50 Ernst Haas Quotes on Color and Visual Poetry

Looking for the best Ernst Haas quotes? Then you’ve come to the right place. Below we have compiled a list of our favorite quotes from the pioneering color photographer to inspire and help take your photography to the next level.

Ernst Haas Quotes

With photography a new language has been created. Now for the first time it is possible to express reality by reality. We can look at an impression as long as we wish, we can delve into it and, so to speak, renew past experiences at will.

We can write the new chapters in a visual language whose prose and poetry will need no translation.

Photography is a bridge between science and art. It brings to science what it needs most, the artistic sense, and to art the proof that nothing can be imagined which cannot be matched in the counterpoints of nature.

In every artist there is poetry. In every human being there is the poetic element. We know, we feel, we believe.

Photography is a transformation, not a reproduction.

Don’t take pictures. Be taken by your pictures.

A picture is the expression of an impression. If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it?

You see what you think, you see what you feel, you are what you see If with the camera you can make others see it – that is photography.

All I wanted was to connect my moods with those of Paris. Beauty paints and when it painted most, I shot.

Haas, Paris
View from Notre Dame, 1955 © Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas on Photography Style

Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It is the extension of your personality; the summation of this indefinable net of your feeling, knowledge, and experience.

You become things, you become an atmosphere, and if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it. And a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too and that I would call the dreaming with open eyes.

I prefer to be noticed some day, first for my ideas and second for my good eye.

Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. Without touching my subject I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken. Without a descriptive caption to justify its existence, it will speak for itself – less descriptive, more creative; less informative, more suggestive; less prose, more poetry.

To express dynamic motion through a static moment became for me limited and unsatisfactory. The basic idea was to liberate myself from this old concept and arrive at an image in which the spectator could feel the beauty of a fourth dimension, which lies much more between moments than within a moment. In music one remembers never one tone, but a melody, a theme, a movement. In dance, never a moment, but again the beauty of a movement in time and space.

There are almost too many possibilities. Photography is in direct proportion with our time: multiple, faster, instant. Because it is so easy, it will be more difficult. We can photograph almost anything. There is a photographic explosion in the world – it’s the glamour profession. Anybody taking pictures can copy trends or styles.

Haas on Color Photography

Take color as a totality of relations within a frame. Don’t ever overanalyze your results! Color is joy. One does not think joy. One is carried by it.

Beware of color theories. Theories in color photography are dangerous. The plain fact that there are so many of them proves my point. A color philosophy comes much closer to the truth.

There have never been conflicting thoughts within me about black and white versus color photography. The change came quite naturally. I was longing for it, needed it; I was ready for it, and there was a film available to work with. The year was 1949, and the film was Kodak I, rated at 12 ASA.

I still do not understand all these problematic discussions about color versus black and white. I love both, but they do speak a different language within the same frame. Both are fascinating.

There are black and white snobs, as well as color snobs. Because of their inability to use both well, they act on the defensive and create camps. We should never judge a photographer by what film he uses – only by how he uses it.

Color does not mean black and white plus color. Nor is black and white just a picture without color. Each needs a different awareness in seeing and, because of this, a different discipline. The decisive moments in black and white and color are not identical.

There are three different factors which have to be realized and balanced: form, content, and color. The last does not always benefit the composition. It can even go against it, in which case it has to be overcome. To translate a world of color into black and white is much easier than to overcome the color, which so often runs contrary to its subject matter.

New York
New York. 1962 © Ernst Haas

The Life of a Photographer

Every work of art has its necessity, find out your very own. Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it. If you come to a clear “yes,” in spite of it, then go ahead and don’t doubt it anymore.

There are two kinds of photographers – the ones who take pictures for a magazine to earn something, and the others who gain by taking pictures they are interested in. I am the second kind. I don’t believe in the in-between success of becoming famous as quickly as possible. I believe in the end-success of a man’s work as developing into a real human being, aware of the connection in life between earth and the cosmos; a person able to understand the mistakes, and to admire the achievements, of other people.

Personally, I don’t even believe so much in the value of a single picture anymore. I don’t really photograph for the wall. To compete with the painter is not really our destiny; we are on the way to speaking our very own language. With it we will have to create our own literature. you will have to decide for yourself what kind of works you want to create. Reports of facts, essays, poems – do you want to speak or to sing?

There are two kinds of photographers: those who compose pictures and those who take them. The former work in studios. For the latter, the studio is the world… For them, the ordinary doesn’t exist: every thing in life is a source of nourishment.

I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new. In this way I am a photographer with the problems of a painter, the desire is to find the limitations of a camera so I can overcome them.

I have always felt better taking a risk than an easier route for what I believe in

Important is the end result of your work: the opus. Therefore, I want to be remembered much more by a total vision than a few perfect single pictures.

The artist must express the summation of his feeling, knowing and believing through the unity of his life and work.

Only a vision – that is what one must have.

Ernst Haas Quotes 1

Ernst Haas Quotes for Better Photography

A young photographer talked to me one day about his desire to liberate himself from his own sense of composition. I understood his problem as we all would love sometimes to be free from our own knowledge. It is even the most difficult to unlearn – as the most important problems are. I advised him to photograph with his eyes closed, just using his ears for directions.

If you photograph blind to abandon your sense of composition you have to edit the same way. It is the only way to solve your problem.

You don’t take pictures; the good ones happen to you.

There is no formula. There are only confirmations to formulas which one has already discovered oneself.

A picture can be an answer as well as a question but if you can’t answer your question try to question your question… There can be questions without answers but no answers without questions.

Beware of direct inspiration. It leads too quickly to repetitions of what inspired you.

Learn by doing or even better unlearn by doing. The opposite of what you learned. The paradoxical fact in the aesthetic is that theories are also true in reverse.

My theory of composition? Simple: do not release the shutter until everything in the viewfinder feels just right.

The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances… a tiny relationship – either a harmony or a disharmony – that creates a picture.

The final stage of photography is transforming an object from what it is into what you want it to be.

Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival is the death of inspiration.

Ernst Haas Quotes on Equipment

Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to see.

The camera only facilitates the taking. The photographer must do the giving in order to transform and transcend ordinary reality. The problem is to transform without deforming. He must gain intensity in form and content by bringing a subjective order into an objective chaos.

Living in a time of the increasing struggle of the mechanization of man, photography has become another example of this paradoxical problem of how to humanize, how to overcome a machine on which we are thoroughly dependent… the camera.

Best wide-angle lens? Two steps backward. Look for the ‘ah-ha’.

The most important lens you have is your legs.

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.

Ernst Haas Quotes 2

What Camera Did Ernst Haas Use?

Before Haas adopted the Leica, he used a Rolleiflex for early black and white photography work in Vienna. In the 1950s, he switched to Leica, which he continued to use for the rest of his career. His first Leica was the IIIf, then an M3. During the 1970s, he used a Leicaflex SL & SL2. Haas tended to favor the 28, 50 and 90 mm lenses, although he would use anything from 21mm to 180mm depending on the assignment.

For film, Haas was a big fan of Kodachrome. He first used the original Kodachrome, but was forced to use Kodachrome II from 1962 onwards when the original film was discontinued.

What’s your Favorite Ernst Haas Quote?

Have a favorite Ernst Haas quote from the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page, or print it out, and refer to it next time you need some inspiration. Also, don’t forget to share it with others through the usual channels (social media, forums, websites, etc).

To see more of Hass’s wonderful color photography, check out the image archive on the Ernst Haas Foundation website.

Looking for more words of wisdom from master photographers? Visit the quotes section of Photogpedia for more great photography quotes.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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