Andre Breton once said that a portrait should not only be an image but an oracle one questions, and that the photographer's aim should be a profound likeness, which physically and morally predicts the subject's entire future.
It is essential for the photographer to know the effect of his lenses. The lens is his eye, and it makes or ruins his pictures. A feeling for composition is a great asset. I think it is very much a matter of instinct. It can perhaps be developed, but I doubt if it can be learned. To achieve his best work, the young photographer must discover what really excites him visually. He must discover his own world.
When I began to photograph nudes, I let myself be guided by this camera, and instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed.
Photographers should follow their own judgment, and not the fads and dictates of others. Photography is still a very new medium and everything is allowed and everything should be tried and dared... Photography has no rules. It is not a sport. It is the result which counts, no matter how it was achieved.
By temperament I am not unduly excitable and certainly not trigger-happy. I think twice before I shoot and very often do not shoot at all. By professional standards I do not waste a lot of film; but by the standards of many of my colleagues I probably miss quite a few of my opportunities. Still, the things I am after are not in a hurry as a rule.
The vital elements are often momentary, change-sent things ... a gleam of light on water, a trail of smoke from a passing train, a cat crossing the threshold. Sometimes they are a matter of luck, sometimes of patience, waiting for an effect to be repeated that you have seen. It is usually some incidental detail that heightens the effect of a picture, stressing a pattern, deepening the sense of atmosphere.
It is part of the photographer's job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveler who enters a strange country.
But I did not always know just what it was I wanted to photograph. I believe it is important for a photographer to discover this, for unless he finds what it is that excites him, what it is that calls forth at once an emotional response, he is unlikely to achieve his best work.