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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:06

Video transcript

There are four quadrants of your consciousness. Upper left is what you know and what people know about you. Upper right is what you know about yourself but nobody knows. Lower left is what other people know about you that you don't know. And lower right is what you don't know and what nobody knows. Whims come from there, impulses come from there, and that's where art comes from. When did you first start taking pictures of people? 1976, I was finishing Boston Views, the pictures people call topographic, and I got tired of it, and day by day, just people started to creep in. The minute you get to a certain distance, a certain closeness of the person, then it's all about the person, and the background becomes something that has to be integrated with the frame, but it's not about the overall view anymore. Jan Groover said a good thing once. When she went from painting to photography, she said, “It took me a while to figure it out but in photography the problem is making the grass as interesting as the cow.” The Brown Sisters is a series of 41 photographs of my wife Bebe and her three sisters. I've taken it every year for 41 years. I use the same camera every year, 8-by-10, and they stand in the same order. The only thing I really ever say is “Get closer, please” if the space between them is boring. If they’re like here, you have to stand further back, and so their faces are smaller, therefore less voluptuous and less powerful physically. So the closer they are together, the more the physicality of their faces and gestures, the larger it is in the frame. Okay, so it's going to be half a second. Okay, the cheek one again, please. Now that I'm trying to make digital work, I started a series of two people putting their faces close together, touching, and letting whatever feelings of discomfort or comfort or amusement, fear, show. Okay, close close. I think it's letting me be a little more intimate and physical with people than I've been able to be before. How is the process different? The process is just about my comfort, that doesn't matter that much. The more important thing is how are the pictures different. I want to get rid of the idea that they have their private space. They don't have any in these pictures. They're all in the same place, like a subway. They're all in a place where they're forced by the truc of the project to do something unnatural in order for something intense to come out. The slice of time that it takes to take the picture is smaller, so now it might be a hundredth of a second instead of an eighth of a second. With an eighth of a second, the person has to be aware of it in a way that they don't the other way. I tend to like them to be aware of it even with a digital camera anyway, so I tend to do it the same way. I want it to be longer lasting, and have the meaning be not about grabbing the moment but about dancing with the moment, collaborating with the moment.