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HENRY WESSEL
[1942- ] An American photographer noted for his descriptive, yet poetic photographs of the human environment.
In a still photograph you basically have two variables, where you stand and when you press the shutter. That’s all you have. - Henry Wessel
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[The photographer's task] is to describe the existing light… Chances are, if you believe the light, you’re going to believe that the things photographed existed in the world. - Henry Wessel

It can happen anytime, anywhere. I mean, you don't have to be in front of stuff that's going to make a good photograph. It's possible anywhere. - Henry Wessel

You're suddenly seeing the coherence and the interconnectedness of everything, left to right, top to bottom, front to back. It's all connected, and, somehow, it's all in balance. And that's, of course, when you go, 'Yes!'. - Henry Wessel

Some of my best work is done when I'm half asleep. - Henry Wessel

I don't go out looking for pictures. I go out, and if something catches my eye, that's reason enough to photograph it. - Henry Wessel

Most musicians I know don't just play music on Saturday night. They play music every day. They are always fiddling around, letting the notes lead them from one place to another. Taking still photographs is like that. It is a generative process. It pulls you along. - Henry Wessel

I could feel myself changing physically. It was like something dropped out of the sky. Seeing her on the fire escape had given me a certain feeling, and then when I saw the photograph of her, it gave me a similar feeling. And I thought that was an incredibly powerful thing -- that a photograph could give you a feeling that was similar to a feeling you had in the physical world. Nobody could've told me that. I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. - Henry Wessel

Part of it has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive. At the core of this receptivity is a process that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore. - Henry Wessel

If you let some time go by before considering work that you have done, you move toward a more objective position in judging it. The pleasure of the subjective, physical experience in the world is a more distant memory and less influential. - Henry Wessel

The process of photographing is a pleasure: eyes open, receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting. It's thrilling to be outside your mind, your eyes far ahead of your thoughts. - Henry Wessel

I actually try and work before my mind is telling me what to do. - Henry Wessel

I take pictures where I am, where I happen to be. I mean, I have made pictures that are pretty well-known pictures. I made them when I was in the Midas muffler shop waiting to get my muffler fixed. So I don't go out to take pictures. I take pictures. - Henry Wessel

The world is filled with incredible things. So I'm happy to just let my eye be caught by something. If something catches my eye, that's enough reason to take the picture. I trust that and take the picture. - Henry Wessel

In a still photograph, you basically have two variables, where you stand, and when you press the shutter. That's all you have. - Henry Wessel - From a YouTube interview called: "KQED Spark - Henry Wessel"

This photograph of the dirty dishes, and this photograph of the dirty kitchen.
I mean, I like them because they both remind me that it can happen any time, anywhere. You don't have to be in front of stuff that's going to make a good photograph. Everything, it's possible anywhere.
- Henry Wessel - From a YouTube interview called: "KQED Spark - Henry Wessel"

I work the materials in a very straightforward, simple way. I produce a negative that has as much information as possible, which is the way the world is, every surface is described in the world. So my craft is duplicating the light that exists in the physical world. That's my measure of a good print if it feels like the light that exists in the physical world, it's a good print. - Henry Wessel - From a YouTube interview called: "KQED Spark - Henry Wessel"

In fact, the work I'm looking at now is from 2002 [the interview was taking place in 2007]. But that time is a good lag time, because what happens is that I forget about the subjective experience of taking the picture, which is always pleasurable. When I look at the contact sheets, I want to be free of that. I want to just look at the photograph and see if it's interesting. It amazes me sometimes, each of those exposures, maybe five in a row, taken maybe within a three to four-second period. You'd think they'd like each other. They don't! The world is so constantly in flux that each one is different, is distinct. And a little thing, a little thing, changes the photograph completely. - Henry Wessel - From a YouTube interview called: "KQED Spark - Henry Wessel"

There is the world, and then there is a photograph. Photograph is not the world, it's a completely different thing. - Henry Wessel

When you're photographing, and you're walking through the world something catches you, you notice something, and you're connecting with it, and you respond to it you basically you're saying yes to it you're saying yes it's interesting. - Henry Wessel

You're kind of like a free agent between your instinct, your anticipation, and your intelligence. And all of those things are keep continually moving back and forth in a very fluid way while you're photographing. And that experiences is really pleasurable, it's really exciting, and it's really the driving it's the reason that I photograph. That end the way photographs look the way they describe the world. - Henry Wessel - From YouTube video: "Henry Wessel- TateShots"

After I photographed, I waited quite a while before I actually look at the stuff that I photographed. For a year, two years, sometimes longer than that, I have contact sheets in my studio now that are from 2007, 2008 that I haven't really even looked at. So I need to be distant from that subjective experience so that I can see what the photograph itself contains. - Henry Wessel

I put all of the photographs up in my studio on the walls. I began to live in the world of those photographs, and I would walk past the photographs just like I might walk past a tree or a corner in the actual physical world. And I moved in ways that the work was dictating I move. And it allowed me to exist not in the physical world but in the world, the physical world described in photographs. And as I did that, I began to discover things.
There is a distinct physical dimension that is very, very singular, that's being described in these photographs. In general terms, we'd think of it as vantage point, but what it's saying it's announcing where you are when you're looking at these photographs, and it's forming a kind of contention between us the viewer looking and the scene that they're looking at. And there's a play between those two things that forms a certain kind of content in the work, and it is the connective tissue that runs through the whole project.
- Henry Wessel - From the video: "Henry Wessel- TateShots"

So you have the appearance of the photograph, you have the experiential knowledge of the viewer, and you have their own imagination, and it's that event that shapes the meaning of the photograph. This work incidence I think it's in many ways what I want to do is say let me take you on a walk, and we'll start here. And then as we're walking, I say oh look at that look at that over there look at this, and we take a walk together and when the walk ends that's the experience. - Henry Wessel - From the video: "Henry Wessel- TateShots"

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