May 28, 2009
On the Voss Foundation/Magnum Photos trip to Mali in May, VF European Representative Cecilie Malm Brundtland had a chance to sit down with former Magnum President Stuart Franklin for a brief interview. His responses are below.
A limited edition of Stuart’s photographs will be sold later this year to benefit Voss Foundation. Stay tuned for more information!
Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about
what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to
transcribe it visually.” -Henri Cartier-Bresson (from the homepage of Magnum Photos)
A short talk with Stuart Franklin at the airport in Mopti: 10 MAY 2009:
“I grew up in an environment where I could photograph a lot. I quickly learned that the more you practice the better you get. I studied photography for 4 years in the middle of the Seventies. During the first year, we studied painting and drawing and I spent a lot of time copying Michelangelo and Rafael. In fact, the delicacy of Rafael’s drawings has been quite influential to my photography. For me, it has been important that I was taught how to draw. It’s about the act – how to put the body and mind together and not just looking. I understood the whole sense of feeling and sensibility.
“All my colleagues in Magnum have been influential to my work: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Werner Bischof, among others. Other names are Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, and a few Mexican photographers.
“As a photographer you have to develop your own vision. It’s about the act of letting it out – not going out and find it. You have to free yourself to express and personalize your vision. In the photos by Walker Evans, you can see how he cares for what he sees and how all simple things are turned into something beautiful. I try to see wonderful art in everything.
“All photography is an act of abstraction. When you see something, you start looking for what level of abstraction is the most interesting. I’m trying to make an interesting composition from what I see.
“In Africa the mornings are the most important time of the day. It’s the most graceful time of the day. The American writer and poet E. E. Cummings has written, ‘When night is becoming day.’ It’s all about transition of moment. When the sun rises is a great monumental event. In Europe it just gets lighter – in Africa it’s like a great orchestra. In a small village near Kanikombole I saw how the light on this Dogon ladder was transformed from nature to man – like growing out of the ground.
“The evenings are more frenetic. The light disappears quicker and there is tiredness in the air. Although the light is beautiful, it hasn’t got the same quietness.
“All these Dogon villagers depend on water. They have peace and calmness but depend totally on water. The water helps them wash, drink, cook, clean. Water is very close to cleanliness which is close to spiritual experience.”