What kind of photographer did I like most? What type of photos do I love to see or study? Every day since I started to study about photos and images, I am asking myself. There is no definite answer I found for me. But, some of Master Photographers always attracts my concentration by their works, photographic philosophy, personal believes and by their views to the people, subjects, and whereabouts. When I go through their photos, I can sense or feel something beyond my understandings. It’s like, they try to communicate with me in many ways.
I know, I am too novice and too ignorant to do a righteous understanding of their photographs. Besides all ods and my incompetence, I love to list out 08 Magnum Photographers. Maybe over time, my choice will change. In April of 2020, when the whole world fighting a war against an unseen enemy named Corona Virus ( COVID-19 ), I am seeking mental refuge at the home quarantine by studying these Masters’ works. Here is the list of 08 Magnum Photographers whom I loved.
(Photographer’s description/introduction borrowed from Magnum Official Website. So, copyright of all introduction text belongs to The Magnum.)
“To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye, and the heart. It’s a way of life”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson
Born in Chanteloup-en-Brie, Seine-et-Marne, Henri Cartier-Bresson developed a strong fascination with painting early on, and particularly with Surrealism. In 1932, after spending a year in the Ivory Coast, he discovered the Leica – his camera of choice after that moment – and began a life-long passion for photography. In 1933, he had his first exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. He later made films with Jean Renoir.
Taken prisoner of war in 1940, he escaped on his third attempt in 1943 and subsequently joined an underground organization to assist prisoners and escapees. In 1945, he photographed the liberation of Paris with a group of professional journalists and then filmed the documentary Le Retour (The Return).
“The maximum, that is what has always interested me”
– Josef Koudelka
Josef Koudelka, born in Moravia, made his first photographs while a student in the 1950s. At about the same time that he started his career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961 he also began photographing Gypsies in Czechoslovakia and theater in Prague. He turned full-time to photography in 1967.
The following year, Koudelka photographed the Soviet invasion of Prague, publishing his photographs under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family. In 1969, he was anonymously awarded the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Gold Medal for those photographs.
Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for political asylum in 1970 and shortly thereafter joined Magnum Photos. In 1975, he brought out his first book Gypsies, and in 1988, Exiles. Since 1986, he has worked with a panoramic camera and issued a compilation of these photographs in his book Chaos in 1999. Koudelka has had more than a dozen books of his work published, including Invasion Prague 68 (2008), and, most recently, La Fabrique d’Exils (2017).
Josef Koudelka: The 1968 Prague Invasion , Desolate Beauty: Josef Koudelka’s Industrial Landscapes and Josef Koudelka: Gypsies is favourite of mine.
“A photograph has picked up a fact of life, and that fact will live forever”
– Raghu Rai
Raghu Rai was born in the small village of Jhhang, now part of Pakistan. He took up photography in 1965, and the following year joined The Statesman newspaper as its chief photographer. Impressed by an exhibit of his work in Paris in 1971, Henri Cartier-Bresson nominated Rai to join Magnum Photos in 1977.
Rai left The Statesman in 1976 to work as a picture editor for Sunday, a weekly news magazine published in Calcutta. He left in 1980 and worked as Picture Editor/Visualizer/Photographer for India Today, India’s leading news magazine, during its formative years. From 1982 to 1991, he worked on special issues and designs, contributing trailblazing picture essays on social, political and cultural themes, many of which became the talking point of the magazine.
In the last 18 years, Rai has specialized in extensive coverage of India. He has produced more than 18 books, including Raghu Rai’s Delhi, The Sikhs, Calcutta, Khajuraho, Taj Mahal, Tibet in Exile, India, and Mother Teresa.
“I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner”
– Alex Webb
Alex Webb is best known for his complex and vibrant color photographs of serendipitous or enigmatic moments, often in places with socio-political tensions. Over the past 45 years, Webb has worked in places as varied as the U.S.-Mexico border, Haiti, Istanbul, and, most recently, a number of U.S. cities. “My work is questioning and exploratory,” he says. “I believe in photographs that convey a certain level of ambiguity, that ask questions rather than provide answers.”
“My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder”
Born a photographer, Abbas was an Iranian transplanted to Paris. He dedicated himself to documenting the political and social life of societies in conflict. In a career that spanned six decades, he covered wars and revolutions in Biafra, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, the Middle East, Chile, Cuba, and South Africa during apartheid. He also documented life in Mexico over several years, and pursued a lifelong interest in religion and its intersection with society.
“If there’s one theme that connects all my work, I think it’s that of landlessness; how land makes people into who they are and what happens to them when they lose it and thus lose their identities”
– Larry Towell
Larry Towell’s business card reads ‘Human Being’. Experience as a poet and a folk musician have done much to shape his personal style. The son of a car repairman, Towell grew up in a large family in rural Ontario, Canada. During studies in visual arts at Toronto’s York University, he was given a camera and taught how to process black and white film.
A stint of volunteer work in Calcutta in 1976 provoked Towell to photograph and write. Back in Canada, he taught folk music to support himself and his family. In 1984, he became a freelance photographer and writer focusing on the dispossessed, exile and peasant rebellion. He completed projects on the Nicaraguan Contra war, on the relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala, and on American Vietnam War veterans who had returned to Vietnam to rebuild the country. His first published magazine essay, Paradise Lost, exposed the ecological consequences of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. He became a Magnum nominee in 1988 and a full member in 1993.
“For the person that I am, I cannot afford to try and have authorship over any language over time because I don’t think I’m capable of surviving that repetition and this strong feeling within me of one’s photography being destroyed by one being a photographer has provided me a lifeline. I have to try and just survive for as long as I can”
– Sohrab Hura
Sohrab Hura’s vivid, sometimes surreal photography explores his position with the world that he exists in. Though Hura initially worked through the prism of social documentary, he soon turned his strong vision inward, creating visual journals of his life and personal relationships as a means to “find his own logic”.
His first projects, The River (a series that explores three cities along the river Ganges and its tributary) and Land of a Thousand Struggles (which followed a grassroots movement in rural India that led to an important social security act), were made simultaneously in 2005-06. Though both were made with auspicious intentions, Hura later decided to turn his back on this kind social documentary work and instead focus on issues which reflected his personal experience.
“It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy”
– Elliott Erwitt
Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939. As a teenager living in Hollywood, he developed an interest in photography and worked in a commercial darkroom before experimenting with photography at Los Angeles City College. In 1948, he moved to New York and exchanged janitorial work for film classes at the New School for Social Research.
Erwitt traveled in France and Italy in 1949 with his trusty Rolleiflex camera. In 1951, he was drafted for military service and undertook various photographic duties while serving in a unit of the Army Signal Corps in Germany and France.
I hope, you will like all of these projects. Maybe you also fall in love with these godfathers of photography.