Robert Frank: Young Japanese often want to go to New York. I couldn’t understand why until I arrived in Tokyo. Rules can be sensed to an amazing extent throughout Tokyo, even when getting in a taxi or going shopping. The young Japanese who go to New York all want to escape from those rules.
Araki: But those who go there lack discipline. It is precisely in a place where rules and regulations exist that one learns the meaning of freedom. They’re just being self-indulgent because, no matter what kind of rules exist, the important thing is to be able to gain freedom. I developed as a photographer through the deaths of my father, my mother, and my wife. People who indulge themselves in photography or art don’t make good photographers or artists. A photographer must be a solitary person. For example, when someone dies, when a woman is crying, or in a moment of great passion, a photographer must be able to hold the camera and take pictures. As a result, I face the problem of being called inhuman or cold-hearted. That’s the hard part.
Frank: And the women who are your subjects, Mr. Araki, quickly get wise to your tricks and leave in a hurry…
Araki: That’s probably why I take a photograph of each woman out of a lingering attachment…because a photograph expresses a desire to make that woman mine. But, the women all leave me. Anyway, the intrinsic nature of photographs is lingering attachment. The desire to preserve something in the form of a photograph is the basic instinct, or physiology of photography. I think that all photographers should begin from the physiology of photography without getting too cerebral about it. And Robert, please do not solely make films and say that you’ve quit photography. Let’s keep taking photographs. With that in mind, I’d like to give you this gift… (while handing R.Frank a compact camera)
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Excerpt from a conversation between Robert Frank and Nobuyoshi Araki regarding the entries of the Canon New Cosmos of Photography contest, of which Frank was a guest judge for, in Tokyo in 1994. (source)
With photography, the best thing to do is look straight at the person, place, or situation you are photographing and just press the shutter without thinking about anything. By doing this, the power of the subject comes across, and this is the strength of the photographic genre. I feel that among recent submissions to the competition, perhaps too many have been mentally conceptualized beforehand, or suffered from the overuse of sophisticated camera functions.
Photographers should remind themselves of the basic truth that if the subject is not good, the photograph won’t be any good either. They need to take more of a hands-off approach, and focus on having encounters with things and people. So for this year’s competition, I chose works that gave me the impression that the photographer had done just that.
I didn’t feel that the submissions to this year’s competition were particularly different from those submitted at previous competitions. Even so, it’s a fact that the skill level is so high now that I just assume all the work I look at will demonstrate a high level of skill. This means that it’s pointless to pick winners and losers on the basis of skill alone. In addition, elaborately produced photographs that have been forced to incorporate some kind of drama inevitably turn out to be weak.
Photographs must depict things that are important in the lives of the individuals who take them. Photographs that show you that the photographer got wet, sweated, or was breathing heavily can often move the viewer. It’s good to be honest and straightforward towards both your subject and your own feelings.