“Peter Simon’s Moving On, Holding Still (1972) was one of the handful of photography books in our library, two large rooms in the downtown Municipal Building [in Pompton Plains, New Jersey]. Although the others were how-to books, Simon’s was the most instructive. (Since I’m self-taught, I used photography books as textbooks.)
"Simon’s monograph is composed of black-and-white pictures of an array of subjects—from protests in Washington, DC, to the celebration of a sunset on a commune in Vermont—that reflect the dynamic nature of the 1960s and early 1970s. Poring over these images again and again was my ‘foundation class’ in photography.
"My first lesson came courtesy of the cover image. The subject, a tire swing, is very close to the center of the frame—something the how-to books advised against. ‘Rules’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously, I realized….
"[Another] lesson was perhaps the most valuable. In studying these photographs I noticed that, in a picture, things in the background and things in the foreground are all equally visible, and therefore equally important. (Emmet Gowin has stated this succinctly: ‘Everything in a photograph matters.’)
"Simon’s book led me to a crucial understanding of one of the things I find so challenging and stimulating about photography—it is the construction of pictures, the careful putting-together of everything in a scene. When working within the two-dimensional limits of the photograph, the spatial characteristic of depth does not exist. Foreground objects and background objects need to be dealt with equally; they’re [the] building materials. Move the camera even slightly, and [the] composition changes. Ever since then the idea of ‘making’ pictures versus ‘taking’ pictures has been more than mere semantics.
"Peter Simon’s photographs, of both turbulent and tranquil events, are records of acutely felt moments. Decades later, I can still recall my favorites. I feel very fortunate to have found this book when I was receptive to its lessons."
—from “Visual Influences Series: David Simonton,” One, One Thousand: A Publication of Southern Photography