What happens when you first pick up a camera? Sebastião Salgado, one of the great documentary photographers, shares his experience in a September 5, 2007 article in The Times (“Taking the espresso train”):
… Sebastiao Salgado is recalling the camera that changed his destiny. The memory is more than three decades old, and yet still vivid. There is a glint in his bright blue eyes, his Picasso-like bald head is leaning across the table, his bushy white eyebrows are raised and he is repeating his favourite adjective – “enormous”.
“My wife bought it when she was studying architecture in Paris,” he says in a French softened by his lilting Brazilian accent. “I had never taken a photo in my life but when I handled that camera and looked into it, I got enormous pleasure.”
He was on course for an academic career at the time, completing a PhD in France before moving to London as an economist with the International Coffee Organisation. Many of his assignments were in Africa and the camera – he had acquired his own Leica by now – always went with him. “The pleasure I got from it was enormous,” he says again. “So enormous, in fact, that I resigned from my job and became a photographer.”
That pleasure of looking through and handling a camera is, I believe, common to many photographers. It’s interesting to hear one of the best talk about this simple pleasure and identify it as a turning point in his life.