Photography - would you do it if you never got paid?
Ernst Haas: "Every work of art has its necessity; find out your very own. Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it. If you come to a clear 'yes' in spite of it, then go ahead and don't doubt it anymore."
The redoubtable Ernst Haas has written and uttered many axioms of wisdom with regard to the photographic process that we would all do well to give a fair amount of consideration to. He lived, operated and photographed in a different era - before digital, before selfies, before phones with cameras. He was old school yet he was also one of the early pioneers of color photography in a time when black and white was king. The Austrian born photojournalist was inducted into Magnum in 1949, serving as president of the agency during 1959-1960 and remaining active with Magnum until 1986.
The commitment to photography that burned inside Haas is evident in his question, "Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it." I am reminded of the obsession of Vincent van Gogh, who lived a life of anonymous poverty in the relentless pursuit of his art; many times he had no money for food because he spent his meager resources on paint and brushes. Haas had that same commitment, although he was fortunate to be more prosperous that van Gogh.
The reflections that Haas shared with us are timeless; his observations are a refuge for photographers who endeavor to hone their craft and to create images that are evolved anddiscerning. This takes time - to be honest, it takes years of consistent effort. There are no short cuts to producing photographs with relevant content and visual impact, yet the possibility is there. It is open to everyone for as Haas rightly observed, “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”