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LARRY SULTAN
[1946 – 2009] American photographer
But when it comes down to making work that really sings, I don't know if I can teach any of it. I don't even know if I can do any of it half the time. It's so much about failure, it's so much about making pictures that are so utterly boring and overstated, you're endlessly disappointed. And in that process you hopefully find something that draws you back and calls to you. - Larry Sultan
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I'm not aware of rules. I'm sure they're there, based on virtue of sensibility. I think sensibility imposes an organizing principle, a structure for how you work, but I don't think I carry with me a set of...I guess rules is a pretty strict way of looking at it. - Larry Sultan

Like a ventriloquist who laughs at his dummy's jokes, I keep trying to make photographs that seduce me into believing in the image — all the time knowing better, but believing anyway. - Larry Sultan - From the book: 27 Contexts: An Anecdotal History in Photography by Mark Alice Durant

l realize that beyond the rolls of film and the few good pictures, the demands of my project and my confusion about its meaning, is the wish to take photography literally. To stop time. I want my parents to live forever. - Larry Sultan - From the book: Photography Masterclass: Creative Techniques of 100 Great Photographers [Paul Lowe] foreword by Simon Norfolk

What’s important to me is that [photographs] have the appearance of being documents of what goes on. I like the illusion of veracity, that they look like life rather than movie stills. I don’t want them to look fabricated. - Larry Sultan

Ambiguity is really important to me. Part of the difficulty facing photographers is that almost any subject matter has accumulated a representational history, so to find a new discursive space, a space to wander around those subject matters, is a real challenge. - Larry Sultan

Like a ventriloquist who laughs at his dummy’s jokes, I keep trying to make photographs that seduce me into believing in the image—all the time knowing better, but believing anyway. - Larry Sultan

...when it comes down to making work that really sings, I don’t know if I can teach any of it. I don’t even know if I can do any of it half the time. It’s so much about failure, it’s so much about making pictures that are so utterly boring and overstated, you’re endlessly disappointed. And in that process you hopefully find something that draws you back and calls to you. - Larry Sultan

I think what moved me to be a photographer was that one could make images very different than other art forms—that were populist, that dealt with daily life, that dealt with our times… - Larry Sultan

I love making pictures, even if most of the results are lousy. - Larry Sultan

I always thought of a great photograph as if some creature walked into my room; it’s like, how did you get here? What are you made of? And no matter how many pictures I make, I have never depleted that quality of mystery. - Larry Sultan

…the more you try to control the world the less magic you get. It’s really about being open and surprised. - Larry Sultan

Literature especially has an interesting relationship to photography—to observation, to description, to fiction: taking something that you see and elaborating, jamming, and I think, staging.... taking that moment of observation and letting it go, giving it some wings, following it, rather than nailing it. You’re riffing off of reality. - Larry Sultan

...I think finding that room to make pictures that don’t jump off the wall as, or detonate as dramatic, either in lighting or in form or in composition or in subject matter, but more ordinary, that’s the challenge. - Larry Sultan

“Pornography” is such a loaded word. I think it’s gotten really clear recently because we’ve seen some really serious pornography with the Iraqi prisoners, along with the graphic descriptions of what happened. It’s really a time of oppression and also a time of such perversion. My work is so mild, and so much about tenderness and empathy—there’s nothing pornographic about it. - Larry Sultan

I’ve actually thought about stopping photographing for a while and just writing, maybe that would get closer to the bone. - Larry Sultan

I’m very interested in making the photographs look real, but a lot of them are highly synthetic. They’re hybrids, located somewhere between the found and the constructed. - Larry Sultan

Like a ventriloquist who laughs at his dummy’s jokes, I keep trying to make photographs that seduce me into believing in the image – all the time knowing better, but believing anyway. - Larry Sultan

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