I realize that I had the best of serious picture journalism.
It’s hard for me to assess what I brought because each time you pick up a camera and point it at a person, you’re trying to define that person so to talk generally is difficult because I have to think of a given image in order to conjure up what we’re talking about.
What you need to be a good photographer is an overwhelming curiosity and a good digestion. Sometimes you feel blessed with curiosity, sometimes you feel cursed with it.
I look for a sense of reality with everything I did. I didn’t work in a studio, I didn’t light anything. I found a way of working which pleased me because I didn’t have to frighten people with heavy equipment. It was that little black box and me and £5 worth of film in my pocket or maybe it was only £2 in those days.
I realise that I had the best of serious picture journalism. There was an innocence in our approach, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when we naively believed that by holding a mirror up to the world we could help – no matter how little – to make people aware of the human condition.
I find going back through things sometimes exhilarating because I find things I didn’t know I had, and sometimes it’s very off putting because there are things I never quite finished, and there’s nothing at all to do about it now.
I have been poor and I wanted to document poverty; I had lost a child and I was obsessed with birth; I was interested in politics and I wanted to know how it affected our lives; I am a woman and I wanted to know about women.
What has changed is that when I photographed, most people that I photographed didn’t have the right of refusal on their work. It would take a Marilyn Monroe at her height to be able to dictate that.
It doesn’t matter if you use a box camera or you use a Leica; the important thing is what motivates you when you are photographing.
I came to photography by accident.
I can’t hold a camera anymore.
I had in mind a long career.
Lesson number one: Pay attention to the intrusion of the camera.
Themes recur again and again in my work.
Recording sessions were stimulating to photograph, because everything was in motion: the subject, the musicians, the technicians and the photographer. You needed fast reflexes to keep up with moving targets, and sensitivity and skill to get the pictures while keeping out of the performers’ eyeline so as not to break their concentration.