, and maybe also less motivation. Marc Riboud : I wouldn't say that - and anyway I don't like the word "witnessing". In the Sixties, I often returned to Vietnam, not because I believed in what was called "concerned photography", nor to be a witness, but simply to have a close look at events that so many people were talking about from a distance. It was difficult, at the time, to not feel sympathetic to the Vietnamese, who were holding out against the American bombs. Sympathy, after all, is a better approach to understanding than indifference, or than the so called objectivity, that some preach but that in fact is impossible, in photography as in any other field. As I came to understand that country better and better, I felt a stronger urge to return there, if only to follow up on the events. Just as now I like to return to the new museum in Houston, for which I have a passionate interest, to the point that I keep thinking about it and seeing it with the eyes of my mind. Places are like friends, you want to keep in contact with them, to be informed about their changes and to find out how they evolve. In the Sixties and Seventies I often went back to Vietnam, China and India. Important things were happening there, and for me it was natural to return, without any preconceived ideas about what I would find : you can't foresee what's going to surprise you. Frank Horvat : Talking about preconceived ideas and surprises : you just photographed the Klaus Barbie trial, an event that closely concerns you, because you are from Lyons and you were in the Résistance. You did a portrait of him, that makes him look like a kindly old man.

Photo Marc Riboud

Photo Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud : Yes. An old, courteous, gentle and reserved person. "What a gentleman!" exclaimed Cornell Capa when he saw the photos. You would invite him to your home or hire him to teach your children! Yet he was one of the worst and most sadistic torturers. It was surprising to see him like that, two metres away from me. During that trial, I also photographed another

person, the only surviving witness of the Izieu roundup. His name is Julien Favet, he was a farm labourer and never learnt how to read nor write. He looks frightening, with his red eye that seems ready to fall out of his face and his deformed mouth, you could be scared of him. I spent two hours at his home and came to realise that he was a man of extraordinarily pure feelings, with a great desire for justice and an obsession about truth, right down to details like the stone he was sitting on when he saw Barbie first. He remembers everything as if it were yesterday, with that photographic memory of people whose mind is unencumbered. The contrast between those two beings has been a fascinating visual experience. Frank Horvat : But what link do you see between your photograph and what you believe to be reality? Aren't you disturbed by that contradiction? After all, your assignment was to show some reality! Marc Riboud : Not at all. The idea of photography as evidence is pure bullshit. A photo is no more proof of any reality than what you may hear being said by someone in a bus. We only record details, small fragments of the world. This cannot allow any judgement, even if the sum of these details may convey a point of view. Frank Horvat : I'm not convinced. I remember a photo taken by Elliott Erwitt in 1960, when Nixon was running against Kennedy. It showed Nixon on a trip to Moscow, raising his fist in Kruchtchev's face, probably in the heat of some discussion. Viewed out of context, it seemed to prove that Nixon was the man who could stand up to the Soviets, and this was how it was presented and how it nearly made Nixon win the race. At Magnum they were kicking themselves, particularly Elliott. I could quote other examples, even from your own photos. You showed the Cultural Revolution in China…

Photo Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud : I never did. I wasn't even there during the Cultural Revolution, only before and after. It is true that some photos I took before were published during the Revolution, and what you probably mean is that they showed China with sympathy. But if you look at them today - Claude Roy, who is an expert on China, made the remark - you will notice that they show the hardness of the regime. And anyhow, a detail in a photo doesn't prove a general reality. If I took a photo of a naked Chinese woman, it only proves that out of a billion people, one woman allowed herself to be photographed naked, in the Fine Arts School in Beijing in 1957. Obviously, if this detail is overused by the press, it may distort the image of a country - and we should avoid this kind of misuse. Frank Horvat : Let's come back to Klaus Barbie. You were face to face with him. You knew who he was. You were listening to the evidence of his atrocities. What you saw in your viewfinder was a kindly old man. What did you think? Marc Riboud : Nothing. I didn't even realise he looked kind. It was only much later, when editing the photos, that I discovered things. At the time, my problem was all the pushing and shoving, there were seven or eight photographers, I was just like the rest, I had to shoot both in black and white and in colour, close-ups and general views. Knowing that I wouldn't be allowed more than ten minutes, I needed six or seven loaded cameras, but I only owned four. So I borrowed two extra ones, except that I was given the

latest models, that I didn't really know how to use. So I made some mistake while loading, and it was only after a few shots that I realised that the films didn't wind. So I went off into a corner and wound them back, trying to keep calm, while my competitors were taking shot after shot. It all happened very quickly, I didn't have time to worry about aesthetics or morals. It was only when leaving the court that I realised that this man who seemed so gentle, that I had seen from so close, was the one who had killed or ordered to kill, 44 years ago, some of my best friends and closest relatives. Frank Horvat : Maybe it was the lack of thinking time that saved you. I recall an opposite example, Arnold Newman's portrait of Krupp, taken with a very distorting wide-angle lens. Newman pretends that the distortion was intentional and meant to show the diabolical nature of the person. In my opinion, this doesn't work and only diminishes the photo's credibility. Marc Riboud : I think you should simply present what you discover. The ideal would be to return to the vision you had when you were a child: only children can really see, without any preconceived ideas. Frank Horvat : So we could say that by simply recording what you saw, you ended up producing a coherent body of work. Marc Riboud : I recently spent a whole summer gathering my photos from the last 35 years and editing them for an exhibition. It was an interesting exercise. I didn't look for any link between the ones I chose, neither by subject matter nor by style. I only asked myself : "Does this one stand out?" I also asked various people, such as my son David, Josef Koudelka, my wife Catherine and others. Little by little a common denominator emerged, which can easily be explained : some painters only had access to certain colours, or to certain surfaces to paint on. This handicap may have been the starting point of a direction, which eventually became a style. My handicap was shyness. I was frightened of speaking to my father and I am still intimidated by people I don't know. It's my nature. But sometimes we are driven to do the very opposite to our nature. In my case, photography has brought me to meet great personalities like Churchill, Bertrand Russell, Ho Chi Minh, or Castro. The style of my photography may come from the conflict between my natural shyness and my determination to overcome it. Frank Horvat : Were you ever physically scared, in some of the dangerous situations where you found yourself? Marc Riboud : Undoubtedly. But we are attracted by danger, as we are by beautiful women. It may be physiological. In 1968, when the Vietnamese launched the Têt offensive, I was in Hong Kong. I had a wife and two young children, but I immediately rushed to Saigon and Hué. One day, at the Da Nang military airport, there was a press call for a flight to Khe San, which at the time, as you may remember, was besieged. What a temptation to jump

into that plane! My cameras were ready, I was in good shape, why not go? Eventually it didn't work out… Frank Horvat : And now, all those places and events, Vietnam, the liberation of Algeria, the landscapes of China, the Klaus Barbie trial, Anna Farova's home, have in some way become part of you. As if photography was a way to take possession of the world, to feel at home wherever you are, be it Saigon or Houston or Lyons. Marc Riboud : By no means! I never felt at home in Saigon! I'ld rather say that I feel just as much out of place in Saigon than in Lyons. But I'm curious about everything that's foreign to me, and all the more as it's more foreign. The people I photograph seem to me very different from myself. There was a fashion, for a while, of becoming a miner to photograph miners, or a muslim to photograph muslims, etc. I don't believe in this, because if you become like the other, the surprise is gone. You better remain yourself and let yourself be surprised. Frank Horvat : I would like to come back to the witnessing : if a visitor from Mars - or from the year three thousand - turned up and asked me what happened on earth around the middle of the twentieth century, I would show him the work of Cartier-Bresson. If he asked me what happened next, I would show him your work. Just as Henri, you felt it was your duty to be wherever an important event was taking place. That's why you, more than anyone else, appear to me as his disciple. And that's why I said "witnessing". Marc Riboud : Photographers shouldn't talk too much about it. And to begin with they shouldn't think of themselves as witnesses, only because they walk around with a camera. Forget about witnessing. Say to yourself that photography is a little everyday job. Stick to your curiosity, live it as a passion, nourish it by giving up as many ties as possible with your home place, because ties make you worry, and when you worry you don't see so well which is why children see better than grown-ups and why illiterate people have a better visual memory. I don't think about witnessing. I like to photograph people, but I may feel just as interested in misty mountains or in still lives - as long as they allow some visual combination. Though I prefer moving subjects, because photography is mainly about capturing one instant rather than another, catching it when it's ripe, freezing the movement at the right time. Like the right note in music, or the right balance in architecture. The pleasure is all the greater when the challenge is tougher, for instance when the elements to be assembled are more varied, more mobile or less predictable.That's what I look for and why I prefer China to Australia: simply because in China things seem to move a little more. Frank Horvat : So you would rather say "get it right"‚ than "witness". But to get it right, you have to know what's right.

Marc Riboud : No doubt. We must establish our criteria, like a frame we build little by little. But once it's built, we may discover new openings beyond it. If there was only the frame, we would soon slide into aestheticism. Luckily, life doesn't allow frames to last, reality is a visual chaos, a cluster of shapes continuousy mixed and superimposed, a muddle that we must prune in order to find an order that is understandable to others and that can be separated from the rest. To choose is our way to take a bearing, to find out where we are. We cannot create forms, as painters and sculptors do, but our purpose is the same : to simplify what we see, in order to make it understandable. Frank Horvat : Then could we also say "recognize"? Marc Riboud : Yes. To recognize in reference to an established scale, that we adjust to our own needs and that we accept as a discipline. Frank Horvat : What I meant was : in reference to a body of experience, which makes up Marc Riboud's personality. I keep thinking of your photo at Anna Favora's. You told me that, for the cover of your catalogue, you had hesitated between that photo and the "painter on the Eiffel Tower". The painter is "right" too, but in reference to a certain idea of Paris at the time, it's an image that makes me think of Prévert as much as of Riboud. Whereas the photo of Isabelle Farova is "right" in reference to what has accumulated in you over the years. This reminds me of a sentence I heard you say : "The fruits of autumn are the sweetest." To me this sentence seems a good summing up of what you are now.

Photo Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud : I must tell you that I don't really feel in the autumn of my life, in fact I'm in better shape than twenty years ago. The two most important days in my career were the one I entered Magnum and the one I left. Since I have been independent, I have more time for photography, while still being open to other influences. I don't know if my personality has changed, but I believe that I have found a better way of expressing itself. I more often experience those moments of grace, when your eyes see with a multiplied intensity, when you discover what you wouldn't have even noticed at other times and what other people don't notice, when the beauty of a face makes you tremble with emotion. That's another aspect of photography : knowing how to recognize those moments, how to get back to that line of vision that Henri Cartier-Bresson so rightly talks about. Frank Horvat : So you would say that the "line of vision" is something inside us, that we somehow project onto reality. And the decisive moment is when

this line hits the target. Marc Riboud : The line of vision, when it comes down to it, is our dreaming. We should relearn to see as we did in our childhood, with the same pleasure in discovery, the same surprise at everything around us. But this dreaming must be performed with strictness. Dreaming and strictness are not in contradiction, they are but different aspects of the same activity. As with music : no other form of expression is constructed with such mathematical precision, and yet it grips our senses and our guts. Technique and sensitivity go together, one cannot exist without the other Frank Horvat : Or rather: when one exists without the other, it's not art. Henri said : "Place your eye, your head and your heart into the same line of vision". You say : "Aim at reality, through the eyes of a child, with the strictness of a technique". Is it the same metaphor? Marc Riboud : Let's keep down to earth. What was I doing yesterday, with my Leica, in front of the pyramid that is being built at the Louvre? I was searching for the right composition, for the right balance within the rectangle of my viewfinder, for some order among these thousands of oblique metallic elements, pointing into many directions, changing with every step I took and with every adjustment by the workers. For me, this search was a visual and sensual pleasure. From time to time, the forms would fit with my conscious or subconscious parameters, like an echo between myself and the subject matter. The target of our line of sight is reality - but our framing can transform it into a dream.

Photo Marc Riboud

Frank Horvat : But would you say your metaphor is the same as Henri's? Or do you mean something else? Marc Riboud : Henri has had a few excellent formulas, that could hardly be improved. But he never talks about his passion, which in fact is his fundamental motivation. His body of work can't be compared to that of any other photographer, it's not that he took a few more photos than the next after him - he took ten or twenty times as many. Since his twenties he has been driven by the determination to go out every morning, be it in Paris or in Calcutta or anywere, to be present at whatever was happening. He didn't let a single day pass without photographing some students' demonstration, some gardeners' strike, some gallery opening, some trade unions' meeting, or simply to visit a painter friend and take his portrait. When he talks about photography, he describes the discipline he imposes on himself, the geometry he quoted in one of his titles: "No one is allowed in here, except geometers." But if Henri's photos had only this formal perfection, they would

be hollow. It's his passionate interest for the world that gives them depth and richness - but about this he never talks. He is the only photographer whose work is a real testimonial of our time, even tough - or precisely because - he didn't intend to be a witness. Frank Horvat : Do you feel as if you are following in his footsteps? Marc Riboud : I don't think that question holds any interest. Cartier-Bresson influenced me, as he has influenced hundreds of people, and not just photographers. Life's circumstances placed me close to him, but I wouldn't place my work beside his, neither by quality, nor by quantity, nor by direction. I feel different, I have often rebelled against some of his ideas and I see no reason to analyse differences or similarities. Frank Horvat : Don't you feel a bit like the older son? Marc Riboud : It depends. Now the relation between us is more like a dialogue than like a one-way influence. Of course, Henri tends to act as a teacher and a moraliser, and even as a terribly demanding one. He likes to affect people's lives, he gets intolerant when those around him don't follow the rules that he considers unbreakable. If I feel differently - and not only in relation to Henri - it's in as far as I believe that photography should also be a pleasure. From a purely technical standpoint, for example, using different lenses (which he disapproves of) doesn't only give access to different possibilities, but also to different pleasures, while still respecting the same geometry. So why deprive yourself? Frank Horvat : You say "pleasure"‚ you said "sensuality" before. This brings us to one of your characteristic contradictions - because what characterises us are our contradictions, more than our qualities or failings. On the one hand you appear to be a rather shy, no doubt restrained, maybe a little repressed person… Marc Riboud : Shy and restrained, yes. But what do you mean by "repressed"? Frank Horvat : Someone who suffered constraints in his up-bringing. Marc Riboud : This may be true. But I wouldn't define myself a repressed person. I would rather say that by reaction… Frank Horvat : Exactly! It's possibly your repressed sensuality which produces what you call visual tenderness‚ and which could also be seen as the contradiction between your desire to touch and your need to keep a distance.

Marc Riboud : We probably always want to escape from ourselves, as if to become the opposite of the person we believe we are. Frank Horvat : And so I wonder if your current maturity - "autumn's fruits are the sweetest" - may not allow you to express this sensuality more than you did to in the past. Marc Riboud : I felt a sort of new beginning when I met Catherine, the woman I love and with whom I have two children. She gave me inner peace and freed me from many worries. Now I can go out in the mornings without carrying a black cloud of problems in my head. Besides, having distanced myself from Magnum has given me more freedom. Frank Horvat : But I was talking about sensuality… Marc Riboud : Sensuality comes with freedom from constraint. I have now freed myself, to an extent, from influences that conditioned my life as a photographer… Frank Horvat : I'll ask my question more directly : photography has often been a pretext - good or bad, hypocritical or not - to express photographers' erotic fantasies, from Lewis Caroll's to Helmut Newton's. You have never been down that path - not anymore than Henri, and possibly for the same reasons… Marc Riboud : I don't know. I like watching beautiful women, beautiful bodies, I'm attracted by sensuality. But I have rarely photographed people for whom I have strong emotional reactions - in the same way as I avoid photographing deformity or anything morbid. It's true that many photographers are attracted by these subjects, if you pick any page of a magazine the fishmonger wraps the fish in, you can be sure you'll find photos of sex or violence. I have avoided both. Frank Horvat : And yet, if these subjects are so often photographed, it's not only because the media are capitalizing on our emotions. But also because sex and violence exist and concern us. They are a part of our world, no less important than mountains in China. Marc Riboud : There are different ways of presenting what's important. The advertising shot you took for a champagne brand, where you only show a naked shoulder, seems more sensual to me than any photograph of spread legs. In the same way, the experience of violence can be conveyed by photographing day to day relations between human beings, without having to show corpses! Frank Horvat : That's exactly what I mean! You have seen a lot of violence,

but you have managed to show it implicitly, in your discreet, modest and distant way. Why didn't you do the same with eroticism? Marc Riboud : It's easy to explain. To photograph a naked woman, you either have to pay one to get undressed, or to photograph the woman you love. Both make me feel uneasy. Though I would be delighted to wander about in a forest full of young, beautiful and naked women. If you can tell me of such a place, I'll rush there. But what exactly do you mean by eroticism? The sexual act isn't usually performed in front of other people, to photograph one I would have to stage it - except that I don't know how to stage. If, while walking around, I came across an erotic scene, then possi bly… But then my shyness would hold me back, as when I'm faced with suffering. If I see someone suffering in a hospital bed, I don't reach out for my camera - and particularly not if that person is close to me. Any erotic situation I watched would either be between people who don't know they are being observed, or between people close to me. In either case, there would be a line I couldn't cross, I would feel as if I were committing rape. All the erotic photos I've seen, and where I could sense some kind of emotion, were staged. And staging is an art by itself, I wouldn't know how to stage a photo in which the emotion seemed genuine. Frank Horvat : So staging is another line you wouldn't cross… Marc Riboud : I'ld rather say that I couldn't. But I also believe that the role of photography is to record what's there, not to stage. Frank Horvat : And yet when you do a portrait, you may tell the model, "Move to the window, turn round that way, pick up that book". Isn't that staging? Marc Riboud : I don't make them pretend to be anything but their own character, in their own environment. Frank Horvat : So when you have a certain idea about people, you may ask them to take up a posture corresponding to that idea. But how far can this go? Let's take the example of the falling militia-man, in Capa's photo. Some people say it was staged. Marc Riboud : That's false! Robert Capa wouldn't cheat! Frank Horvat : I agree. But allow me to express the theory - if it had been staged, it would only have presented the reality of war, as Capa had indeed observed it. What's wrong with that? Marc Riboud : I wouldn't even called it staging - but cheating.

Frank Horvat : Let's take another case : the famous photo by Eugene Smith, of the death watch in the Spanish village. To obtain that light, Smith had to place his flashes very carefully, which he couldn't do without directing those people. Marc Riboud : It's true that Eugene was very concerned with lighting. But his intervention was to express the emotion he felt. He didn't cheat! Frank Horvat : So let's suppose Capa had indeed observed a militia-man dying that way, and wished to reconstruct the emotion he felt… Marc Riboud : No, no and no. In the first place, he didn't direct his camera at that man because he saw him falling. He wanted to photograph someone jumping over a trench, and it was at that moment the man was hit. Had he wanted to recreate the scene, he couldn't have made him fall that way. Frank Horvat : I wonder if we are not confusing an ethical problem - "Was he cheating?" - with an aesthetic one - "Does the photo work?" Marc Riboud : As far as I'm concerned, I find that reality is so rich in emotions of all sorts, that I don't see why I'd bother to tell someone, "Show an emotion" - especially as I know that the emotion wouldn't seem genuine and that my photo wouldn't be so good… Frank Horvat : It's true that if you had wanted to stage the photo of the American girl putting a flower into the barrel of that gun, you would never have found such a face and such an expression. But you did ask Isabelle Farova to undress, and you didn't get a bad photo.

Photo Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud : It's the cat that makes it a good photo, and I didn't tell it to take up that position. The session lasted for about an hour, and there was only one moment when that happened. I wouldn't call it staging, I didn't cheat. Frank Horvat : I persist in believing that you mix morals and aesthetics, but from the standpoint of your own efficiency you may be right. A photographer can stage a situation, stand back and wait until something real happens within that set-up - as was the case with the cat. But as far as you are concerned you would rather avoid this approach, because getting into the habit of staging would deprive you of the distance you mentioned, which to you is essential. Marc Riboud : In fact I have no choice between the two approaches. I work the way I work because I am who I am. Frank Horvat : That is certainly true. I found this photo, that I had never seen before, lying on your table. I find it amazing, even though the subject is quite ordinary : some football players and some spectators. But if a martian asked me what life on earth is like, this could be the first photo I would show him. You have managed to look at ordinary life with the eye of a martian (or of a child) by just presenting a few hundred heads in one half of a rectangle, and four players in the other - and by this simple composition you say a lot about our world.

Photo Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud : I was struck by this sea of faces, all so well lined up - British fans were very disciplined at the time, they all wore ties and caps, no one would raise an arm. It was one of my first photos in London, in 1953 or 1954, Robert Capa had sent me there to learn some English. Cornell, Robert's brother, was photographing that same match, for Life. He had managed to get behind one of the goals, I was impressed by all his badges and telelenses, and telling myself I could never cope the way he did. I had simply bought a ticket, like everyone else, and was sitting in the upper stands, with a 135mm lens on my Leica. Not because of any preconceived project, but simply because I was too shy to come closer.

Paris, july 1987 Translated into English by Julia Mclaren

Eva Rubinstein

Born in Buenos Aires, 18th August 1933, as the daughter of Arthur Rubinstein, pianist, and Anyela Mlynarska, classical dancer. First dancer and actress. Free-lance photographer since 1967 (photo-journalism, portraits, nudes, interior landscapes). Photographs mainly in black and white. Participated in many workshops, first as a student (with Lisette Model and Diane Arbus, among others), then as a teacher. Lives between New York and Europe.

"That's all the difficulty and the challenge and the battle : to look through this mechanical thing, these bits of glass and metal, at someone. And not lose the sense that this "shape" is a human being."

Frank Horvat : You believe that everything that is shown, in every photograph we take, is the expression of something in our mind, conscious or unconscious. Eva Rubinstein : I do, as long as the photograph is our personal work, and not an assignment or anything we did for someone else. We can't help it. Some years ago, a good friend gave me a book she believed would help me through a bad depression. It was called Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. It's author, Dr. Frederick Perls, held seminars, where people would meet and talk about their dreams, and he would ask them questions. For instance, if the dreamer had seen himself as a child, running away from something, Perls would ask him : "what were you running away from ?" If the person would say : "from the darkness" Perls would ask : "In your dream, what are you saying to the darkness ?" But then, and this was for me the really important part, he would ask : "and what is the darkness saying ?" And he would explain : "You know what the darkness is saying, because you are both the frightened

child andthe darkness, you are all the parts of your dream, you populated it with these images, which are really different aspects of yourself." I am convinced that exactly the same thing happens in our personal photographs. The things we react to, the choices we make, which lens, which angle, what we isolate from what, all these things say as much more about us as about our subjects. Everything is a self-portrait, or a piece of a self-portrait. When someone in a workshop says : "I want to learn how to express myself" I answer : "Show me how not to, whom else can you possibly express ?" Frank Horvat : But a photograph is not like a drawing, where every line is the work of our hand. What's on a photograph is what we have allowed to come through that hole, by intention or by mistake or simply by lack of attention. Sometimes it is just like a noise that has nothing to do with our voice. Eva Rubinstein : Nothing that we chose is chosen by accident. There is something in us that perceives a lot more than we are aware of. I am "talking with my right eye", of course. Frank Horvat : With your right eye ? Eva Rubinstein : What I am saying is more likely to be said by someone whose right eye is the dominant one - not necessarily the stronger or healthier one. Someone whose left-eye is dominant might say exactly the opposite. He might say that what matters is the structure. Frank Horvat : Why right eye and left eye ? Eva Rubinstein : It's a mystery. They are still working on it. The dominant eye, left or right, is one of the most important things in our psyche. It seems to be connected with the way we perceive and feel things, far beyond just "seeing". I am very strongly right-eyed. With my right eye I could take pictures while hanging upside down, it wouldn't bother me, because everything would be in its proper place, somehow. But if I look through the viewfinder with my left eye, I must have everything absolutely straight : verticals, horizontals, everything neat and correct. Sometimes you can hear a person talk about his family, or politics, or anything, and you can make a good guess as to which eye is dominant. Frank Horvat : What you say relates to a major problem in my own life : I used to photograph with my left eye. Then, four years ago, this eye had to be operated, first of a cataract, then of some complications that followed. Eventually it was restored, but not completely, it is and will remain unfit to look through a viewfinder. So I had to switch to the right eye. In the beginning I was convinced that this eye wouldn't see and compose as well as the other but it turned out that it did. Nobody - including myself - noticed any difference in my photographs.

Eva Rubinstein : It may depend an how extreme is the dominance. People who are ambidextrous do almost everything with both hands, except write. I could give you endless examples. Frank Horvat : What I noticed in the beginning was that the right eye focused and framed just like the other one, but that somehow it didn't convey the same feeling. What it saw wasn't charged with the same emotions. Eva Rubinstein : That's exactly it, it wasn't your "real" eye. I don't know all the implications, I do know they are very profound. I am now the only righteyed person in my immediate family, my son Alex was too, and we always seemed to be on the same wave-length. We saw relationships in ways that were more emotional than cerebral Frank Horvat : Actually what I noticed was rather the opposite : my right eye saw the composition, but was less sensitive to the feeling. Eva Rubinstein : Possibly because it still sees through your original self. It does not feel right. It's not connected the way the other one was. Frank Horvat : It may be connected now, nerve-connections develop. But returning to what we said before, I am not sure that whatever we show, in any frame, should be considered a self-expression. Many things happen, that we don't notice. Eva Rubinstein : But that's just my point ! Don't we "notice" them at some level ? A few years ago I had a show in New York, of photographs going back as much as fifteen years, which I had never even marked on my contact sheets, let alone printed - things I had either rejected or passed by at the time. And now, suddenly, they popped out at me, hitting me between the eyes. I think of them as "flash-forward" pictures, the opposite of "flash-backs" - because at the time I took them they made no sense to me, they were out of context in terms of what I consciously saw or understood. I believe that we take in a great deal more than we know. So these images started making sense to me only years later, when I allowed my brain to catch up with my intuition. I had, after all, made those pictures, whether I was ready to acknowledge them or not ! Late in his life, when my father had to stop playing because he lost his central vision, he allowed RCA to release some recordings that he had made fifteen or twenty years earlier, but had not been satisfied with at the time for one reason or another. Every few years he would listen to them again, and veto them again. And then suddenly he would change his mind about one recording, then another. When I asked him why, he said : "When I recorded these originally, I did not like the way it came out, but if I were to play it now, that's exactly how I would play." Frank Horvat : I have tried to go through old contacts, to see whether something new could come out. Most of the time it doesn't. Probably because

I am obstinate in my bias.

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Eva Rubinstein : That's your left eye ! I have done photographs in which there was an element that I don't remember seeing at the time, but without which that image would have meant less, or nothing. Like the one of the nun mending a doll, in an orphanage. On the right side there is a little pair of child's shoes, lying there in the shape of a cross. When I took the picture I didn't see them, but I know the picture wouldn't be the same without them. It's an orphanage, and the shoes are empty, in the shape of a cross ! I couldn't have invented it ! I must have perceived them subconsciously. It seems to me that it's not we who take the pictures, but the pictures who take us, sometimes I feel as if the image was grabbing me by the throat, and I had to respond in some way. Making a photograph is like recognizing some part of me out there, dream-bits, portrait-bits that finally make up a self-portrait. I'm bothered when people use the word "creative" when referring to my kind of work, I think it's more like interpreting the "music" that's out there, available to everyone - but interpreting it in my own way, making it my own. I can recognize my father's way of playing Chopin, I can identify Rampal on the flute. We photographers isolate things in a way that is our own, we put our signature on this specific way of seeing. Frank Horvat : To me the main subject of photography is time, what a

photograph conveys is not so much a statement about objects or people or places, as the feeling of a moment that was and will never be again. A photograph that could be retaken can't be a really great photograph. This is true of all photography, but particularly of your work : it gives me the feeling of a unique point in time, even when you show nothing but an empty room, to which you could return any time to photograph it again. Eva Rubinstein : But in fact one never can. I'll tell you a story. Years ago, after a workshop, I got very powerfully involved with somebody who left at the end of the week, while I stayed on. I took one photograph in the room where we had been, just moments after he left. I was emotionally shaken, I had no tripod there, and made the picture at a quarter of a second, hand-held. A couple of days later I saw on the contacts that, not surprisingly, the image was "soft". So, in a much calmer state of mind, I went back to the same room with my tripod. Everything was the same, the light, the things in the room. The picture I made that day is perfectly sharp - and totally sterile. I have shown both versions to people without saying any of this, and they have invariably preferred the "soft" one. Surely because the sharp one is emotionally empty, there was nothing going on in me except trying to "get it right".

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Frank Horvat : Are you sure the difference is in the pictures, not in your mind ? Eva Rubinstein : I didn't realize a difference until people's reactions made me aware of it. And they couldn't even explain it, only one person noticed that one was sharp and the other not. But I think that this bears on my point that there will be a different response to an image where an emotional "payment" has been made. My favourite story about this particular image is this : some time ago I had a show of 130 photographs, this one among them. There were two people to whom I wanted to give a present of a photograph, so I asked each of them to choose one. Neither of them had any information beyond the place and date - I never "title" my photographs -. One person chose the image of an unmade bed, the other (a super-intelligent professor !) chose this one. I must have looked so surprised that she added "it makes me want to make love". At that I nearly fell over : the two of them had picked, out of 130 images, the only two, taken five years apart, where that had actually happened shortly before I took the picture. There must be something in that image that conveys the essence of that moment - but it's hardly the subject matter ! Frank Horvat : Couldn't one analyse it in terms of what is actually in the print ? Eva Rubinstein : No ! There are still some mysteries, thank God ! Can you explain music ? If you could explain exactly how Mozart works, you would be

Mozart. If there was no mystery, there would be no art. The fact is that sometimes something "works", even though it may be theoretically or technically unsound, because it carries the emotion lived through at the time of it's making. Isn't that what drove poor Salieri mad ?. But what do you see in these photographs ? Frank Horvat : Quite frankly, if I had seen this picture all by itself in a magazine, it may not have stopped me. Eva Rubinstein : But do you see a difference between the two ? Frank Horvat : The difference in sharpness doesn't strike me. What I do see, is that one has been taken from a slightly higher angle, so that the edge made by the door seems sharper. In Barthes' terminology, the "punctum" of the photograph is this edge. Eva Rubinstein : You react in a left-eyed way, but what you say about the edge is correct. I'd never noticed that before. Frank Horvat : I can see a third difference, which may be the one that matters emotionally : in the original photograph the patch of light is more intense. Maybe this is what triggered your emotion. But why did your emotion pick this area ? Eva Rubinstein : I haven't the faintest idea. The intensity of the light may also depend on the printing. All I know is that at the moment there was only my feeling, my sense of loss, of enormous involvement. But why did I photograph a bit of sunshine falling on a scruffy wooden floor, the bottom of an open bathroom door, the lower part of a bureau ? Why not the bed, the window ? Frank Horvat : You felt this emotion and it was natural to release it by the taking of a photograph - you were, after all, at a photographic workshop. So you looked around with your viewfinder… Eva Rubinstein : I never look around with a viewfinder, I don't work that way. First something strikes me, then I go for the camera. Frank Horvat : So you saw the edge of the door and the patch of light, your emotion recognized something - but your conscious self didn't know what. When you came back two days later, you didn't concentrate on the elements that were emotionally significant, like the edge of the door and the patch of light - you worried more about sharpness and other details, irrelevant to the emotion. So these irrelevant elements were brought a little into the foreground, just enough to weaken the significant ones. All this is quite fascinating, what we are discussing are the central issues of photography, the

main one being : when to push the button. Eva Rubinstein : And "why ?". In my workshops I ask "tell me about the pictures you didn' t take, and why". Frank Horvat : What would be your own answer ? Eva Rubinstein : Sometimes I know that what I see would be destroyed by the taking of a photograph. I may see a group of people in the street, a network of relationships which I may find extraordinary. But I know that my approaching it would make the whole thing disappear. Frank Horvat : And if you could photograph it before it disappears ? Eva Rubinstein : It would be like stealing. Sometimes I know that if I take one more step, all will be gone, I shall have destroyed their moment. And I decide that it is better just to have it in my mind, just to know I have seen it. Frank Horvat : But if you could take the photograph without being noticed, as through a one-way glass wall ? Eva Rubinstein : I don't know whether I would. It is hard for me to talk in terms of rules. But how is it for you ? Looking at your photographs of New York, it seems to me that the only times people appear in your photographs, they are completely unaware of your presence, they have their eyes shut, or are under a raincoat, or are wrapped up in plastic. You don't really confront them. Frank Horvat : You are right. Even in the studio, when the person is aware and willing to cooperate, I feel as if had to steal the photograph. I get them involved into something, like playing a role, but what I really catch is not what they think they are giving. Eva Rubinstein : I have trouble with the idea of catching : people are not for catching. This was my big argument with Diane Arbus, and also with my (and her) teacher Lisette Model. They both thought they had the right to do anything, to anybody, for the sake of their "art". I don't believe that, it may be my particular bias, my reaction against certain people in my life, to whom their needs as "artists" took precedence over almost everything else, whatever the cost to others. To me human beings are more important than art. And what I know about Diane convinces me that when she photographed these people, dwarfs, nudists, freaks, she always took a little more from them than what they had offered her freely - a little pound of flesh more - and this gave her power. Frank Horvat : You may be right, but to me Diane was like a saint, and this

justified whatever she did. But when I look at your photograph of this old woman, I can't help thinking that you must have some moments of saintliness as well, or you wouldn't have felt the right to take it.

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Eva Rubinstein : This picture, for me, is full of pain - hers and mine. I'd been traveling, alone, for three weeks through the South and Appalachia, in an old car that couldn't even be locked. Late one night, in a tiny town in Tennessee, I carried all my baggage and equipment to the second floor of a rooming house (which was really stupid as I had had serious back trouble for years), and broke two vertebrae. Next day I had to drive back to New York - seventeen hours - in such pain that in order to hit the gas or brake pedal I had to lift my right leg with my hand. Somewhere in Kentucky it began to rain so hard that I couldn't see, so I stopped where I was, and found myself in front of a home for the aged. I hubbled in, hoping that they might have something against the

pain. They didn't, but as I looked around I saw this woman and asked someone in charge if I could take some pictures, and got permission. It was hard to know how aware she was, one minute she would giggle like a child, the next she would howl. I did ask myself : "Do I have any right to do this ?" I don't like taking photographs of people who don't participate, and I may not have done it if I hadn't been in agony myself. But as it was I took it. Later I sent a print to the person who runs the place, to see if I could get a release from the woman's family. They not only gave me a release, but it seems that one of them said : "Yep, that sure was old Mathilda". She had died soon after I was there. I know I took that picture with respect, although I had no way of letting her know that. She was the very personification of Dylan Thomas' poem to his dying father "Do not go gentle into that good night - Rage, rage against the dying of the light". Frank Horvat : So it was a moment of saintliness. Eva Rubinstein : I don't really understand what you mean by that. I know nothing about saintliness - but I believe that you have to give at least as much as you take. Frank Horvat : It shows in some of your portraits, in the way people look at your camera, as if they expected you to caress them. Eva Rubinstein : Every portrait I take should have that quality, because that is what I am doing, in a sense. I don't want my camera to be a tool of power or agression. I assume that you will edit this tape, there are things that I would like to say, but I don't know how they may sound - For instance, I was told once that I made love "like a man", and I said : "no, I make love like aperson". He didn't mean that I was particularly agressive, just that he wasn't used to a woman participating. But what happens for me - and the same thing happens when I photograph someone - is that a part of me almostbecomes the other. After I have photographed the way I like to, I feel as I might if I had been making love all day, marvellous and exhausted and wanting to collapse on the floor in a heap. That's why I can't photograph just anybody, and why it's so hard to photograph people on assignment, it's like going to bed with someone not of my choosing. And there are times when I would like to make the camera disappear, to make photographs with my eyes, with my body. Photographing someone is very much like making love, sometimes I find myself trembling like a leaf. I have a friend, also a photographer, for whom I had a very strong feeling which I had no intention of pursuing. But I did ask if I could do a portrait of him, and while I was doing it, he said : "I have never before seen anyone photographing , where the camera actually seems to be an obstacle". Which, of course, is exactly what it was. Frank Horvat : One of my waking dreams was to have an eye removed and

a camera put in its place - that was before I had eye operations Eva Rubinstein : I have been saying this for years. To blink, and out comes a finished print. Frank Horvat : For me too photographing can be sensual and sexual. But for you it is like caressing someone who looks at you, while for me - did you read that Japanese novel - I think it's called "Sleeping Beauties" -? It's about a brothel for old men, they spend the night with girls who have been put to sleep, but they are not allowed to penetrate them. Eva Rubinstein : An unthreatening situation, they don't have to perform, they are not judged. Frank Horvat : It's one of the sexiest books I have read. Eva Rubinstein : For a man. It's a man's idea of what is sexy. Frank Horvat : My photographs are - in a sense - just like that. You should understand this, didn't you say that you make love like a man? Wouldn't you like to photograph people who are asleep? Eva Rubinstein : I have thought of it a few times, and even asked permission in advance, but I never did it. It would be like using the person as an object, and this turns me off. I cannot imagine doing things that the other person does not react to, any more than I would want to make love to objects. And, please remember, I did not say that about myself ! The person who said it to me, years ago, was a "macho" type, in the worst sense. Frank Horvat : Sometimes I wonder whether the most beautiful moments in love - and in photography - could take place without some part of misunderstanding, or at least of illusion. Eva Rubinstein : I don't think so. Maybe I've have had too many illusions imposed on me, too many people seeing me as something I wasn't. This is terribly destructive, though sometimes it may be tempting to go along with the illusions, or easier, or flattering. But the danger is that in the end you may have a hard time finding out who you really are. I don't want this done to me, and I wouldn't want to do it to others. Frank Horvat : But isn't some illusion essential to love? And to photography as well? Stealing a photograph from people can be like caressing them in a dream. As if they were asleep in my dream - and as if their waking up and looking back could brake my dream. Eva Rubinstein : You are protecting yourself. Because you know that

identifying yourself with another person is a risky business. Frank Horvat : When I photograph people in the street, and they look back, I just turn away the camera and walk off. It's not that I am afraid of them, or that I don't want to identify myself with them. It's as if I could see them only as long as they don't see me. The one-way glass wall. Eva Rubinstein : You feel that you have the power only as long as you do the deciding. When they look back, they are calling something out of you, which you may or may not want to give. I have trouble, now, doing pictures of people in the street. Maybe it is simply out of fear of getting caught, although I'd rather think that it is because I don't want to take something from them without their knowing it - but one can never be sure of one's motivations. A few years ago, I was walking down Nineteenth Street, there was a rather heavy black woman, with a white cap on her head, sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a closed store. It had one of those corrugated metal things that come down, with an illegible scribble in white paint. I had a terrible urge to make a photograph, without really knowing why, I had never wanted to photograph someone like that before. I suddenly found myself kneeling on the sidewalk, very slowly clicking a few frames, taking a deep breath, getting up and walking away. Almost as if I had to risk her waking up and seeing me. But somehow I couldn't take that picture any other way, not just because of the angle, for that I could have squatted, but I had to kneel…

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Frank Horvat : It certainly was a stolen photograph, "une image à la sauvette". I always feel a little pang of bad conscience when I work that way, though at the same time I enjoy it. It's one of the reasons why I prefer to do street photography in New York when the weather is either painfully hot or painfully cold : I am begging for punishment. Eva Rubinstein : If I hadn't broken my back that day I took the old woman in Kentucky -… Frank Horvat : - you wouldn't have felt the right to take it. Eva Rubinstein : I still don't know if I had the right. But at least I know that I didn't take it easily. Of course the way I felt didn't affect her, she didn't know or care about my pain. Frank Horvat : Rather than "bad conscience" I should have said "I feel ill at ease" : when these shapes in the viewfinder, that I am trying to focus and to compose and to fit into my story, suddenly lift their eyes at me, they make me feel as if I had to live up to some expectation that has nothing to do with my purpose. Eva Rubinstein : That's what I've been talking about all along. That's all the difficulty and the challenge and the battle : to look through this mechanical thing, these bits of glass and metal, at someone. And not lose the sense that this "shape" is a human being. That's why I have to "risk myself out". To make up for this bit of metal, this box, these mechanics. Otherwise it would just be too unfair. Frank Horvat : One could say that there is always a glass wall : the viewfinder is a glass wall. Eva Rubinstein : That's exactly the point : it stands between you and reality, it can make you feel disconnected. That is the worst danger of being a photographer, that's why I hate the actual camera so much. I felt this very strongly once, in a potentially dangerous situation in Northern Ireland, teargas and rock throwing and rubber bullets (which by the way are six inches long !) and I was really quite scared, but when I looked through the viewfinder it was suddenly as if I were looking at a television screen, and I was less frightened. Another time was during the birth of my second child, there was a big mirror over my bed, so that the mother could watch the birth. Naturally I started to watch, and waited for something to happen up there, to the point that I lost track of my breathing and concentration, and forgot it was me I was watching. I became disconnected from my own birth-giving. So I asked them

to take away the mirror, and went back to my work.

Photo Eva Rubinstein

Frank Horvat : The difference between you and me is that I try to create this disconnection. It's the difference between a romantic approach and a classical one. Eva Rubinstein : I agree with you, in the true, original sense of those words. What is happening in this conversation is that you are telling me who you are, and I am trying to tell you who I am. When I photograph, especially people, I would like to have the kind of relationship with my subject that my father had with the music he played. I always felt that he became the music, and possibly he "performed" elsewhere more than at the piano. There he had a quality I can only call "pure" : respect, honesty, simplicity. A human, personal relationship with every note he played, never pulling the music out of shape for some effect, but always with a profound sense for the form that held it all together. It was very moving, because in spite of all his control and his technique, one felt that at the same time he was open and vulnerable. I know that in the photographic situation we always have that advantage, that five percent edge, because we are the ones who decide when to push the button. But what I try to do, and what I wish I could do more, is to get as close as possible to a fifty-fifty situation - although I know that fifty-fifty is impossible but maybe fiftytwo-fortyeight -. When I say "identifying myself with someone",

it does not mean only recognizing something of myself in him, it means coming out of myself, to some half-way point, in order to help him come out, to the point where we can meet. The photograph is the result of this meeting. For me it's a two-way thing, like an electrical charge, if one wire is dead nothing lights up. If you don't make yourself vulnerable, to the same extent that you want the other person to be vulnerable, you have no right. It becomes a voyeur's pleasure, something that gives you a sense of power at the expense of someone else's privacy. When I took that picture of the woman sleeping in the street, and found myself kneeling, this was my way of showing that I did not want that power, I took the risk of looking stupid, or worse : that she would wake up and be angry. But there was no other way. And somehow I think that these feelings end up in our images, and even people who don't know us can "read" them.

New York, April 1987

Jeanloup Sieff

Born in Paris, November 30, 1930 Studies photography at École Vaugirard and École de Vevey Begins professional photography in 1954, first for Elle, then independently from1958. Photographer of portraits, nudes, fashion and landscapes, specializing in black and white. Deceased 2001 in Paris.

"I am totally superficial, I know. But I believe superficiality can be very serious,a defense against the gravity of things, a manner of discretion."

Frank Horvat : This book will be like a family history. We all depend a little upon each other. We have shared common experiences, we have influenced one another, especially you and I. In Paris we began at the same time, with the same magazines. In New York we shared a studio. We have both been members of Magnum and we left it at the same time, for the same reasons. We have specialized-or rather we have refused to specialize-in just about the same way. It was only later, after the 1960s, that we followed different paths. Sometimes I have criticized your work. Probably because I expected it to resemble my own: only those who share the same religion can accuse each other of heresy - infidels are never seen as heretical. The more two people are alike, the more that questioning of the other implies a questioning of oneself. That's why I shall start with one of the differences between us: our attitudes about ease and difficulty. We both know that there is nothing easier than to take photographs, and that at the same time it is difficult. But I tend to put the accent on the difficulty, whereas you give the impression of doing it without effort. Is photography really that easy for you? Jeanloup Sieff : Sometimes I say, in jest, that I am a lazy fellow who works eighteen hours a day. It's about the same for easiness. Things do seem easy to me, apart from the difficulties in human relations, especially in our profession. I love to work fast. I have the feeling that I can solve problems rapidly, even though later it may turn out that I was wrong. I don't wake up at night wondering "Was I right in doing this or that? Should I have done it differently?" I have the kind of confidence of one who would call heads or tails

with the certainty that the coin will always fall on the right side. But that doesn't mean that I don't attach importance to what I do. Frank Horvat : You find it easy to make photos that will please yourself and others. But the fifty, hundred or two hundred photos that will survive, at the end of a life, will they have been easily made? Jeanloup Sieff : That's the difference between us! I don't give a damn about what will survive! I have never thought of building a monument to my own glory, however relative that may be. I do things as they come and because I like doing them. There are subjects I want to show, others that don't interest me, there are photographs that I wouldn't know how to make, even though I regret it and admire those who make them. Koudelka, for instance: I couldn't live the life of Koudelka-which doesn't prevent me from admiring his photos. But I am totally indifferent about what may survive. If I had to, I could burn all my negatives and all my prints! After all, they are nothing but paper. Even if some of my images have been important to some people, just as some images made by others have been important to me. They exist in my head as a memory, the disappearance of the original wouldn't make a difference. The role of an image is to live its life independently. Sometimes I discover that an image I made has influenced someone, that it has modified his relationship to women, or that it has made him want to change his profession. This may move me. But then I get the feeling that the image doesn't belong to me, that I didn't make it for that purpose. I just never think in those terms. Frank Horvat : It's odd that when someone says something true, and I have no doubts about your sincerity… Jeanloup Sieff : I am completely sincere! Frank Horvat : …when one expresses an idea, even a true one, all of a sudden its opposite comes to mind. What comes to my mind in this case, is that I know few photographers whose prints are as well finished as yours, who keep them as carefully in drawers so well designed to protect them from dust and humidity, who handle them with such delicacy and respect. Jeanloup Sieff : It is a purely physical respect. For me, there is a physical side to photography, independent of what the subject may signify: it's the sheer pleasure of looking at a print and of touching it. Maybe because this is the point where I started. I was fourteen years old when I had my first darkroom, and I have kept a rapport with the print that is a little like that of the sculptor with stone. I wouldn't say that it's what I most care about, but it's the foundation. Frank Horvat : If I had to talk about you to someone who had never seen your photos, I would say: "Sieff is a photographer of surfaces, he loves

surfaces, he stays on the surface, the first subject of his photos are surfaces."

Photo Jeanloup Sieff

Jeanloup Sieff : Absolutely. Possibly you think of it in a slightly pejorative way but, I take it positively. Obviously "to be satisfied with the surface" may sound like a criticism. But as far as I am concerned, I have some doubts about what one calls the "content" of a photograph, I believe that nine out of ten times the intentions of the creator have nothing to do with what is perceived by the viewer. The impulse that led you to make an image is a thing that you cannot share with anyone, even if you explain it. What remains is a surface that will live its own life, that will belong to everybody. I accept that surface. Frank Horvat : But surface could be associated with superficiality…

Jeanloup Sieff : Even superficiality is not a notion that I reject. I am totally superficial, I know. But I believe superficiality can be very serious, can be a defense against the gravity of things, a manner of discretion. Frank Horvat : Formerly this was expressed by the character of the dandy. Jeanloup Sieff : Exactly. There is nothing more serious or more intense than a dandy. I'm not a dandy, alas! But I would have loved to be one. Frank Horvat : I would like to return to my question about the easy and the difficult. I understand that, according to your role of "superficiality", you would tend to say: "for me photography is easy," But I can't help wondering if it is really as easy as you make it seem. Jeanloup Sieff : If I dug truly to the depths…I wouldn't know, I'm not sure that today I could dig into something, where I have avoided digging for thirty years. Maybe I only try to persuade myself that it's easy, I want it to be easy and I do my best to make it seem so. If I suddenly discovered that what I've done all my life has been difficult, and that I only disguised it as easy, that could lead me to a crisis. Then again, one cannot measure everything by the same standard. I have done different kinds of work, in different situations, I have spent time on images that didn't seem important to me, that I only made to earn my living. Even though one often gives oneself an alibi, in order to find some interest in the work. I hate to say "this photo is for myself" and "this one is for the client." I often say that assignments are nothing but personal projects that I'm getting paid for. Which of course is at once true and false.

Photo Jeanloup Sieff

Frank Horvat : It's the judgment of others that can mislead our own judgment. Right now I am preparing an exhibition of my commercial work, and I have difficulty in making the selection: the judgments of others are so attached to the photos, that it is difficult for me to see them objectively. Jeanloup Sieff : Nonetheless, I have made a few discoveries, over the last thirty five years. In my beginnings, the judgments of others were a major influence, a photo seemed good or bad according to what people said or to how they used it. Now, it's almost the opposite: when a photograph that I'm satisfied with is rejected, I feel almost certain that it's OK! Frank Horvat : Are your photographs often rejected? Jeanloup Sieff : Very often. But now I make use of the opinions of others, in a contrary way. When people whom I don't respect like my work, it raises an

alarm: I tell myself that I've made some mistake. Frank Horvat : And when they please a public who looks for an easy sensuality - like the readers of Photo ?

Photo Jeanloup Sieff

Jeanloup Sieff : We are not responsible for what people feel in front of our images. Frank Horvat : But can you disregard their judgment? Jeanloup Sieff : I know that these magazines have done me harm. Lots of people dislike my work without knowing me, without having seen other photos, only because of the images they see in those magazines. For them, my work is "ass and wide angle." I don't regret having made those photos, but

I shouldn't have accepted that they be used in such a way. I was amused by counting that out of three hundred of my photographs exhibited at the Musée d'Art Moderne, there were only fifty four wide-angle photos and only seventy nudes. People want to pigeonhole you. It's as if one day you went out with a red tie, and then everyone remembered you as the one who wears a red tie, when in fact you rarely wear a tie at all. That said, I absolutely do not disown those photos, which in fact are not photos of asses, but of bottoms - for me there is a big difference. As for the wide angle, I must tell you that I am claustrophobic. I bought my first wide angle in Tangiers, in 1954, because it was the least expensive lens I could find. It was by using it that I discovered a kind of view that made me breathe better. A purely physical thing. That didn't stop me from working a whole year, for Jardin des Modes, with a 180 mm lens. You can change your focal length as you change cars, to air out your head, to see things differently. Little by little, you adapt to what the technique imposes on you, at first it's the technique that is in charge, then you become stronger and take over. But if someone, thirty years later, compares your photos made with the wide angle, the telephoto or the Rolleiflex, he will sense a continuity of what you wanted to show and of your way of showing it. Frank Horvat : It is true that your photos are often recognizable, and not only because they are in black and white and taken with a wide angle: but by the importance of the skin in your portraits, and of the various surfaces in your landscapes. In other words: by a continuity of criteria. I imagine that, while editing, you say to yourself something like: "this works" or "this doesn't." Butwhat works? And how does it actually work? Jeanloup Sieff : I've been wondering about that for thirty years. You say: "this works." I prefer to say: "this is satisfying." It's an expression that I often use, and not only while editing. There is a wall along my staircase, a white wall, and each time that I walk down the steps I touch it, I find it satisfying to touch it, the feel of the paint is pleasant. Again something purely physical. It is that surface quality that counts for me, be it skin, sky or wall. On top of that, there are many other parameters involved-the subject, the emotion, the organization of forms, the convergence of all the elements at one point-to use Cartier-Bresson's expression. All that can make for a satisfying whole - or not. As you well know, we may disown an image, even if it shows what we wanted to show, simply because a bit of hand is in the way, or a tree not in the right place. To many people such reasons may seem stupid or futile, but to us they make an essential difference: when we quickly look over our contacts we recognize a good photo right away, even though later it may take us hours to be sure of our choice. Frank Horvat : But do you recognize the good photo at the moment of shooting it? Jeanloup Sieff : Rarely. Sometimes I feel it happening, it's like hearing a tiny noise. But not often. At other times the photo I expected to be good turns out

to be insignificant. Or another one, in which I didn't believe, says all I wanted to say. One makes mistakes all the time! Frank Horvat : As if somehow, at the time of shooting, we had to work through a kind of blindness, or of confusion. Jeanloup Sieff : But in spite of that we are responsible for the result. Only it happens so quickly, in such a small fraction of a second, that we don't have the time to be conscious of it. Frank Horvat : How do you prepare yourself for a shoot? Do you think a lot about it? Jeanloup Sieff : All the time, but in bits. Tomorrow I am going to shoot posters for an anti-AIDS campaign. I want to photograph couples, a young boy, 18 years old, fragile, with a young girl of the same age, and another couple, two slightly older boys - it shouldn't be quite clear if they are gay or just two friends on the make. I want to walk around with them and improvise. Even though, in another way, everything is already set in my mind, in terms of the scale of reproduction (which will be a poster, three meters by four, with text on the right, and so forth). I see them placed in a certain way, with a certain physical relation between them. The miracle that I expect may come from some unexpected lighting, from an uncovered shoulder, from a hand in the right spot: nothing but small accidents, which nonetheless I have in mind. Though possibly I may get something very different from what I imagine - in fact I don't know what I shall bring back tomorrow, even though I've been thinking about it for ten days. The danger, when one prepares too much in one's mind, is of seeing only what one is prepared for. I would like to remain open-minded, but can't always. Sometimes I shut myself in and don't leave enough room for improvisation, particularly when I am tired, or when I have a headache, or when time is too short, or when the client annoys me. And that's when I go wrong. Frank Horvat : When looking at my old contacts, I have noticed that some photos at the beginning of the shoot, which may be unrelated to the subject, are sometimes the most interesting ones. There comes a moment when I define my purpose too precisely, and from then on I limit myself to that direction, neglecting whatever is not in line with my aim. This makes me miss some opportunities. There are sessions from which I only keep one photo, made at the beginning of the first roll, possibly of some detail that struck before my assigned subject was ready. If I could live those moments again, I would try to look beyond the subject a little more often. Jeanloup Sieff : I don't believe that one can change one's way of seeing. The point you are aiming at is the result of your own decision. And what you consider a lucky accident, the photo that is slightly beside your aim, is also

connected with some part of yourself. Frank Horvat : Still, I have this regret. But coming back to your photography: do you ever tell yourself, "Here I made a mistake, I followed the wrong path, I blew a chance." Jeanloup Sieff : All the time. Frank Horvat : Can you give me an example? Jeanloup Sieff : There could be so many! I could tell you about portraits. During four or five years, I had the chance to get some fascinating people in front of my camera. Sometimes for magazines of little interest, or for improbable reasons. But people whom I admired, interesting personalities, great faces. Béjart, the choreographer, Atahualpa Yupanqui, the guitarist, Professor Jacob, the scientist, people who stimulate me by what they are and by what they do. Still, nine times out of ten, I felt disappointed by those portraits. Sure enough, the photos were sharp and anyone could recognize the sitters. But I didn't go far enough. More often than not, these people were not used to posing, were uncomfortable in front of the camera. I made them come to my studio, because I wanted them to be available, far from their telephone, from their protective environment. So here they were, unprotected and fragile. Not that I wanted to exert any power over them - in fact what took place was exactly the opposite: at some point, I would put an end to the session, by saying: "Great! Excellent! We got it!" - just when I felt that it was becoming interesting - only because I sensed their discomfort and didn't want them to suffer any longer. So they would shake my hand and be gone and I would remain alone, raging against myself: "Why didn't I shoot four more rolls? Why didn't I go on making them nervous?" Frank Horvat : Still, you didn't manage so badly.... Jeanloup Sieff : One always manages somehow, that's the problem, one always gets away with it, there are always some people who say, "How great, you can count every eyelash, you can see the texture of the skin." One gets away with it, but that's not enough. Besides, there is no proof that making them suffer one more hour I would have achieved something better. With Béjart, I had a great conversation about what's photogenic. It was fascinating to photograph him. Halfway through a roll, I stopped to say "Your gaze is so bright, that I have the impression it will overexpose my film, like x-rays." So we began talking about people who are photogenic without being goodlooking, and on the contrary about girls who were attractive, but whose eyes were just as empty as the eyes of a cow watching a train. About the fact that some people seem "inhabited" and some not. What's photogenic is what is projected by people who are "inhabited".

Frank Horvat : Which is what Walter Benjamin called " the aura". Jeanloup Sieff : Exactly. It can happen with idiots, though this is rare. Béjart listened to me and said, "Yes, I agree, but you forget an important element: the desire to give. With you, I feel like giving. Just as there are nights when one dances better because there is a better audience." He was right: a portrait can go wrong because the sitter doesn't let himself go. Even a tiny gesture, a light relaxation, a very small movement can lead a sitting into the right direction. A good portrait is the rapport that is established between two people, there has to be someone in front of the camera and someone behind it. Frank Horvat : Though one could also say exactly the opposite: that the "aura" appears when the sitter stays within himself, when he keeps his distance. Jeanloup Sieff : Like Atahualpa Yupanqui. His is one of the rare portraits of which I am truly satisfied. There was absolutely no contact between us, it was like photographing a cliff on Easter Island. You stand in front of him, you set your lights, you shoot, and when you have finished he shakes your hand and leaves.

Photo Jeanloup Sieff

Frank Horvat : Would Béjart say that "he gave?" Jeanloup Sieff : Atahualpa Yupanqui? He couldn't have cared less. Frank Horvat : Possibly that was his way of giving. Jeanloup Sieff : It sure was. But when Béjart said "giving", he did not mean "giving something phony." Why do some portraits from the nineteenth century, when the poses were three minutes long, appear truer than those of today, made in a thousandth of a second? Why would the expressions of people held in place with a neck support be more believable than those in snapshots? Frank Horvat : What is your explanation? Jeanloup Sieff : Because they were not making it up. It's impossible to hold

a fake smile for three minutes - unless it's one's nature.... Frank Horvat : Another reason could be that they had to concentrate on being still. Today's problems come from the sitter not knowing what to do with himself. Jeanloup Sieff : However, the opposite is equally true. A physical discomfort can also be revealing. I made a portrait of Doisneau, against a gray background, with his camera in his hand.. He felt so ill at ease that he kept bending forward. But that was typical of him. His discomfort was his truth. Frank Horvat : There are things that models give and others that photographers take. And they are not necessarily the same … Jeanloup Sieff : What's important is to have a point of view about the model. Bad portraits are portraits of people about whom you sense nothing. If you decide that the creases of an outfit are revealing, they may become important. That's part of what I call "the surface." Frank Horvat : What we are saying about portraits makes me want to make some. I didn't make enough of them. Jeanloup Sieff : Me, it makes me want to make some good ones. The good ones I made are too few and far between. Though for me, every photo is either a portrait or a landscape. Fashion photography can be both. My main interest in it, apart from meeting beautiful girls, is that it allows me go in either direction.

Photo Jeanloup Sieff

Frank Horvat : The two categories have a common denominator: before showing a person or a place, every photograph shows a moment in time. Jeanloup Sieff : Absolutely. And it's even more so in the case of landscapes than in the case of people: never again will such a light, such clouds be the same. I make photographs in order to show what will never take place again, even though I know that photography has no value whatsoever as an objective documentation. Frank Horvat : As Barthes puts it, the essence of photography is: "this has been." Which makes any comparisons with painting seem absurd. Jeanloup Sieff : Absolutely. I would like to add: "and this will never be again"-which for me is even stronger that "it has been." Which reminds me of all the dead people in our files. It must be the same for you. A few weeks ago I got a call from a young man-at first I thought it was another assistant looking

for work - I get ten of those calls every day-and I started to say, "Thanks, I am not looking for an assistant." He interrupted me, saying, "No, I'm not calling for that. I saw one of your photos on a postcard. It shows my mother, who died seven years ago. If you have more images of her, I would like to see them." He came over and I gave him some. I imagine he pins them on all the walls of his room, he showed me other ones, yellowed and covered with fingerprints. Her name was Maria Solar, surely you remember her. She committed suicide one evening, on her way back from Deauville. Frank Horvat : About "this has been," another question comes to my mind. Your prints are often recognizable by certain darkroom effects: vignettes, zones, blackened skies: manipulations that you don't conceal. Do you do that to make the photo seem less realistic? Jeanloup Sieff : It began as an accident, as with Pasteur, who discovered his vaccine because he had forgotten something in a drawer. I was always bothered by skies that were too light. I like to see texture, I like prints with deep blacks, as long as some details remain visible in the shadows. So I would give more exposure to the skies, using traces that exist in the negative, but which a straight print wouldn't bring out: as you know, the negative records a range from one to a thousand, while paper only reproduces from one to fifteen. But I did it poorly and it came out as a vignette. Besides, I had a bad enlarger, casting more light in the center, which obliged me to overexpose the four corners in order to compensate. By another accident, I overdid it and the corners became too dark. Then I realized that I liked the result, it created a kind of depth. In a way, it's the same concept as framing. Frank Horvat : But that also introduces another layer of time, a darkroom event that is imposed upon the moment of exposure. A second "this has been". Jeanloup Sieff : I love closed images-even though I am claustrophobic. I close off the sky, I close the angles, often I say to my printer, "Be careful, the spectator could escape." If the white of the sky flows into the white of the paper, your eye escapes from the image. In fact, the viewer has to be given a direction. His gaze has to be led to the horizon, in order to leave the image from there - it shouldn't be allowed to escape towards the right or the left. It's like Alice entering the mirror. There should be a way out, but one only. Frank Horvat : In other words: you want to be the one who shows the way. But isn't there a conflict between this technique and the "decisive moment?" Jeanloup Sieff : Cartier-Bresson leaves a thin black border around his images, which comes from the overexposure of the borders and which is meant to say, "I didn't crop." That also is a kind of enclosure. However, I don't always agree with him, his "decisive moment" is too limited by his geometry. Once I told him so, talking about a photo made by Depardon in Lebanon,

while running and dodging bullets, an image in which everything seems to run, to explode, to smoke, it's quite extraordinary. But Henri kept saying, "It's not a good photograph." So I said, "Henri, there are moments when the "golden rule" doesn't matter all that much!" "No!" he replied "it's geometry that matters." Frank Horvat : A life is made of millions of moments, how is one to decide which is the "decisive" one? Cartier-Bresson decides by the geometry; Winston Link, the American who photographed trains, decided by the passing of a train; Eva Rubenstein decides by her guts. Geometry seems as good a criteria as any -in fact, I can't see a better one. Winston Link put himself in a situation where he could only make one photograph, at the instant when the train went by. Cartier-Bresson gives himself a series of rules that keep him from pressing the shutter if certain geometric rules are not met. The world may explode, and Cartier-Bresson may be there to watch it, but he will not make a photo unless it is composed according to his geometry. Jeanloup Sieff : Actually I prefer Penn's definition, "Moments preserved." The idea of preservation seems to me to go further than the idea of the "decisive moment." Frank Horvat : It's true that a good photo doesn't only say "this moment has been" but also "this moment has been precious." Jeanloup Sieff : "This moment has been, it has been precious, I felt it as precious and I made this image." This is what we are trying to say.

Paris, June 1987

Translation: Charles Martin

Joel Peter Witkin

Born 1939 in Brooklyn, from a catholic mother and a jewish father. At the age of 6, witnesses a car accident, during which the severed head of a little girl rolls to his feet. From 1961, studies sculpture at Cooper Union, New York City. Works as a photographer in the Army. Travels to India. 1976 - 77 : studies photography at the University of Albuquerque, while earning his living as a waiter. Has never done commercial or press photography. Lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"Sometimes I say to myself that the work is smarter than I am."

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin : (showing prints, in random order, from one out of several boxes) This photograph is partially based on "The Judgement of Paris", by Rubens. The guy is a performance artist - with his cock. He developed a pneumatic pump that makes his cock this big, by suction. He also had surgery done on the head of his cock, so that he can put his finger inside. And he made another pump for his girl?friend, who is now a lesbian (laughs), to enlarge her clitoris. So she puts her clitoris in his cock. It's very interesting. But it was my idea to put the mark on his arm, like the tattoos in concentration camps. Because the image refers not only to the "Judgement of Paris", as in classical painting, but also to the judgement of Paris - the city - during nazi occupation. That's the historical aspect. And he is holding the eyes of Saint Lucy, because this man's existence is completely sensual, his cock is his real eye. This one is the severed head of an old man. It has been cut in half for medical research and was lent to me by a university.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : But it was you who assembled it that way? Joel Peter Witkin : Originally I wanted to do a photograph to be called "The History of Spain". When I got the box, I had no idea whether the head it contained was young or old, male or female. I had promised to return it within twentyfour hours, so I did the photograph at night and got up early to take it back. But as I was holding the two halves, I made them do this, as if kissing and I knew that this was the image I wanted. Frank Horvat : So you didn't plan it? I had been wondering to which extent your photographs were planned. In other words: if for you, as for more conventional photographers like myself, there is a decisive moment. Joel Peter Witkin : Of course there is. Actually there are two decisive moments: the first when I record something with the camera, the second when I print. What I'm showing you here are not just mechanical records - but

final objects, representing interactions between such records and myself. I draw on the negative, or scratch it, or take things out. At the moment of photography I act instantaneously and instinctively. At the moment of printing I take time for esthetic decisions for which I didn't have time with the camera, I re-design the image into something more powerful, more mysterious. Frank Horvat : I was going to ask you about the scratching. I had been thinking about it, and have tried to understand your reasons. One possible reason that came to my mind - but I am not sure that I am using the right word - is an ethical one: if subject matter such as yours was presented in a straight, documentary way, it would be even less acceptable - ethically less acceptable. Joel Peter Witkin : (laughs) I believe that the ethics depend on my attitude to the subject. When I photograph a person, I basically become that person, if only for a short period of time. And before I photograph them I have to get their agreement, make them understand what I'm doing, convince them of my sincerity - even if they consider my sincerity to be crazy. Most of the time I give them a print - a small one - and sometimes I pay them - or both. But whatever effort or money it costs, what's important is that I decide to photograph the person and that the person decides to be photographed. When we get to that point, it's as if the world were somewhere else, nothing exists but the time of the image and the emotions - personal or inter-personal - that will make the image happen. I surrender everything to the image. Frank Horvat : And this makes it ethically acceptable. But has the problem of ethics ever worried you? Joel Peter Witkin : Not really. I have been censured by others, whose attitude I may respect - but with whom I don't necessarily agree. Sometimes their attitudes surprise me. When I showed the work in Spain, people didn't mind the representations of death and sex, but were shocked by the religious associations, which to them seemed blasphemous. I told them that basically my beliefs were the same as theirs and that I didn't intend to blaspheme only to visualise and clarify my beliefs to myself. I never photograph anything I don't believe in. If I love working with death, it's because even in death I find this power of reality, that no sculptor or painter could recreate, not even a Michelangelo or a Da Vinci. The Pieta or the Virgin of the Rocks are but inventions of the mind, however wonderful - while in the real human flesh, whether alive or dead, there is a power that is god-given. This is what keeps me in photography. Frank Horvat : But do you agree with my point that the scratching makes this reality look less real - and therefore possibly more acceptable? Joel Peter Witkin : Actually there are three stages in my photography. The first is when I prepare myself to make a connection, with a person or with an

event or with something I've seen or read. The second is when the connection takes place, when the time, the light, the arrangements allow the photograph to happen. I believe there can be only one such moment - so I rarely shoot more than one roll. The third is when I print, which to me is seeing what through the camera I only perceived. I don't want to stop at that perception, I want to re-design and re-create what I perceived. It's like expanding time. Taking the photograph is like an automatic connection between the subject and my consciousness. Between that and the printing a week may pass - or more than a week, if I'm travelling. In the darkroom I first make normal contacts and select a frame. Then I draw or scratch on that contact. Then I put the negative on the viewing box and work on the negative - the one I have decided to use. In the past I've ruined some. because I don't do one scratch at a time and then check with a print, I do it all at once, sometimes it takes ten minutes, sometimes an hour. When the negative is ready for the enlarger, it looks as if it had been left all day on the highway, with cars rolling over it. Then I do the actual printing, which may take any time between a day and a week. Frank Horvat : I must admit that I have always been biased against manipulations in printing and that I am even more biased against your kind of subject matter. In spite of that, your photographs move me. It's the mystery of this contradiction that I find fascinating - and that made me come half the way around the world to meet you. I would like to know more about this strange alchemy, by which you combine two things that I dislike, to produce something that I can't help liking and admiring. Joel Peter Witkin : Your questions are almost like asking a painter "why do you paint this way?" All I can say is that I want to transform what has been collected by the camera into something more powerful, as if I was creating a camera to replace the original camera. If I was pushed against a wall, with a knife against my throat, and had to explain what I do, I would say that I try to offer, in the best form I know, prayers, to acknowledge the wonder of existence. My work is a kind of diary, through which I try to clarify my perception of existence, which is probably darker than most - though mixed with humour, or cynicism, whatever you prefer to call it. It's not that I consider my work as therapeutic, I don't claim that it provides any answers, neither for myself nor for others. Maybe it doesn't even clarify things - but I don't want it to confuse them either. My purpose is to acknowledge the wonder of being part of Creation. Though I myself don't create anything, I make from what has been created. Frank Horvat : I remember reading an interview in which you mentioned Saint Francis, who composed that hymn in praise of the whole of Creation, including wild animals, which to him were symbols of destruction - and "Sister Death" - death being feminine in Italian. To me your photographs convey the same message: that everything that exists - including the worst - is to be

accepted and loved. This is probably what moves me. Joel Peter Witkin : Spirituality is part of my background, and in this I consider myself very fortunate. My work is the reason for my being on Earth not as an end it itself, but as the purpose of my soul. Sometimes I say to myself that the work is smarter than I am. I believe we all have gifts, one kid becomes a doctor, one a cook. When I look through the viewfinder and see the reversed image, everything changes - and this change has to do with my reason for being in life. That is my gift, it's through this gift that I have to redeem my existence, as Christ had to redeem all the other religions into something beyond them. The other component of my background is art. When I was a kid I used to collect reproductions of paintings and sculpture, as other kids collected baseball cards. As soon as I was old enough to take the subway, I went into Manhattan to see the museums. My real family have always been the artists, more than my mother and father. Frank Horvat : So when you photograph those two half heads, kissing, (JPW laughs) with all that flesh falling to pieces, what is implied in the photograph is your participation in that kiss, as when Saint Francis kissed the leper. Because if you didn't participate, if you weren't ready to touch those lips with your own, a photograph such as this one would just be a perverse game. Joel Peter Witkin : I agree. All depends on the intensity. I see millions of things in the course of a day - but only a few that I want to use my time for. Billions of photographs are taken every year, which are nothing but an ecological disaster, a waste of paper and chemistry. But this one, I think, is a good photograph. I love dealing with death, for me it's the same as life. Frank Horvat : You say that you accept death. But you also said, in another instance, that you refuse pain. Joel Peter Witkin : There is a great difference between death and pain. Of course a person may die in a very painful way, but death is not the extremity of pain, it's the end of life, the doorway to a higher plane of existence - and of work. After death we may continue working and growing. Frank Horvat : But what about pain? There is a lot of physical pain in your photographs, inflicted or self-inflicted. Take the man hooking himself up by his testicles, it's one of the most painful images I can imagine - which is probably why you made it.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin : The Testicle-stretch-man wasn't in great pain, he was in a very erotic, sensuous condition. Frank Horvat : But when I look at the photograph, what it conveys to me is the idea of unbearable pain ! Joel Peter Witkin : Sure. But I don't photograph anyone who likes pain, only people who use it for their self-awareness. I have been approached by sadists who wanted me to photograph people they torture, but I refused, because I don't like their purpose. In the case of a masochist, like the Testicle-stretch-man, there may be this desire for awareness - but I can't imagine anything of that kind in a sadist. If there is pain in my photographs, it relates to the pain in my own existence. Frank Horvat : Do you mean that your photographs express your own fear of

pain? Joel Peter Witkin : No. I have never been injured physically. I have only been in hospital twice, the first time when I was born and the second when I had pneumonia, in the army. Once I almost committed suicide, that was big pain, but more mental than physical. What I express in my photographs is not any fear of physical pain, but my connection with these people, with the way they deal with their own flesh and blood. I believe our anguishes are less related to fear for our bodies than to what we dread for our spirits and souls. I use physicality as a sort of metaphor. Frank Horvat : Kosloff, in "The Privileged Eye", writes that your photographs are neither tragic nor comic - but lyrical. Joel Peter Witkin : What does he mean by lyrical? Frank Horvat : I wasn't quite sure until I read your remark about Saint Francis. Lyrical is something that has to do with love. Joel Peter Witkin : I can think of something that supports your statement and that could also explain the scratching. There is a connection between love and pain, as there is between love and hate. When someone truly loves, as Saint Francis loved the leper, he doesn't fear the pain involved, as Saint Francis didn't fear to catch leprosy and to dissolve in this man's stench and rot. If I may draw a parallel between my own rotten self (laughs) and a saint, I would say that I adress every instance with the same struggle as Saint Francis in that metaphor. As for the difference between straight prints and manipulated prints: had Saint Francis been content with any ordinary leper, possibly less horrible than what he imagined, that would have been like a straight print (laughs). But he wanted to see the worse, to go the whole way, to face not just any manifestation of fear, but fear itself. He had to find out what was contained in his greatest fear, which was also his greatest love. I am not saying that you have to be a masochist to find a way to God, but I say that unless you take the greatest risk and investigate the bottom of your greatest fear, you will never get to the cleansing endpoint. Frank Horvat : So scratching the negatives enhances the photograph not only esthetically, but also ethically, because you take the risk of ruining them. Joel Peter Witkin : It made me lose entire shootings. But that still doesn't explain why I make a certain scratch in a certain way. All I know is that I may work on a print for a whole day - or even for a week - trying every kind of change in order to resolve the image. And there is one change, one only, that makes me feel "that's it, that's how I want it". You see, what I try to do is remove myself from the finished print, as if I was another person seeing it for the first time. And then, if I really like it, I say to myself "I'm as good as my last

image". Frank Horvat : But the wrong scratch may destroy your photograph. Could one say that the risk you take is a kind of atonement for blasphemy? I don't use this word in any derogatory way - but I do believe that your work is blasphemous. Some mystics - I think I read it in Dostoewski - practiced blasphemy as way to salvation. Of course there was a price to be paid, in terms of either divine punishment or self-punishment. Joel Peter Witkin : That's an interesting perception. But if I blaspheme, it's only because what I do is the most honest approach I know to creating an image of universal love. Possibly my spirit is not up to manifesting itself in a purer way. I know there are other works where simple people, or kids, can find a nourishment more to their taste. Frank Horvat : You mean kitsch? Joel Peter Witkin : Not only. Great works of art can have that quality too. Frank Horvat : But if you tried to produce such works, they would turn out to be kitsch… Joel Peter Witkin : I couldn't produce them. Because my work comes from the need to ascend to love, but through darkness. Technically I could do it easily, for instance by pushing objects around to make nice arrangements or by directing nice people in a nice way. It would be like going into automatic. But I don't want to leave it at that. Frank Horvat : You have to explore the extremity of horror, the extremity of disgust, the extremity of pain. Joel Peter Witkin : I have always felt that way, even as a child. That car accident in Brooklyn, when the girl's head came rolling my way, has changed my life. Frank Horvat : What strikes me is that you never mention this episode as a traumatic experience - but as a sort of apparition. Joel Peter Witkin : To me extreme things are like miracles. There is nothing as boring as a person who is just OK. But I could easily live in a world populated with these disjunctive, bizarre things - as long as their meaning wasn't damaging to the people involved. I operate out of confusion, towards clarity. Frank Horvat : As you mention confusion, I must admit that I have been confused by some of your work. The Crucifix, for instance. When I first saw it,

in a Manhattan gallery, I interpreted it as a deliberate blasphemy, intended to mock religion. Today I feel like apologizing to you for that mistake. Joel Peter Witkin : The Crucifix cost me several months of work and more than 25.000 dollars of expenses. But that's not the point. My intention was that whoever saw it, from whatever background, should know and feel what the Crucifiction is supposed to represent. I have to admit that, from this point of view, the piece may not convince everyone. On the other hand, if I hadn't made it, I wouldn't have found out about certain connections - or disconnections - withing myself and my beliefs. Frank Horvat : There may be another excuse for my misinterpretation - or for what you call a failure. As things stand, the only channel through which you can show and sell your work is the contemporary art market - where sincerity is more the exception than the rule. Work shown in this context may easily be misinterpreted. Joel Peter Witkin : That's a good point. When The Crucifix was shown in New York, it was talked about in terms of post-modern expressionism - which is nonsense. Something altogether different happened in Spain: when the workmen of the Museum had unpacked it and began carrying it through the underground of the museum, towards the elevator, they spontaneously burst into a processional hymn. I was very moved by that. But let's procede. This one I call the Art-deco Lamp. One day my wife phoned from Florida, saying there was a hunchback woman who knew of my work and wanted to be photographed nude. So I paid her flight to Albuquerque. She stayed with us, in the guest-house, and soon became a friend. Some men are crazy about her, her body is different from anything, like an alien's. Looking at her back, one can actually see the beat of her heart and the air moving through her lungs. It was wonderful to watch.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : So your photograph has helped her accepting herself as she is - or even loving herself. Joel Peter Witkin : I think she loved herself before. The big print of this was in the Whitney Museum, opposite Diane Arbus. But I gave her a small print, which she sold, because she needed the money to live, and that helped her. To me she is beautiful. I didn't see her without cloths until she came to the studio - I would never have said to her "let me see you without cloths, honey", that's not me (laughs). In the studio she took them off and I said "I have to photograph you from the back" and she said "do you have to?" and I said "that's why you are here, photographing you from the front wouldn't be what you are about, nor what I'm about". So she agreed (laughs). Frank Horvat : In this you are different from Diane Arbus. I knew her personally and admired her, but some feel she betrayed the people she

photographed, taking from them what they didn't know they were giving. Joel Peter Witkin : What I try to achieve is a collaboration between their phantasies and my own. Of course they don't know what I see through the camera, there is a distortion, especially with the old Rollei I use. But I always show them prints. And, as I said, I never deal in pain for pain's sake - but only as a way to clarification. Which cannot be said of Arbus, to the extent in which her photographs are but signifiers of her own phantasies or projections. I also photographed freak shows - in fact that's where I started. To me they seemed so much more interesting than the people who were watching them, more wonderful, more like physical manifestations of something unique. My gift is to deal with horror and pain, knowing that in horror and pain there is something sacred. This other man also deals in pain. What he performs was originally an indian ceremony, he does it in his garage, and prepares himself for it by fasting. When he is ready, someone cranks him up by his flesh. He first pierced his skin when he was twelve years old, nobody told him to do this, he just wanted to.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : Does he is suffer great pain? Joel Peter Witkin : No, he is in ecstasy. It's a form of meditation, there is no pain. Once your ear is pierced, there is no pain putting an earring in. Frank Horvat : But to me, as a viewer, it's almost unbearable. Joel Peter Witkin : Really? (laughs). Frank Horvat : Which of course is why you took the photograph. Unbearability is one of the keys on which you are playing. Joel Peter Witkin : I wouldn't say playing. My intention is to explore my own reactions - and also the reactions of others. Frank Horvat : But is it unbearable for you? Joel Peter Witkin : I'm fascinated by it. This person gives me the opportunity to witness the event, but also, in a religious sense, to share in it. Not that I live through it in body and mind, as he does - but in a sense I go through his pain. Frank Horvat : Which is the way Christians look at the Crucifiction. Joel Peter Witkin : Right. But as a symbol of something, by the knowledge of which a person can grow. Not as a confusion between the viewer and what is shown in the image. Frank Horvat : For me, who am not a Christian, the image of Crucifiction means the unbearability of those nails through hands and feet - though I have read that this wasn't the most painful part of the ordeal and even that probably nails weren't used at all, the victim being tied with ropes and made to die by slow suffocation. But this is not the point: my references being what they are, my feeling of participation is triggered by those nails - as in the case of your photograph it is triggered by the hooks. Joel Peter Witkin : Maybe, but what I am saying is that to make this image important and powerful, to make it bring about a state of awareness in the viewer, there has to be something beyond the documentary aspect.

Frank Horvat : And what's this something? Joel Peter Witkin : The fact that I've made it esthetically interesting. My purpose is not to make the viewer fearful, but to open his mind to the mystery of what is shown. That's what is ethical - to use your word - in such a photograph. But in order to hold the viewer's attention, I have to do more than shock or horrify him - or he won't stay with the image. Frank Horvat : In other words: the unbearability of recorded pain is redeemed by the esthetics of the image. It's again a matter of redemption. Joel Peter Witkin : Maybe not redeemed by esthetics - but made acceptable by a form with which the spectator can agree. Pain is like a mask that, while we are in a healthy state, keeps us from perceiving the distruction that expects us. Frank Horvat : Is this why you are fascinated by masks? Joel Peter Witkin : I have wondered myself about this fascination. Masks remove what people normally engage us with, like their faces and their expressions. Frank Horvat : Do you mean that expressions can mislead? And that to avoid being mislead you hide expressions behind masks? Joel Peter Witkin : Right. Masking is also something we do to disguise or nullify our own spirit. A declared form or purpose can be a mask we put on. But I use masks for clarity. I want to reverse the purpose - just as I reverse references in art history. Frank Horvat : You avoid the metaphorical mask by putting a physical one on their faces. Joel Peter Witkin : Right. Sometimes I work with theatrical people, who have their own "shtick", and occasionally that works fine for what I want. But most of the time it doesn't, it compromises the very thing it's meant to express. As if you wanted to go somewhere by bus, but the bus has been diverted without your knowledge, and takes you where you dont want to go. Frank Horvat : This makes me think of the Cornucopia Dog, which to me is one of your strongest and most anguishing photographs - possibly because of the ambiguity between expression and mask. The expression seems to say that the dog is alive, while the gap in the stomach indicates that this is impossible and that the expression is but a mask.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin : (laughs) I wanted to photograph an autopsied dog, so I asked a doctor friend to supply me with one, about as big as a german shepherd and not too dark, so as to come out well in a black-and-white photograph. A week later he phoned to say I could pick it up. The thing looked terrible, with it's eyes closed and that gap in the place of the stomach. But I had worked with medical photographers in New York and had learnt a few things - while others I just invented. Sometimes I plan how to approach things, making little drawings and sketches for myself, before I actually photograph - even though I know that what really matters happens by chance. It's as with a language, you may know a language but that's not enough to make a poem. Frank Horvat : What makes a poem is the unexpected. Joel Peter Witkin : It's unexpected but it's ahead of you. And you have to be

open enough to take risks. And it's the risks that bring knowledge. Frank Horvat : Which is what photography is all about. Joel Peter Witkin : And what life should be all about. That's what happened in this case: I photographed the dog, it was a good photograph, but it wasn't the Cornucopia Dog. And just as with the Kiss, I could only keep the specimen for twentyfour hours, and two hours before I had to return it I had this idea of the gap as a Cornucopia. I reached down in my pocket and found that I had about two dollars. But such is my respect for all the things that I photograph, dead or alive, that I didn't just go to a regular supermarket, but to an organic food store (laughs). I bought two dollars worth of vegetables and put them into the gap. I also opened and pinned the eyes, put a little mineral oil on the nose, suspended the head to make it look up - and it looked great. If a person had come into the room at that moment, he would have seen what you see in the photograph. Something alive and destroyed at the same time, imbued with many different references: Death and Life, Rottenness and Health, Death and Food, Food and Disease. Frank Horvat : My first idea is pain. Because the dog looks alive. Joel Peter Witkin : That's interesting too. You see - the other thing I could have been in life, if I was more objective, is a doctor. Had my mother been Jewish, I would be a doctor (laughs). I can work with people who are crippled, diseased, distorted or whatever, because I look at them with an idea of healing - not physically, but through esthetic association. If I hadn't photographed this dog, it would have been burned. The severed head would have been kept in it's bottle. It was up to me to revive them, by giving them a purpose that otherwise they wouldn't have had. I used another dead dog for this bestiary which I built in a little town near Madrid and which I call Bruja witch. The fish came from the market, the raven's wing from here, New Mexico, the tail and the horns from a cow. I also brought a female face and a pair of breasts.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : Real ones? Joel Peter Witkin : (laughs) Made of wax, beautiful! I got myself locked into a room that belonged to a slaughter-house, and I told them I wasn't going to leave until I had finished. I knew it would take about eight hours, but I was worried because the dog was beginning to smell. I hadn't taken any food, if I'am busy digesting I can't think properly. But they gave me two bottles: one of wine, to drink, and one empty, to piss in. I had a beautiful japanese saw, bought in New York, and knives for cutting out the intestines. When I opened the dog, the smell became so strong that I had to wear a mask. It was a mess, it made me think of concentration camps and torture. But I had chosen to go through the experience of dismemberment and death, tearing this dead flesh apart, so that I could infuse new life into it. As I was sawing off the dog's face, I hit the optical nerve and the eyes reacted and looked at me (laughs). It took about fifteen minutes to saw it off, a body can be strong. So I put the human face on the dog. Then I drilled through the brain and put a rod into the

neck, to keep the head up. I wasn't thinking, I was in a kind of meditational mood. At the end I placed wings on both sides of the face and arranged the expression: the dog, human now, seemed to look away. I took a few frames and that was it. Then I knocked at the door. It was three in the morning, the guy in the other room was sleeping, and I only said "I've finished". He helped me collect the parts, put them into plastic bags and clear the room. Back in Madrid, I was too excited to sleep, so I went to the Prado and was standing in front of the Saint Sebastian when my nose started bleeding, it happens when I'm totally exhausted (laughs). The attendant said "you are bleeding" and I tried to help her cleaning up. But she said "get out of here". So I went back to the hotel and slept for twelve hours. Frank Horvat : I must admit that it's not among the photographs that I prefer. Joel Peter Witkin : You don't like it? That's fine. Then let's go on. This girl was four year old when I photographed her. I call it Nude with Mask - notLittle Girl with Mask, because this person is going to be the next Marilyn Monroe. She's a hot kid.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : Here, for once, you did a straight print. Joel Peter Witkin : It only looks straight, in reality it's highly manipulated. I used paper of a different emulsion, to get a silvery, very french look, almost like a platinum print. To me it's a very poetic photograph, the little oval is like a tiny key-hole, meant for the eye of a cock, so when you look at the image you are like the head of a cock (laughs). This one is interesting too. It's based on an obscure painting in the Metropolitan Museum, "Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo", by Andrea Sacchi. This man puts nails through his hand, and also through his cock. With a hammer.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : For business or for pleasure? Joel Peter Witkin : Both, he belongs to an S and M group. He uses a rod of stainless steel, sharp as a pencil, that can go through the skin without making it bleed - as long as it doesn't break any blood vessels. That's why he can do this. So while he was getting himself ready, (laughs) I went to the women's room - which was their dressing room - to check the woman. She is Austrian, and a dominant, and she had this mask, which I liked, and the boots, which I liked too. Though I had doubts about the halter, and suggested that, for the first shot, she might take it off. But she said "iff I take de halter off, I fouldn't pe a tominant, I fould pe a supmissif" so I submitted and said "keep it" (laughs). The third one is a guy who wanted so badly to be a woman - he got these little breasts by taking hormones - that two months ago he cut his testicles off, with a razor blade, and then waited for the ambulance to come because he couldn't afford regular surgery. I had met these people the night before, at the S and M club, and had convinced them to be photographed. When all was ready, this one said "Mr. Witkin, I don't want to show my thing, is there any way we can make it be there without showing it?" I just shouted "get the fuck on the set" (laughs) - so he acted submissive and kind of liked it. But the guy who was to put the blade into his cock started complaining "I can't reach this" so I screamed "you just have to". I was kind of nervous, I'd been working all night to set everything up. Frank Horvat : You had no assistants?

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin : I was alone with these five people. So I grabbed the hammer and banged it and shouted "I'll do it for you" (laughs). Little did I know, when I got up that morning, that I might actually have to crucify a guy's cock. It's a nice photograph, I can't wait to see it big. Though I admit that even I would have a hard time looking at it over breakfast - it exists a little better at night-time (laughs). This man lost his hands in the Korean War. He was wonderful too, because when you dont have hands, you really can't be clean. This guy wasn't clean. I had to take his cloths off, it was a terrific experience, and after we had finished I had to put his pants on again. He smelled badly. To sign the model release he held the pen in his mouth - but I must get releases. And here is Las Meninas, which was commissioned by the Spanish Governement. It took me five weeks to put it together, because there had to be all these elements to define the image. The little girl has no legs, her stubs are the thing one notices last - but that's what makes the image so timeless and painful and beautiful. The third week her parents phoned, I thought they had agreed to fly her over, but they said "it's up to her, we can't take that decision". Luckily, on the fourth week, she did agree. If she hadn't, I would

have had to find another model. And there I am, as Velasquez (laughs). My wife took the photograph, I relied on her to get the expression, and she did. There was only one roll of film, though it took five weeks and about thousand dollars to put the image together.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Frank Horvat : This one looks like a broken doll.

Photo Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin : It's a real human being. He has no arms, no legs and no skin. The bandages are to keep him moist. And his cock looks like it was burnt off. Frank Horvat : And no chin? Joel Peter Witkin : No, and no real ears either. And no eyelids, his eyes are always open. Frank Horvat : How do you relate to him? Joel Peter Witkin : He is very intelligent. He is a thalidomide victim, thirtyfive years old. While signing the release, with his prothesis, he said to me "whatever you do, Joel, make me look like a real human being". He is on pain killers all the time. The two men who live with him, in LA, are drug addicts.

They wrap him up every day and share his drugs. Frank Horvat : Going through your work is like a journey through hell. Do you ever think of it that way? Joel Peter Witkin : Helmut Newton makes these very interesting photographs of beautiful people - I photograph strange people. But I try to imbue compassion into my images. In this particular photograph everything is an actual event, I used only available light and didn't make any change in the room, except for the piece of velvet I put on the couch. An assistant held the chopping knife, to make it look as if it was going through the head, and I added the arrow, which I found in a Hollywood toy store. The mexican artifact is from Albuquerque, it represents the head of the centurion who speared Christ on the side. The dead branch I found in my hotel room, I lightened it with chemistry to make it look like a corona. Frank Horvat : You say everything is an actual event. But you had to use all those props to make the subject look less real: because a realistic photograph of this being - I find it difficult to say "this person" - would have been be even less bearable. Joel Peter Witkin : It would have been a clinical photograph. Frank Horvat : But how did this encounter affect you? Could you deep the night after? Joel Peter Witkin : I was fascinated. When I first saw him, he was on pain killers, all I saw through the door was his little head on the couch. One of the guys said "Mark is asleep, come back later". I had to come back four times to convince him to be photographed, which I understood when he told me that all his life he had been exploited in freak shows. I showed him drawings, prints, explained about my history and my work. I said I could either give him a print or pay him 200 $. He said "I'll take the money". Frank Horvat : My first reaction to the photograph is to see him as an inanimate object - the opposite of my reaction to the Cornucopia Dog, which I tend to see as alive. This must mean something about the functioning of your work: through confusion - as you said - to possible clarity. Joel Peter Witkin : I call it Un Santo Oscuro. In countries like Spain, clerics used to have themselves painted as martyrs. When I first saw this man, he was in a motorized wheel chair, with a little baseball hat on his head, a cup in one prothesis for begging and another cup in the other prothesis for his cigarette ashes. At home he goes on pain killers and sleeps. For me he is like the leper coming down the road - or like a saint. I didn't want to photograph him in a clinical way, but so as to suggest that he has been purified through

his pain. Frank Horvat : The word that comes to my mind is Transfiguration. Joel Peter Witkin : But in the process I'm changed as well. I didn't have nightmares: but the excitement for having made this image kept me sleepless for nights. I cannot think of him as a friend, but he has been part in making an image which is powerful and beautiful and crazy and ugly and horrific at once. There is more spirituality in it than in the Crucifix : because this is flesh and blood, real, not invented. All I had to invent was the best way to emphasize the reality. Frank Horvat : He doesn't have to wear a mask, because his face, in it's horror and beauty, is a mask. But do other people recognize him as human? Joel Peter Witkin : Their first reaction is to protect themselves - so they see him as a mannikin. But when you look at the print for five minutes, you know it has to be a human being, you see the eyes, the pathos, the detail, the scarring. When I first put this negative into the enlarger, and saw it even in the negative form, I knew it was a tremendous image. From there on, it was just a question of making it better my way, by adding little things and scratches. The negative is incredibly scratched, in the end I was worried whether I hadn't scratched the face out, or obliterated the eyes. Frank Horvat : You had only one negative? Joel Peter Witkin : The last frame of the roll. Usually it's either the first or the last frame. That's how it's meant to be (laughs).

Albuquerque, June 1989

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