sokolsky quotes



I have always been fascinated by the way light can 

change the mood and meaning of a situation. 

As a boy, I remember my mother lighting a candle 

after sunset and the excitement that I felt when 

the mood of the room suddenly changed, bathing 

her in the warm, gentle light. I would venture to 

say the success of an image is based on the harmony 

between the idea and the lighting. There is a 

right light for everything. I do more lighting in the 

twilight of waking up than when I’m taking 

pictures. A rose, freshly observed, is sure to change 

the face of photography 

Ideas are not digital. 

Melvin Sokolsky 



Next to my bed I keep a notebook that I write in 

sometimes while I’m half-awake, early in the 

morning, when a dream has insinuated a place or 

world I have never visited or seen. With my eyes 

closed, I scribble into the notebook and then go 

back to sleep. 


I have always been attracted to everything 

nature has to offer. I cannot think of any plant, 

animal, or creature that inhabits this planet 

that has not fascinated me. I have never thought 

of any being in the universe as superior to 

another. There is no living thing on earth that I 

have seen that is more or less beautiful than 

another, though it is true that I am attracted to 

some of the inhabitants on Earth more than 

others. As a photographer, I indulge my affinities 

until I am ready to move on and explore new 

challenges because I have visually exhausted my 

vision on a given subject. I believe personal 

affinities are genetic idiosyncrasies that are unique 

to each individual. In my life, indulging my vision 

has brought many surprises that I would have 

never thought of consciously. It is this chemistry 

that I believe is the creative force in all of us 


When we look at an image that has a unique 

presence, the usual question is ‘How was it made?’ 

I am less interested in the how and much more 

interested in the what that inspired the image. 

Many of the turn-of-the-century masters went into 

the darkroom and coated their own glass plates 

in order to create a personal palette. Today, most 

photographers are limited to various manufactured 

films that I characterize as the emulsion of 

the day. When photographers gave up making 

their own film emulsions and embraced commercially 

manufactured films, the palette of some of 

the greatest image makers had become somewhat 

standardized at best. Even Steichen no longer 

looked like Steichen. I have always been interested 

in the palette of my images and have experimented 

with many filmstocks and techniques to 

create a personal palette. I have recently embraced 

many of the productive tools that have evolved 

with the computer and in the print-making arts. 

I have no doubt these new tools will aid photographers 

in the creation of personal images. Now 

I do not have to accept the emulsions of the day 

such as Velvia or Provia, when I can create Melvia 

on the computer. 


I believe taking someone’s portrait is an unspoken 

conversation in a shared space where the sitter 

and the maker reveal their being in a kind of silent 

dance of escalating expectation. When 

the fascination of the maker and the sitter inspires 

empathy or antipathy, the portrait may be enlightening. 

It is the mission of the viewer to decide 

if the resulting image is transcendent. 

We look at each other and dream about each 

other, and those dreams never ever meet except 

in the photograph. 


I have always loved telling stories. Early in my 

career, I found myself compelled to tell stories with 

my pictures. Stories about people who breathe 

and feel and suffer and dream. Stories that explore 

and create different worlds within the world we 

all live in. 

paris 1965 : gesture 

Reflecting on the past five years at the Bazaar, 

I came to the conclusion that I wanted to spend 

more time exploring simple themes. I wanted 

a break from the complex collaboration it took to 

shoot ideas that demanded complicated communication 

with many crew members. I wanted to 

explore how gesture influenced the psychological 

being of a model on a simple background and could 

be interpreted as a personal signature just as interesting 

as any of my more elaborate ideas. I have 

never been able to escape the allure of a new tool 

or idea that could enhance or change the look of an 

image. I came up with an idea that I called the 

slowdown strobe. I developed a condenser unit that 

connected between the light and the strobe pack 

and slowed the lights down to 1/15 of a second. The 

result was that hand gestures and movement 

were blurred, leaving the rest of the image quite 

sharp. The look was quite different than shooting 

at a slow shutter speed in daylight. I was pleased 

with the result; the gesture revealed the spirit of 

both the performers and the fashion designers of 

the clothes. The first half of 1965 Paris Collections 

was shot in the studio and the second part on location 

with Dorothea flying above the rooftops of Paris.