Anecdotes about some of my favorite photographers...
all credits to Ming Thein
A young boy was such a restless hypochondriac that he was repeatedly expelled from various private schools, and by grade eight, his family pulled him out of formal schooling completely. He taught himself the piano at age 12, and his intense focus for the next 12 years with the intention of becoming a professional musician; what changed his career path was a visit to Yosemite in 1916 with a Box Brownie. That man went on to become one of the most famous landscape photographers of all time: Ansel Adams
A rebellious youth from a wealthy, bourgeois family left formal Catholic prep school to attend the private Lhote Academy, run by cubist painter Andre Lhote; he trained as an artist but grew bored of the stiffness and rules of the medium, gravitating towards both realism and surrealism - opposite ends of representation, but neither of which had the structure of classical art. He then attended Cambridge, served mandatory duty in the Army, got placed under house arrest for hunting without a license, then had an intense affair with his host's wife before a nervous breakdown and escape to Africa. Here, he encountered the work of Martin Munkasci, whose images challenged him: before seeing them, he didn't believe such spontaneous captures were possible with a camera. This was the birth of 'the decisive moment' - we are of course talking about Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Although it's popularly believed that Capa's photographs of the D-Day landings on the beaches at Normandy in 1944 were blurry because of a combination of the technical limitations of cameras of the day and simply the incredibly intense nature of the situation, the reality is that of the 106 images shot, only eleven survived some serious bungling during development by a lab technician at his agency in London, and even those were heavily damaged to the state that we see in prints today. Moral of the story: develop your own, and guard your negatives/ raw files.
One of the greatest photojournalists of all time is also possibly the most overqualified. He gained a Masters' degree in Economics before working as an economist for the International Coffee Organization. After a stint with Sygma and Gamma, he joined Magnum; not finding that serious enough for his needs - by now developed into an intense humanitarian drive to both document culture and raise social awareness - he left and formed his own agency, together with his wife. Although he shoots digital now, he also has those files exposed to film and then rescanned/ reprinted from that source to create his signature tonal look; the irony of course is that this process probably takes longer and has more potential pitfalls than just shooting film to begin with. The man is of course Sebastiao Salgado; his current project, 'Genesis', started in 2004, will likely also be his last - he claims that he has so many images to go through that it will probably take him the rest of his life. Now that's dedication.
There seems to be something about photography, music and painting. Another painter-musician - who even did a stint at a kibbutz - eventually turned photographer, joining the newly-formed Rolling Stone magazine as staff shooter. Her career was built around celebrity, and turned her into a celebrity herself; she was unconventional, lesbian, gave birth at 51, (in)famously bad at financial management, and possibly the only photographer both to reach that level of wealth and also lose it. We are of course talking about Annie Leibowitz.