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Photography Tips From Eve Arnold

Photography Lessons Learned From Eve Arnold

American photojournalist Eve Arnold passed away last week at the age of 99. A Philadelphia native, Arnold spent her life traveling, bringing back images from remote and dangerous parts of the world for Life magazine (among others), which earned her the title of the first woman to join famed Magnum Photos agency in 1955. Arnold didn't want to be known as a "woman photographer" though, and just as well, she may be most renowned for building quite the rapport with her subjects. She told BBC in a 2002 interview that "if you're careful with people and if you respect their privacy, they will offer part of themselves that you can use." It's this attitude that helped her capture some of the most intimate images of Marilyn Monroe to date, which she compiled into a book dedicated to the actress.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a photography novice, Eve Arnold is an amazing inspiration. Here, three quotes collected from her 50-year career, that can stoke the creative fire and help you capture better images of your own after the break.

  • "If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it's already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer." — The most important thing to remember when you are photographing people is to be aware of their personalities and insecurities. Take the time to get to know your subjects and learn about the things that make them tick in order to help them stay comfortable. Eve Arnold was a fantastic photographer because she put people at ease. In turn, she was able to capture powerful images.
  • "It doesn’t matter if you use a box camera or a Leica, the important thing is what motivates you when you are photographing. What I have tried to do is involve the people I was photographing. To have them realize without saying so, that it was up to them to give me whatever they wanted to give me . . . if they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph." — Everyone has boundaries, but if you can follow tip number one by making them comfortable with you in their space, the walls will eventually come tumbling down. Make conversation and ask questions, but be aware of where those boundaries lie and don't try to push past them too quickly or too soon. Be at ease with yourself and others will follow!
  • "I think if I ever get satisfied, I’ll have to stop. It’s the frustration that drives you." — Ever get tired or bored of what you're photographing? Switch things up! Always be willing to try new angles, images, and ideas to push your limits and test your abilities.
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