Photographers who attended recent workshops with Ian Berry, Chris Steele-Perkins, Olivia Arthur and Jacob Aue Sobol feature as part of BJP’s Magnum Photos Workshop partnership
Last year, Magnum Photos and British Journal of Photography announced a special partnership around education that sees the world’s longest-running photography magazine work with the participants of Magnum Photos’ international workshop programme to showcase selected portfolios online.
Initiated in 2007 as part of Magnum’s 60th anniversary celebrations, the workshops provide opportunities for photographers at different stages in their careers to benefit from the vast experience of Magnum’s established professionals.
In May and June, Magnum ran workshops in Budapest, with photographers Chris Steele-Perkins and Ian Berry, and in Copenhagen, with Olivia Arthur and Jacob Aue Sobol, who each chose a participant to be featured in British Journal of Photography.
Here we showcase a selection of images from the four selected photographers, who also share their experiences of working with their mentors.
Family is about the people who are closest to her, she says – her own family – but the series is also about everyday life – “taking a bath, dancing around the living room, playing, dressing up.”
“When I photograph my family there is not much time to think; things just happen in front of me,” Tengberg tells BJP. “My family moves fast, surprises me, and makes me laugh. There is a sense of relaxing and letting go. It’s a great place to be when photographing. When I look at the images afterwards I see things I wasn’t aware of when shooting – stories about falling in love, the fear of parting, motherhood, childhood, loneliness, happiness, and death…I am looking for a language to talk about these moments.”
When asked why she decided to take part in the workshop, Tengberg says she was inspired by Aue Sobol’s work. “His images move me – there is a rare and strong presence in all of his work. It is extremely personal, with a strong narrative, not necessarily a linear one. I was really curious about his approach, which seems more intuitive and poetic. When I arrived at the workshop I had several ideas for projects,” she adds. “Jacob encouraged me to choose the story he sensed I felt strongest about – the most personal – but also the story I was most hesitant about. He inspired me to think in a more abstract way, and dare to choose the less obvious images, so leaving the story open to the viewer. I am not sure I would have dared to start this project without this push.”
Rasmus Degnbol also took part in the Copenhagan workshop and was selected by Olivia Arthur.
“My story is about a young girl called Ditte who is a diagnosed schitzotypal otherwise known as a borderline schizophrenic,” he tells BJP. “The story is about how her life is crazy and normal at the same time – not only crazy as people mistakenly think. I’m curious about people and cultures I don’t understand, and I like to take other people to these places through my photographs. I find Ditte and her way of thinking fascinating. I wanted to show that mentally ill people aren’t totally crazy, and that many actually live normal lives.”
Danish-born Degnbol approached Ditte when he started the workshop, and she agreed to let him to follow and photograph her. “I didn’t want to interfere with her daily life and asked her to do whatever she would do normally,” says Degnbol. “We spent a lot of time talking about her illness to help me understand what it is like to be her so I could capture this in with my images. Most of the time Ditte is like everyone else, but sometimes she fanatic about small things. For an example, during the three days I photographed her she was on a fruit-only diet; she bought 28 mangos and ate watermelon. So together we ate a lot of mangos, and relaxed with her boyfriend at her mother’s home where she lives.”
The workshop with Olivia Arthur focused on creating a narrative sequence, Degnbol explains, which was “exactly what I needed. I had just returned from working on a personal project in Kyrgyzstan. Editing down three weeks of images is hard enough, but getting the sequence right is the hardest part. This was what I signed up [to learn].”
Of his experience working with Arthur, Degnbol says he received some great advice. “Olivia pushes you to perform at your maximum, but in a non-pushy way,” he says. “Shooting everyday and making frequent edits, listening to Olivia’s comments not just about my work, but also the other photographers’ projects, really made me look at the whole editing process in a new way.”
Zsófia Pályi took part in the Budapest workshop, and was selected by Ian Berry. For her photo story, Pályi chose to focus on city living – in particular, what it is like living in the old apartment buildings in Budapest. Part of her story focused on how it is possible to find pleasure in nature in the urban, built environment.
“My story shows the daily life of the ‘gang’, which is an expression for the typical outdoor corridors common in old residential houses in Budapest,” Pályi explains. “When, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Hungary celebrated the thousand year anniversary of the settlement of Hungarians in the region, the capital started to flourish. Lots of construction works were realised. Budapest is still famous for its unique and eclectic buildings. I searched and made a list of one-hundred-year old houses and knocked on the doors, hoping to gain the residents’ trust. Fortunately, I did.”
For Pályi, the decision to take part in the Magnum Workshop came from a desire to find new inspiration for her photography. “Hungary is small country, but it has a lively scene of talented, local photographers. After a while, however, you feel like you know everyone. I wanted to take in new inspirations from abroad. In my group were photographers from Australia, Brazil, Germany, and Switzerland. It was great to be part of such an international group.”
What’s the best advice she received ? “Keep going and keep experimenting,” she says. “Right now I’m working on a long-term project about Lake Balaton in Hungary. I’m busy scanning all the rolls of film and deciding the edit. I plan to make a book of this project this autumn.”
Dori Hoffman also took part in the Budapest workshop and was selected by Chris Steele-Perkins.
Hoffman, who grew up in Budapest, chose to focus her story on intimacy. “It is about a young family with parents in their early thirties and children aged six and 13 who live in the infamous ‘eighth district’ in Budapest, in significant financial hardship,” she tells BJP. “My story centres around the father who has terminal cancer. His six-year-old son is the only one in the family who is unaware of his condition – the others try to live with it. They seem happy most of the time and have an incredibly intimate bond.”
Hoffman spent most of her time during the workshop with the family in their home – a 25 metre-square space – sometimes from 5am until late into the night. “The first couple of days were slightly worrying as nothing really happened – I thought I’d already taken all possible images in this limited space,” she says. “Then, on the third day, the story unfolded in front of me. We finally opened up to each other, and my massive DSLR was not an issue anymore – the family didn’t view it as an intruding weapon upon their intimacy, but rather a quiet, observing eye that was recording a small segment of their everyday lives.”
Of her experience on the workshop, Hoffmann says she appreciated Steele-Perkins’s “non-sentimental, slightly cynical approach to life and working on projects.”
“Chris kept us grounded and focused, and he did not let us become overwhelmed,” she says. “He is not a man of many words – he said only what was necessary to keep the project moving forward – [but] even in a short time I learnt so much from him.”
The best advice she received? To be persistent. “Stay with your subject as long and as close as possible, and the story will (in most cases…) unravel.”
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