The more things change, the more they stay the same? Before Helen Levitt and James Agee worked together on the documentary “The Quiet One” , they had planned to collaborate on a book of photographs and text. Levitt took the pictures, mostly in Spanish Harlem in New York in the 1940′s and Agee wrote a poetic essay to unify and accompany them. The book remained unpublished and Agee died in 1955 and was awarded the Pulitzer prize for “A Death in the Family” published posthumously. “A Way of Seeing”, with Levitt, was also finally published about ten years after his death….
James Agee: It is clear enough by now to most people, that “the camera never lies” is a foolish saying. Yet it is doubtful whether most people realize how extraordinarily slippery a liar the camera is. The camera Is just a machine, which records with impressive and as a rule very cruel faithfulness, precisely what is in the eye, mind, spirit, and skill of its operator to make it record. Since relatively few of its operators… “It is in fact hard to get the camera to tell the truth; yet it can be made to, in many ways and on many levels. Read More: http://www.masters-of-photography.com/L/levitt/levitt_articles2.html a
“In every other art which draws directly on the actual world, the actual is transformed by the artist’s creative intelligence, into a new and different kind of reality: aesthetic reality. In the kind of photography we are talking about here, the actual is not at all transformed; it is reflected and recorded, within the limits of the camera, with all possible accuracy. The artist’s task is not to alter the world as the eye sees it into a world of aesthetic reality, but to perceive the aesthetic reality within the actual world, and to make an undisturbed and faithful record of the instant in which this movement of creativeness achieves its most expressive crystallization…. ( Agee )
“In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gentle and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work. Most of these photographs are about as near the pure spontaneity of true folk art as the artist, aware of himself as such, can come; and an absolute minimum of intellection, of technical finesse, or of any kind of direction or interference on the part of the artist as artist stands between the substance and the emotion and their communication.” Read More: http://www.masters-of-photography.com/L/levitt/levitt_articles2.html a
” This is the record of an ancient, primitive, transient and immortal civilization…The cardinal occupations are few, primordial, and royal, being those of hunting, war, art, theater, and dancing”… ” from very early the germ of the death of childhood is at work”…a quality of mystery- a strong undertone even, of terror.”…