Julian Lass

On Approach

Photograph obscure things but don’t photograph obscurely. But there is a certain merit in leaving some part of your idea obscure.

Don’t be afraid to bring in strange things and graft them into your work. It enriches it. Add text. Quotations are like yeast or some ingredient one adds.

A tight structural form opens possibilities. Take a pattern, an established model or sub-genre, and write to it. In photography, limitation gives freedom.

On Structure

There is a species of photographer, the chronicler; he’s dispassionate, he’s seen it all. It’s not good. You can use ellipsis so that you abbreviate a sequence of actions; you needn’t laboriously describe everything. Other times you may need to magnify something, describe it amply in a roundabout way. And in the process you discover something.

On Description

Photographers are often too worried about getting things moving on the rails, and not worried enough about what’s on either side of the tracks. There has to be a libidinous delight in finding things and stuffing them in your pockets.

On Detail

You need acute, merciless observation. Significant detail enlivens otherwise mundane situations. Oddities are interesting. Details that will anchor photographs in your mind.

If you want to be a great photographer, go and work in a lunatic asylum. But it's more interesting to have undeclared, unrecognised pathologies and mental illnesses in your pictures. The countryside is full of undeclared pathologies. Unlike in the urban setting, there mental affliction goes unrecognised.

On Reading and Intertextuality

Read books that have nothing to do with photographers and photography. Get off the main thoroughfares; you’ll see nothing there.

I can only encourage you to steal as much as you can. No one will ever notice. You should keep a notebook of tidbits, but don’t write down the attributions, and then after a couple of years you can come back to the notebook and treat the stuff as your own without guilt.

Look in older encyclopaedias. They have a different eye. They attempt to be complete and structured but in fact are completely random collected things that are supposed to represent our world.

If you look carefully you can find problems in all photographers and writers. And that should give you great hope. And the better you get at identifying these problems, the better you will be at avoiding them.

On Style

Every photograph taken by itself should mean something.

Photography should not create the impression that the photographer is trying to be poetic.

It’s easy to make rhythmical pictures. It carries you along. After a while it gets tedious.

Avoid photographs that serve only to set up later photographs.

On Revision

Don’t revise your edit too much or it turns into patchwork.

Lots of things resolve themselves just by being in the drawer a while.

Pursue your vision relentlessly.

Don’t listen to anyone. It’s fatal.