Speed Round with Three Magnum Photographers


sebastiansong

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Background
The 3rd Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) is back! Gwen Lee, Director, SIPF, kindly offered some lucky Clubsnap members to attend the screening of "Magnum Photos: The Changing of a Myth". After the screening, there was a short Q&A session moderated by SIPF film curator and distinguished dance photographer, Tan Ngiap Heng. The panel consisted of three Magnum photographers Stuart Franklin, Mark Power and Jacob Aue Sobol and Fiona Rogers (Cultural & Education Manager, Magnum Photos).

Magnum Photos was founded in New York in 1947 and established as a centre for photo-journalism where the photographer owned the copyright and was allowed the freedom and integrity to produce their own work.



(L-R) Jacob Aue Sobol, Stuart Franklin, Fiona Rogers and Mark Power


Ngiap Heng
I’m just very curious with the change from photojournalism to “personal documentary”. Personally how do you deal with this change in photography? How do you see your work in this photographic world at the moment?


Jacob
I think it’s obvious that among Magnum, more and more are producing personal documentary and you are not only looking at to the world but reacting and communicating with the world. I think that’s very fundamental to my work today as well that you have all these unique characters with their each signatures.

When you look at an image by Mark Power, myself, you know that they were taken by us. So I think this is one of the strengths of Magnum photography that you really recognize who is the author behind the picture.


Stuart
Can you repeat the question please?


Ngiap Heng
Well, in this modern world where photojournalism as it used to be is like, dying. There’s less jobs and being more personal documentary. But personally how does that changed your work?


Stuart
Ok, I think that if you go back right to the beginning of Magnum’s early work in the 1940s and 1950s, it was always personal work, was somehow idiosyncratic. It never followed the mainstream and it always looked for another road, another voice and a great personal way in seeing. I really don't think that has changed at all.

What has happened is there are more of us.

There were four photographers and there’s sixty now. Inevitably, with sixty people, we are going to have sixty different approaches to documenting or seeing the world around us.


Mark
I think it was an interesting film in the point of view of seeing those photographers working and not anyone else with a camera. A lot has changed since 1998 and for me, that is a fantastical thing. I am not nor anyone else in Magnum is threatened in any way. I think we embraced this fanasticate thing in what we do.

Personally speaking, there are subjects I am interested in and I don't write books, I don't write music about them.

My language is photography. I just use that to say something, subjects I am interested in personally.

We are surrounded by even more images now but most of them normally end up on a hard drive and if they’re lucky, they get to Facebook. Photography has always been about ideas, it’s always about what you do with that tool which is your camera. Whatever that is, whether the highest end digital camera money can buy or the fifteen dollar out of focus camera from MOMA. It doesn't matter. It's a tool.

I think it’s about your ideas now, even more than ever.

And it's what you do with that tool that matters.

[End of Part One]
 

Last edited:
May 5, 2005
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#2
Tks for the transcript and the chance to attend that night. It was a very interesting session indeed. :)
 

sebastiansong

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Ngiap Heng
Can we open to the floor? Just two questions? The panel has to teach the mentorship program as well.


Public
I think in the past ten years or so, there’s been more and more Asian photographers emerging. Do you think Magnum is going to remain Magnum as it is or as one of the photographers in the film, Luc, mentioned that he wished Magnum will remain small. Do you think Magnum will be like that in the future as what it was before?


Stuart
I think the time for that sort of discussion is over.

There was a time in the mid-90s where various agencies are worried. The idea that we could merge and lower the costs, co-distribute. think that we have discussions about the way we work is kind of against the market in many ways.

I think if you look at the other agencies, they cohere so completely with what the market demands. I’ve worked with Sigma for five years, ‘80 to ‘85. I remember somebody holding up a picture of Princess Diana and saying this is my fifty dollar bill. It was about money and it was about conforming to the marketplace.

The difference in Magnum extraordinarily is that we’ve never done that.

We really came in with our own vision. In that sense, we really are quite unique. Everybody else or most other agencies, their mindsets are different. There will be no sense in merging.


Public
I mean nowadays photographs as one of you mentioned, are online. I think they are online a lot and as much as there are prints. I am just wondering the direction Magnum is going to take? How you are going to evolve?


Fiona
I think Magnum has always evolved in the same way as any agency has to evolve.

The difference with Magnum being quite idiosyncratic and quite unique in the way it is governed has just naturally meant that we have to take different directions. As you saw the film, members at the AGM have said we need to take on some more cutting edge photographers. We did that.

I have been with Magnum seven years, I don't think of it as a photojournalistic agency despite it been founded on this sort of idea of editorial photography

Coming out of the New York office, we are redeveloping our online presence. Some of you that follow the Magnum website, you can’t access “Magnum in Motion” anymore, it’s going to encompass something new, something different,

When we started “Magnum in Motion” ten years ago, it was incredibly cutting-edge. Nobody else was doing it. Now everybody is doing it and so Magnum has to be the leader in how we distribute our images.

I think that as time progresses, we will work more directly with our audience as some of you will remember from the Postcards from America project. It is done completely without any traditional platforms. There is some editorial work done retrospectively, after the project was created. But it was done directly, delivering the work to people most interested in it. I think that will be the way the agency will reinvent itself.
 

sebastiansong

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#4



Please Click Here for Part One
Please Click Here for Part Two
Ngiap Heng
Just one last question.


Eddie Ng (Clubsnap Moderator)
Thank you for allowing me the second question. Magnum is an imagery cooperative. On the website, Magnum is using a lot of video to promote itself. Do you see Magnum, sooner or later, embracing its first Magnum documentary videographer?


Mark
When I join Magnum in 2002, I was aware that a fantastic history of film making in Magnum. Most photographers have made short documentary films. I am not a documentary filmmaker. I don't think we should do things like that. I mean, we are all making movies without DSLRs and it’s easier than anything else. To say we will not, I don't know.

I think it would be ridiculous to stand here and say, “No, Magnum will not take someone who just take video images.” Of course, not.


Jacob
I just think it’s a very individual thing. I think some Magnum photographers will obviously move to doing video productions, films as well as. Personally I have always worked with video. It is something that I am intending to do as well.


Stuart
I think the point you made is absolutely right.

We are an evolutionary force.

We began in a small way, with four people working only in black and white and you couldn't get in with you have any color pictures.

We really can’t predict what the Magnum photographer 2250 will be using but we hope it will be interesting. That’s all I can say. (Laughs)

All the decisions we make come from lively discussions. And out of that discussion and out of a lot of reflection and thought, we move forward in a different way. We move forward and check out different photography and that’s how we evolve.

And we will always do that.

I will never close the door to any type of way of working at all. People used to be shocked when I gave talks ten years ago. “Are you using digital?” You know, like it’s breaking some sacred code. And now I can’t think of any photographer but a few, a lot of photographers from Magnum using digital.

You have to think that anything is possible.


Ngiap Heng
I guess I have to call it a night. It’s been such a long night. Thank you very much.


[Audience Applause]
 

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