Magnum photographers on their craft – part two

Magnum photographers on their craft – part two

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 01/08/12

For part two of our special Magnum photographers Q&A, we ask Moises Saman, Mark Power and Stuart Franklin about developing their photographic eye and how they feel about the rise of iPhoneography…

Which shot are you most proud of? 

Stuart Franklin: My views on this change from day to day.  

Moises Saman: It varies. Now I like one of my latest pictures of Syrian refugees crossing into Turkey under the cover of night. I believe it captures the clandestine nature of the journey and the desperation of refugees forced to leave their country. 

Mark Power: Very difficult to say. I tend to work in series, so individual pictures aren’t so important to me. However, many bring back special and important memories. But that’s a different question. 


When did you realise you had an eye for photography – and how did you develop it? 

SF: I’m not sure. I loved photographing, drawing and painting from an early age. Developing this into a skill involved training. At the end of that, when I [hauled] my portfolio around in 1978, people were positive so I thought maybe I had an eye for photography.

MS: It is a continuous process. 

MP: I studied fine art at college and always wanted to be a painter. However, when I went traveling for a couple of years around south east Asia and Australasia after graduating, I started taking pictures in a more serious way than I ever had before. They were really only fancy holiday snaps in black and white, but afterwards I had a little success with them – I was offered small exhibitions, and sold a few prints – and this gave me the confidence to think I should continue. 

Image: © Mark Power / Magnum Photos.

Do you make a distinction between photojournalism and art?


SF: No.

MS: Only when/if art diminishes the journalistic content of the photograph.

MP: No. It’s just photography. I deplore these sorts of categories. There is good work, and bad, and other stages in between. The most important thing is that you are thinking about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.


Why do you prefer the still image over the moving image?

SF: It has a different kind of depth. Film and television talk at you. Photographs are more ambiguous and less didactic. That is their power.

MS: It is more effective in creating a dialogue with the viewer; it forces you to think about what you are looking at.


What’s your favourite camera?

SF: My Ebony 10x8.

MS: Right now a Fuji X100 digital camera.

MP: For the past 15 years I’ve almost exclusively used a 5”x4” plate camera on a big tripod. It’s a Horseman, a Japanese camera. Small and compact, but very versatile.

Image: © Stuart Franklin / Magnum Photos 

Now newspapers publish photos shot on iPhones and developed with apps such as Hipstamatic. Is this march of technology something you embrace?

SF: I’d be a Luddite to be afraid of technology – and I’m not.

MS: I accept it but I’m not using it in my work, at least for now.

MP: Yes, I’m interested and excited by the new wave of interest in photography. There’s a real hunger from many people who want to learn more. Less interesting for me is the prevalence of the single picture. It’s more important to be saying something with your work that is interesting to others outside a group of friends who went to the same party. Photography is a language that ever more people use with increasing sophistication. What I’m interested in are the new “novels” and the new “poems”, which are created with images. I don’t care how they are made, or how “smart” the cameras are, the intention of the photographer is everything. [I want to know:] is it an interesting, sustainable and logistically possible idea? In that respect nothing has changed. 


What advice would you give to a photographer starting out?

SF: Take photographs, then more photographs. Of anything – friends, yourself, family. Train your eye.

MS: Be passionate about what you doing and always aim for honesty in your work. 

MP: Find a subject you are interested in and make work about it. If you are struggling to find your own voice, don’t worry; look at and learn from the history of photography, so you have some idea where your work fits and so you are not reinventing the wheel.  Read books about the subject – good ones – and visit exhibitions. Research your ideas, but not to the point where you “talk a good picture” while there are no decent pictures on the table – I see/hear this a lot! Don’t be afraid to be heavily influenced by others – eventually your own voice will come out. Take risks; get out of your comfort zone. But you must be committed, and work hard. And be patient: recognition rarely comes quickly.


Click here to read Magnum photographers on their craft - part one.

Main image: © Moises Saman / Magnum Photos. 
Second image: © Mark Power / Magnum Photos.
Third image: © Stuart Franklin / Magnum Photos.  

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