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Paul Strand's Letter

“We are all students, some are for longer than more experienced ones. When you leave to be students, you may tire of being alive with respect to the direction of your work. Therefore I speak from student to student. I mean, so before you spend time on the photography (on the other hand will take much) to think that point is important for each one of you. If you really persecute is to paint or something else, then do not photograph, except in the case of pure fun. Photography is not a shortcut to painting, to become an artist or anything else. On the other hand if the camera and materials fascinates you and motivates your energy and your respect, learn to shoot.

Discover first what this camera can do and these materials without any interference, only with your own vision. Photograph a tree, a machine, a table, any old thing, do it again and again by changing the light. Look what records your movie, you will discover the results obtained with different paper types and gradations. Color differences can be obtained using one or another developer and how these differences change the expressiveness of the image. 

The field is unlimited, endless, without leaving the natural boundaries of the medium. In short work, experience and forget the Art of pictorialism and other words in more or less meaningless. See author’s books, exhibitions, at least know what they have done the photographers. And see also critically what is this doing in general and what each one of you at now. Some have said that Stieglitz had force because he hypnotized his models. Go and see what he has done with his clouds, to discover if his hypnotic powers also extended over the elements. Look all these things. See what they mean to you, what you can assimilate and forget the rest. Above all things look around you, your immediate world. If you are alive means something to you, and if you show interest enough for photography and know how to use it, you’ll want to photograph that meaning. 

 If you allow the vision of other people come between the world and your own vision you will get something ordinary and meaningless: pictorial photography. But if you hold this clear vision, you will get something at least be a picture with life itself, like a tree or a box of matches, if you believe that these things have a life. To achieve this there are no shortcuts, no formulas, no rules, only in any case, that govern the life of each. However, it is needed most rigorous self-criticism and constant work. But first learn to shoot. To me this is already a problem without end."

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