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FREDERICK SOMMER
[1905 - 1999] artist and master photographer
My images are going to be among the very few great images done in North America by a white man. - Frederick Sommer - Lenswork - Mar 2002 - page 75

The only way to understand something is to be confronted by something that is difficult to understand. - Frederick Sommer

The coherent way of investigating any field is to examine its possible relatedness to other things. - Frederick Sommer

Everything is shared by everything else; there are no discontinuities. - Frederick Sommer

Life itself is not the reality. We are the ones who put life into stones and pebbles. - Frederick Sommer

The field of action of a photograph should be that chessboard of the heart and mind upon which poetry and art have always operated. - Frederick Sommer

...art is images you carry. You cannot carry nature with you, but you carry images of nature. When you go out to make a picture you find you are moved by something which is in agreement with an image you already held within yourself. - Frederick Sommer

Photography is a distributive act leading to a privileged condition. - Frederick Sommer - Fred Sommer talking to Bill Jay.

Some speak of a return to nature. I wonder where they could have been. - Frederick Sommer

My [photographs] are not pure: they are a seething wealth of imperfection. - Frederick Sommer

The world is a reality, not because of the way it is, but because of possibilities it presents. - Frederick Sommer

I could take a cow and implant a camera in it and let it amble around in the city or in its own domain (I say a cow because a human being I would not trust). If the camera was programmed to go off at an indeterminate series of moments, the samplings would be fantastic.
We're not so damned inspired every day! If we rely on what we meet, some inspiration will arise. As an example, if I go into a grocery store … if I am smart I will take home what is best that day. I will not say that I want to buy apples today or that I want to buy oranges today…. I buy the best of what there is that day. If the beef looks good, I'm not going to buy lamb...
The point of this is: if you work this way, if you live this way, if you just exist this way, you will find that by some strange coincidence (which I now know is not so strange), you will have brought together a number of things which make a magnificent meal. You consume this thing with champagne if you can afford it, and if not, you consume it just with enthusiasm.
- Frederick Sommer - An Extemporaneous Talk at the Art Institute of Chicago (October 1970), Aperture vol. 16, no.2, 1971

The smallest modification of tonality affects structure. Some things have to be rather large, but elegance is the presentation of things in their minimum dimensions. - Frederick Sommer

Words represent images: nothing can be said for which there is no image. - Frederick Sommer

There is nothing to see, nothing featured; what’s the matter with you? - Frederick Sommer - Sommer’s summary of how others view his landscape photographs

Poetic and speculative photographs can result if one works carefully and accurately, yet letting chance relationships have full play. - Frederick Sommer

Art is the splendor of reality before everything has become meaning. - Frederick Sommer

Art and accident are one. Art accepts what it finds. - Frederick Sommer

The sensitized surface has an honesty, an inevitableness... It just can’t do anything else. It shows you the process itself. - Frederick Sommer

Life is the most durable fiction that matter has yet come up with and art is the structure of matter as life’s most durable fiction. - Frederick Sommer

[Ansel Adams] elects to ennoble this thing. And so this thing gets stuck with this ennoblement, no? And this ennoblement will be forever and ever a stiffness and bareness because finally it’s only hygiene. - Frederick Sommer

The first two or three years of my photographic work were very intense in terms of chicken anatomy. - Frederick Sommer

The world of art and the world of science are interested in evidence and verification. - Frederick Sommer

If I could find them [assemblages] in nature I would photograph them. I make them because through photography I have a knowledge of things that can’t be found. - Frederick Sommer

There isn’t a lot that can be done about taking a good photograph... You have to accept an involved set of circumstances. And this involved set of circumstances is extraordinary and great for the simple reason that you don’t understand it. - Frederick Sommer

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