James Friedman

Like many of my generation, I began photographing at an early age. And, like many American families in the 1950s, we had a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera and that was what I used. The first time I looked through the camera's viewfinder as a five year old, I was hooked: the world, as translated through the lens, appeared balanced and harmonious, traits that provided much needed comfort to me as a child and throughout my life.

While still a student, I recall my teacher, Minor White (1908-1976)  telling me during a critique of my photographs that "It takes at least twenty years to become a photographer." I had no idea what he meant (I pretended that I understood the meaning of his assertion and I realized that his comment was a criticism of my work) but, as an obtuse twenty two year old, I believed that already I had earned the right to call myself a photographer.

After completing school and beginning to work on self-directed projects while teaching at an American university, slowly I began to understand what Minor White had tried to tell me: that it would take years of immeasurable study and unending practice to comprehend how to adapt photography's inherent idiosyncrasies to my particular way of picturing the world.

However, I find it curious that some of my most enduring work (and photographs to which Minor White responded positively) was done in the earliest stages of my involvement in photography without having spent years refining my craft. I never had the opportunity to ask Minor White about that.