Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“I don’t start with intentions,” explains Elliott Erwitt. “I take pictures and then see what I’ve got and put something together.” It’s a process which has served him well throughout his career as a photographer. Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, he spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939; he first cut his teeth in the photography industry whilst still at high school, then built up a professional portfolio whilst serving with the Army Signal Corps in Europe. Joining Magnum Photos in 1953, he went on to apply his unmistakable style to everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Presidents of the United States. Now 89, he prefers to let his very varied collection of photographs speak for themselves, and his new collection, Cuba, is no exception. “I took a lot of pictures and sat down and made an edit. The way I always work,” says Erwitt. “[The book] seemed like a good idea since I was going to Cuba anyway
At 28, Zsolt Ficsór is part of this new generation, using his collective, MAMA Photobooks, to help promote local artists’ self-published work. In October Ficsór brought MAMA to Photo Book London at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, for example, while in September, he was invited to take part in the five-day Magnum workshop at the Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest. Lead by celebrated Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata and Matt Black, this workshop was a masterclass in developing his style of urban documentary photography, he says, which stems from his fascination with “interacting with this surreal and unreal world that we are living in right here here, right now”.
Magnum photographers share the stories behind their selected images for the Magnum Square Print Sale
For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.
No matter how hard you try, sometimes Arles can be just like Glastonbury (sans mud) – lots of things going on and you get sidetracked, and don’t get to see the one thing you wanted to. However I did manage to get round a diverse group of exhibits this year, one of my favourites actually being the Alice Neel painting show at the Fondation Van Gogh. Here is my round-up of what I saw of note this edition. The House of the Ballenesque, Roger Ballen This was very talked about in Arles – an old ramshackle house that Ballen has taken over, to express somewhat of what goes on in his mind and informs his photography. Like a giant walk-in sketchbook, it’s part fun-house and part mental asylum, with lots of creepy figures and dolls heads stuck on mismatching bodies. It’s worth seeing because it’s a bit different, though it doesn’t quite feel like the main event – it’s more of a fun sideshow to his practice, but interesting nonetheless. Try to go on a …
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has waged one of the most vicious counter-narcotics campaigns in the world, with even police estimates putting the number of people killed by law-enforcement officers and vigilantes in the past 12 months at more than 6000. Manila-based photographer Carlo Gabuco has been out on the streets since Duterte came to power, recording the fall-out from the violence
“I enjoy an incredible freedom in how I work, in what I photograph or when I do it,” the 20-year Magnum member tells BJP. “By signing that contract I had the feeling I would lose so much more than what I would gain.”
Magnum Photos is taking outside investment for the first time in its 70-year history, to allow it “to take advantage of new editorial and commercial opportunities afforded by digital technology”.
The world-famous photo agency goes to town with four exhibitions, a live residency, a swap shop, a book launch, a series of talks and discussions, and even a t-shirt collection