The John Tusa Interviews
Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Eve Arnold
Some 50 years ago a young woman called Eve Arnold was given a camera by her boyfriend. She had worked as a photography supervisor at a mass film processing plant in New York . She thought that she wanted to become a professional photographer, and attracted by the already legendary names of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa she applied to the Magnum collective to see if they would have her. They accepted and that was the start of a prodigious and prolific career as a photographer, ending with a name recognised around the world. Eve Arnold's pictures are some of the abiding images of our time. Images of Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Marlene Dietrich. She worked for years on the Sunday Times colour magazine, she covered the making of dozens of feature films, and travelled the world to show people, famous and ordinary, as they are.
As you go along the street, do you find yourself compulsively taking pictures for yourself, even if you don't have a camera in hand?
It is very strange, but I am going through some kind of change at the moment, where I don't miss not photographing. I had a very serious back operation about a year ago and I found that I had reached some sort of plateau. What I miss is words, and I've been writing a lot.
Are you worried by this, that suddenly the habits of a lifetime of needing to see the world through the camera - if that is what you did need to do - that these have changed, or do you just accept it?
I am rather glad about it, because every time that I tried to think of something that I might do, I found I'd already done it, and I have done a great deal in a long lifetime and it seemed to me that it was time to try and see if I could exercise another skill, so I had been writing and it is lucid, I don't know how good it is and I don't care, because it is expressive and it says what I wanted to say, and at the moment I am working on three books [slight laugh] I'm enjoying it.
They are books of words and photographs?
Right...One is a book on hands doing various things around the world and these are about 400 photographs that I photographed in Afghanistan and Zululand , and the book is called, The Hand Book with foot notes [slight laugh] 'cause there are a few feet in it - it is a light hearted little book and I put the pictures in a drawer for 40 years and they are now coming out for publication. Another book is on the 40 films that I worked on, did stills on films around the world, and the third book is a re-issue of a book on Marilyn Monroe that I did.
But just at the moment you are not driven by the need to photograph.
No. Time was when I could hardly wait to get out of bed to go for the camera.
And would you always carry a camera with you?
No. No, I never did. I never just went along on the streets and photographed like so many of my colleagues did. I would think of a project that I wanted and I worked mainly - and I was fortunate - to work on my own ideas so that I would guess that about 90% of what I did, are things that I wanted to do.
That certainly comes out. And I'll come on to that in a moment if I may? But I would like to take you back to the very beginning because what strikes me about how your life has worked out, by accident or by design, is how practical you always have been and I wonder whether the first 5 years that you've spent just as a routine supervisor at this mass photo processing works in Brooklyn, Standby Pictures, how important that was for you later because I mean for 5 years you were doing an absolutely routine job weren't you?
No it was never routine for me, because it was run like a Ford plant with conveyor belts, and these pictures, hundreds of thousands, millions of them going down the conveyor belt and I had to train people. It was during the war, there were very few trained people around, including me, I was an amateur and bluffed my way through this. During the war you hired whomever you could get your hands on and although I was very young and inexperienced, I was imaginative, I'd like to think and I wanted to make things work for the people who came and worked for us and because it was amateur photographs coming in for processing, we had all sorts of things going down the line and we would be able to teach these people who are processing what to look for.
And how to make the best of these images. But you see that's what I mean, your response was a very practical one. Was this when you got interested in the idea of looking at people at work, photographing people at work because that has been a constant theme in your photography. The idea that people are real and are defined by their work and when they are seen concentrating at their jobs, in a sense was this where that response first came from?
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.
But the theme of work, and also it strikes me in a number of your images, that what you like photographing is what I would call, mind and spirit. I mean there is a wonderful photograph of a nun making her bed, it's a transcendent, wonderful picture...... a musician tuning a string. Does that sense of the engagement of the spirit with work, is that something that particularly appeals to you?
I find that enormously appealing. I did a book recently called, All in a Days Work, which illustrated the point that you are making. You got closer to people when they are in their work, they would ... if you got a lace maker let's say, I didn't, but let's say I did. I would get her at her loom or whatever you call the equipment she worked with. If you got a writer, you might do something as mundane as a typewriter, but if it was William Carlos Williams, it was poetry, because of the way he moved and the way he looked at the words on the typewriter, and you got a sense of the person, the defining
moment that I was looking for.
Do you think that you did justice to the sheer grinding nature of physical hard labour? Again, it occurred to me looking at your books, it's as if you yourself can't bear to show the physical degradation that goes with so much of the hard labour that so many people in the world still have to undertake.
Well, the grinding labour is part of their work and because I respected them and didn't want to savage anybody, I hope you found that it was a concern for the people and not a misunderstanding of what they were.
Was this when at some stage you defined yourself as being a photographer informed by a woman sensibility? Is what you've just said a reflection of that woman's sensibility. Because after all you have also said that you are not a woman photographer.
No, I am a photographer. And you don't say, a man photographer. So it seems likely that I am a photographer.
So what is the woman sensibility though which you say that you always brought to your photographs?
I like to think I did. 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. I don't think of it in general, as groups of people running through my lens.
No of course not, and indeed every single one of the images in your book about work is characterised by the sense that it is a particular person or a particular group of people to whom you're responding and that's absolutely ...
Well very often there was no language, so it was done with a sort of pantomime and a way of getting through, because I didn't like to have an interpreter around, cause it changed the atmosphere. It's like the litmus paper turning blue when there's a third person. It's bad enough when there are two. So I would be there alone with the person and, with their work and very often travelling through a souk in Afghanistan would show you something. There would be a man with a pan in which he had bits of wood that he was burning. Those bits of wood would cleanse the house at the end of the winter and I had no idea what this was all about. He didn't tell me. After I had worked I got an interpreter to tell me what was going on. But very often it might have been purely visual, because you think obviously visually and that's a way to capture the image. I came to blows very often with my colleagues who don't like the captions, they feel it disturbs their deathless photographs. I feel that you owe the viewer information. Where you are, what's going on, who this man is, what he's done.
Yes. I can see that your colleagues might say, a photograph is self sufficient, if it is absolutely right, it tells the entire story and if you've had to embellish it with words then somehow you haven't got it on the image.
I disagree with that whole-heartedly. If I couldn't gage what was going on exactly, then I wondered whether my viewers would be any brighter and understand better. At any rate, now the vogue is to put the caption in the back of the book and you keep flipping back and forth, caption, picture, picture, caption, and I think that's arrogant.
Let's talk directly about your career with the great Magnum photo collective. What did you know of Magnum before you joined it?
It had just started a branch in New York . They started first in Paris , I think in 1948 and I think in 50 they started a branch office in New York . I had just begun photographing. I hadn't a clue that they would even think of me as a member. These were exalted characters, like Cartier-Bresson, or Robert Capa, George Rudd or David Seymour, the 4 founders, but I had a desperate need to find out if I was on the right track and so one day I gathered up my courage, called and made an appointment and I was seen by Maria Eisner who started with them in Paris and had come over to the United States to get this office moving. And I had done one story, a picture story on migrant labourers in Long Island where I lived and on the strength of that, I became a stringer which surprised me. There was a published story as well, of fashions that I had done in Harlem, and that had been published in England in Picture Post, which was a really wonderful picture magazine.
And then you moved up from being a stringer to being a fully- fledged member of the Magnum co-operative.
Yes, after about 3 years I think, 54, maybe 1954 I became a member.
At the outset, were you more drawn by Cartier-Bresson I suppose we call the poet or Robert Capa, the journalist or were you still, you were prepared to find out for yourself where you'd lie, either between these two or not related to these two at all?
Well I learned a great deal from them. I learned what not to do in many cases, what to do in some cases. I looked at them and tried not to make their work influence me too much, but I veered between both of them. At one point it would be what Capa was doing, but I never went to war so I don't think I should talk about that. He was very important to me because he would look at my pictures and analyse them. At the time that I started, I was working with a larger format than normal, two and quarter inch square with a Rollacord, a $40 Rollacord was all I had, and I had no money, so I had to make these images on an inferior camera and speak for whatever I had to say, and over the years I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what instrument you use ...
It's the eye behind it.
It's the eye behind it and the brain I hope.
Yes. When Capa said, and I think you have written that Capa taught you to take risks, he said if your pictures aren't good enough you aren't close enough. Did that strike a chord with you, because certainly a lot of the pictures that you publish in your books, they are not brutally up front in the face and the body, they have this sense of detachment in allowing the figure to speak for themselves. So, was that advice of Capa's something that in a way that you didn't take because it wasn't relevant to your
It is hard to analyse what I did take from these people. There were so many instances when one of them would look at my work and we would talk about our work, so it was not just they looking at mine, they would talk to me about their work as well and so, you absorb it, it was like osmosis, I don't know how much of it came from them, how much of it came from looking at books, how much of it came from my own need to say something. There are so many factors that it's hard, for lack of a better term, the creative process, but I think that's too grand for me, it is hard to analyse and shouldn't be.
Sure. And of course the whole time you had to be yourself. I mean, did you ever look at what you'd done and say, what I was doing there was taking a fake Cartier-Bresson, and that you had to pull yourself back and say that is not me, Eve Arnold?
No. I, no, I never felt that I had, because there is only one Cartier-Bresson, and his work has a magnificence about it because, somehow or other he finds in a nature or in our world, what generally exists only in art. And, I don't think he can be copied, he is unique.
One of the formative moments that you write about was when you observed to the journalist Janet Flanner, that some of Robert Capa's photographs weren't well designed and you said that Flanner said to you, 'my dear history does not design well.'
That knocked me back. I was startled at that. Because I had been quite nasty in my mind about Capa's pictures. And there he was in the middle of war and I wanted him to design his pictures. I mean, what stupidity that was I thought afterwards, and she spoke it very well for me, and it meant a great deal to me after that.
Well certainly when I was looking at your photograph taken during the Republican National Convention when Eisenhower defeated Taft, and Ike's in the foreground, that's right, Taft is hardly visible and clearly what the photograph does capture is the extraordinary turmoil of that moment when the men met and it is wonderfully not well
designed if you know what I mean?
I know, I know because after that, I started to look at my photographs with an eagle eye. If the moment was there, you shot it and you didn't wait to design it, it was important to say it. What happened at that moment can't happen now. When the Convention started I was late, I didn't get there until 3 days after, so I didn't have any pictures to go on at all, and these were for Picture Post, your magazine here, and I was very upset about it. And I tried to think of what was going to go next and Eisenhower had booted Taft who was the leader of the party really, you know, out of existence. I thought they had to heal the wounds of the party, so they'll have to get together. Will it be public and if it is public can I go there and do what I can. I found that they were going to be at the Black Thorne Hotel, I think that's what it was called. And I went there and NBC was setting up to take pictures when the two men arrived and they linked arms making a circle and with great generosity they let me into the circle, and that's what the picture is. Now nobody would do that nowadays, there isn't that kind of generosity around.
I want to ask you a few questions about the approach to taking photographs and the words used to describe it. You have observed that the vocabulary of taking a photograph is almost entirely made up of masculine aggressive words. You grab an image. We shoot after all, you're shooting the whole time. You capture...these words are still the words which define the business of photography aren't they?
Well in some cultures, it is considered taking the soul, the Hopi Indians grabbed the back of my camera and wrecked it because I was photographing them doing their dancing. I don't think it is solely masculine, I think it is just an aggressive way of working, there is no other way it seems to me...even when somebody takes you into their home, you very often find yourself wanting to transgress that hospitality, because what you want to do, you want to go as deeply into them as people as you can, but usually what happens, if you're careful with people and if you respect their privacy, they will offer you part of themselves that you can use, and that is the big secret. It has more to do with the relationship of the photographer to the subject than it has to do with anything else that might be happening.
Yes offer is very, very interesting...you in your mind would not even think that the words that I just mentioned, grab, shoot, capture and all that, those are not words which inform how you approach your work.
No. they're too harsh for what I have tried to do. What I have tried to do is involve the people I was photographing. To have them realise without saying so, that it was up to them to give me whatever they wanted to give me, so that I would get something like Joan Crawford stripping down nude, granted she had been drinking, or Malcolm X - there's a tough man who let me into his life. Granted it was at a time when he wanted press in Life Magazine, granted he was under threat from Elijah Mohammed the head
of the Black Muslims and wanted to be seen by the wide press so he wouldn't be murdered which he was in the end. But for two years, he made it possible for me to photograph the Black Muslims and the way they worked.
Now did you think that because he was being so co-operative and because he had, this is Malcolm X the Muslim Fundamentalist leader, that because he had a reason for wanting a favourable image put over, that was why he gave you access. Do you ever say to yourself, I am losing my necessary detachment, I'm becoming part of his publicity machine?
I don't think there is any such thing as detachment when you're photographing. You have a point of view and if you haven't your pictures don't show anything about the people you are working with ...
But were you using your point of view there or were you reflecting his point of view? It is a very delicate balance isn't it? Who was using whom?
I think we were both using each other. I don't think there was any such thing as my saying, well, I'll do this and I'll do this. It moves so fast when you're working. There isn't time to analyse and if you do analyse, you get exactly what you thought you were going to get when you talk to these people in the beginning. So the idea is to keep as far away from a commitment of trying to work on their terms or your terms, you don't care. It isn't important. What is important is what's going on at the moment and it moves rapidly with involvement from both sides.
Joan Crawford, which was the other one that you mentioned. I mean she insisted on your photographing her in the nude didn't she?
Yes. She stripped down in a dressing room where she was trying clothes on.
Stripped absolutely naked?
Absolutely, and she was to be photographed with her daughter. And I said, can we wait for Christine and she said no, I want to be photographed now.
Why didn't you say no?
Something happens to flesh after 50, and she was well past 50. And I felt that she would hate it when she'd sobered up. I wouldn't want that to happen to me or anybody I knew, and I felt that it was only fair to let her know what she was doing. And she insisted. And I never used the photographs, I gave them back to her. She started her career doing blue films, making blue films, and as I went around the world afterwards, I found that every once in a while somebody would tell me that they had a print, because from a print you make a negative from negative a print. It's an endless flow of pictures if you want them. Because I had been generous enough and didn't use them and didn't exploit them, years later she gave me the most explicit kind of pictures to show what it took to stay at the top of the heap, the heap being Hollywood , for 30 years.
Were you ever tempted, even for a moment, to make those photographs of Joan Crawford in the nude public?
No. And selfishly, because I didn't think they would do me credit.
Yes. [laughter] That's a very honest answer indeed.
Well, yes. Yes, you know I was not unselfish about this. I had in mind a long career...it just was counter productive.
That really would be the one shot wonder, wouldn't it, for you?
The woman who published the photographs of Joan Crawford in the nude.
Well, what happened in the end, because in those days we could work for 4 or 5 months or a year or whatever it took to get a story, because Life Magazine felt film was cheap, labour was cheap. What was important was the most explicit or individual
photograph. And so they would let you go off for months at a time. Now they talk about a photo opportunity which is seven and a half minutes, because that's what you get.
[slight laughter] Did you find that that time was always well spent, I mean, after you'd been with say Joan Crawford or Marilyn Monroe for weeks or months, didn't you find yourself saying, I think I know this person, she has shown me everything that she has to show, I really maybe can't be bothered to spend another month or two months working with them?
No, that never occurred to me. What did occur to me, was that if they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph. In Marilyn's case, at the end of her life, after she had spent months and months working on Misfits, and I had worked on that film for two or three months, she was getting a divorce from Arthur Miller, and I was going up every day for a week with packs of contact sheets, not only my own but for whole of Magnum. She had a set, I had a set, we checked the pictures and she would say she wanted to use that picture, if she didn't, she had the right of refusal.
So she was manipulating her image?
Yeah, but she ...
She was in control of her image I suppose?
She was in control of it when we photographed. She always was. She knew more about the camera instinctively, she was not a cerebral character, as you would know but she had an instinct about things.
But because of that didn't that produce in you a counter veiling reaction, that you thought, this woman is such a brilliant manipulator of herself, I want to find the moment when she is not presenting an image of her own choice about herself to me, that weren't you considering, I've got to get around the corner of this woman because she is so brilliant?
You couldn't. There was no way to get around her. She was brilliant at what she did. She couldn't have explained it to you. In the beginning when we met, we were two young women starting out. She was a starlet, no place yet in the Hollywood hierarchy. I was beginning as a photographer. Neither one of us knew anything about our craft and that was a bond between us, so I don't know where she ended and I began or I ended and she began. We fed each other for 10 years on this.
Did you ever envy her and think, she's famous ...
Oh God no. Oh God no...She was always trying to outsmart, and she was street smart, she was very clever, but it never occurred to me that she was manipulating me or I was manipulating her. I think we both were. She couldn't have done it without me and I couldn't have done it without her.
You mentioned the Misfits and there is that absolutely devastating portrait of Clark Gable filming the Misfits which must be one of the sexiest come-ons ever recorded. Now was he manipulating a direct sexual come-on at you.
Oh. You know when he went to hospital, because he took me home the week before he had his heart attack. But we went in the hospital, Life Magazine called me up and I was doing a story on Gable for them, and they said, can we have the picture that you took of Gable looking the way he looked on Broadway. And I said, you mean Machinal and the editor said to me, how did you know that? I said, that's what he was talking about when the picture was taken. He was wonderful with me, he'd never let a photographer go home with him. He invited me home for lunch. When I was ready to leave, he said, when are you going back to New York and I said, this afternoon. And he said, let me give you something. And he found a book, a murder mystery I think, nothing very special, and he wrote in it, 'hurry back we'll miss you, love Clark .' And I'd established a friendship with him. And the reason I had established it is because I had gone to watch the rushes of the film when they'd come in every day, because Marilyn didn't want to go and she wanted me to go and I didn't want to go.
Why didn't you want to go?
Because it put a responsibility on me I shouldn't have had, because the Director would have my throat. But she'd talked to John Huston and he told me to come, and one day when we had seen the rushes and Gable had done a wonderful scene which normally is done by a double because he's drunk, he gets onto the bonnet of the car, he falls off and no actor would generally do that, but Gable did that. And when we watched the rushes, the lights came up. I heard somebody behind me, what did you think Mrs Arnold, and I thought it was one of the grips because they were teasing me. And I said, 'knocked me on my ass,... oh yes Mr Gable it did'. And a guff full of laughter from him, and he said, you know, you've wanted to do a story on me for Life, I didn't want to do it, but I'm going to do it for you, because he said, you're a good sport about it.
Now you've been talking about the relationship that you strike up with people, a very deep relationship. You photographed Margaret Thatcher, I don't think that you followed her around for a very long time. She certainly bossed you around, was there any sense in which you were taking a certain revenge on her when you photographed her surrounded by those huge stone busts of Winston Churchill?
Oh, no, no, no. You know, no way revenge. I was working for the Sunday Times. I had been following her for months and I was getting nothing. She was telling me where to stand, the light was not flattering to her and I couldn't use those pictures because it made me a bad photographer. And then one day Michael Rander who was the Art Director at Sunday Times called and said, that 'Eve it's time for me to see those pictures,' and I said, Michael Mrs Thatcher looks dreadful, the pictures are terrible. And he said, 'oh you couldn't take terrible pictures,' I said you want a bet. He said, 'well I'll come and have a drink tonight and you'll show me the pictures.' We showed them to him and he said, they're terrible. And just as we were talking, her publicist, Gordon Reece who is responsible for new dentition and clothes and all of that ...
And the change of voice and so on?
Everything dropped a few octaves.
At any rate, he called and he said, Eve can you do the Conservative party a favour? And going back to the question, I said, what do I do? And he said, can you show Maggie in the footsteps of Churchill. I said, how do I do that he's long since cold. And he said, we have these statutes by a man called Norman who was a friend of Churchill's, and if you can show Maggie with the statutes. And he's, Norman is sculpting Maggie as well, we'll have a story. So I said okay. And she showed up and this time it was my turn to say, stand here, stand here, stand here, and when they were turned into the Sunday Times they were delighted with them.
She looks very cross.
Well she looks the way she wanted to look. I just followed her lead. As long as she was standing where she was. She tried to be Churchillian in her stature.
She looks uncomfortable as well.
But she's an uncomfortable person.
She hated photography. Didn't like women very much. At any rate, we all thought, and I was worried about it, I thought that we were going to do her damage here. I found out afterwards that it helped and it might have helped her get elected.
Yes. Can I ask you about a very different area of your work, where you were once photographing individuals, but you were going to do photo coverage of an entire country like China, like Russia and indeed South Africa? Now, first of all, after South Africa, at the time of apartheid you say that you fell ill and that I think a doctor could only explain your symptoms by describing it as a broken heart, because of your reaction to what you'd seen, is that right?
Yes. I came back from 4 months in South Africa , absolutely shattered. And my GP sent me to a heart man, and I went, and he prescribed something, I came back, and still it went on for months. And he said the only way I can describe it, is that you are suffering from a broken heart. It was such an emotional reaction. But it was a hellish time for everybody in South Africa .
Can you remember particularly the sort of things that caused you so much pain and distress, the sort of things that you saw?
The poverty was..., you can't express it. What happened that broke my heart was that the men would go around, leave their mines, they would come back once a year and because they had no way of knowing about birth control, the wife would be impregnated again, they sent very little money home and you saw these woman struggling and one series of pictures that I did, were of children suffering from malnutrition, dying children in mothers' arms. And it was heart breaking to see these kids dying of no food.
Were you also angry?
And did that affect how and what you shot?
I suppose I deliberately went out of my way to show how terrible it was, because it was terrible. What else would you do with it?
But now when you were in a very different sort of country, though some would say, clearly also a very cruel country, such as the Soviet Union , you didn't have that sort of reaction. I mean your pictures of people in psychiatric hospitals in the former Soviet Union , have a terrible cold bleakness as well. Can you remember what was your reaction to that experience of witnessing the systematic authoritarian cruelty that
existed in the Soviet Union .
To use your word cold, I guess in terms of heat, South Africa would be hot, and Russia would be cold. It was very grey and very depressing and slow and it seemed to me that that was the tempo of it and it came from them, not from me. What I tried every time when I picked up the camera is not to impose what I thought was there, but hopefully to let it come up from beneath, so if that's your reaction, I guess that's what I saw.
But you never thought that your reaction was to come in and do a photo essay where you'd say, this is a cruel exploitative totalitarian regime?
Well if you look at the photographs from the insane asylum, these are political prisoners, they're not insane people, and they are trying out, the Russians are giving them hydrotherapy, they're in bathtubs. I think it depends on the way you read things. First of all, these people were suffering enough without my imposing and asking this upon them. They were long suffering and you can see it now, a lot of them wanted to go back to what they had before, you know, you didn't have to pay for your gas or your electricity, the State provided, and it was that kind of bleakness that obtained that I saw and I felt. Now if you didn't feel it then I failed.
Well think I did feel it because of my feeling that it was a very cold set of images, and ...
Well that's what it was.
I want to come back to some more practical things just for a moment. How much of the work of making the image finally is done in the lab and with editing and cropping?
No cropping generally, though I don't rule anything out it's another technique, there's no reason not to use it if you want... yes, and good print will make a great difference, but bad print can't spoil a good picture.
And a good print can't make a bad picture? So to that extent that lab it adds something but...
It's very important.
... can't transform something which is indifferent in the first place.
It's like the cuckoos next to God, your darkroom man is very important and you'd better treat him well.
And from time to time, you've been understandably very cross when people have cropped your pictures in an unauthorised way. I mean there is this lovely image of three Anglican vicars, probably at some conference, but sitting on a farm gate in the countryside talking and over their left shoulder is a cow, delightful picture, and on one occasion, one newspaper cropped out the cow.
[laughter] I know. Well there's one photographer, who shall be nameless, who asked me if he could have a picture of mine of Marilyn Monroe and the thing that makes the picture is that she is studying her lines for a scene in the Misfit, out in the desert. And somewhere near her is a sound boom. My friend wanted that picture without the sound boom, which makes the picture. And you get people who have their own ideas of what your pictures should be like. And if they're my pictures, they are going to be on my terms.
When you talk to photographers today, the world in which they work, the world of digital images of instantly transmittable digital images back through modems to the news desks of their newspapers etc, it is such a difference from the world that you or Robert Capa lived in. Are you attracted at all by the sheer facility that the digital camera now provides?
I have never been a very good technician. I never cared particularly. 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. And this I would like to think is what I have been doing.
What do the younger generation of photographers say to you about their life when you meet them and talk to them?
It depends. I ask them why they want to go into photography. Some of them want to do it for the glory, because they would make money and they might say if they were lucky to achieve some notoriety or fame or status. It's tougher, it's much tougher now
than it was when I started. It was a new field, there were not many women in it, I am not sure I could do it now.
It's the eye and the head and the fingers, and your eye and head and fingers would still be as ...
And your ability to entrap, that's an emotive word, I used deliberately.
I was going to say.
I used it deliberately.
[laughter] Yes .
Because in a sense it is that.
To entrap the subject?
To involve them, to have them care enough, to have them feel that you are not going to savage them.
So that's universal, that hasn't changed
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. Nowadays, if you do a set of pictures which is saleable, you have to sign a release if it is a famous person, that they will get part of the monies in perpetuity that you make. They will have the right to go through and destroy negatives. All that is very different today.
Did life change for you, when instead of being, there is a young photographer called Eve Arnold, who is coming to take some photographs, to this morning, Eve Arnold the Photographer is coming? Clearly that was a big change. Did it make life easier or more difficult for you?
I found it pleasant. I liked the idea that people know my work. I don't care about myself, but I do care about my work. I take my work seriously, I don't take myself seriously, but it did help, you know, when I was under contract for the Sunday Times, and they were the only colour magazine in Britain at the time, it was an adventure playground for people like me. I was under contract 6 months of the year for 10 years. Michael Rand and I would talk on the phone. The only instruction he ever gave me was make sure you get back in time for the Christmas party. That doesn't happen now.
But you see, what you've just said about work and personality, brings us back I think, rather neatly to the very beginning, that is that you define yourself by your work which is what I think you do in so many of your images with the people that you photograph. So that's pretty fair. There is a certain consistency in how you think of yourself and how you photograph other people.
Yes I suppose that's true.
Well if you are accused of consistency there probably isn't anything very much to say is there? [laughter]
Eve Arnold, thank you very much.
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