“I met Belinda and Guillermina when they were five years old. They were usually fluttering about while I was photographing their grandmother’s animals for my project On the Sixth Day. I’d always shoo them away from the frame until, one day, I turned my attention towards them. That’s when I made this image — a photograph that marks the beginning of what turned out to be being a long journey with them.” © Alessandra Sanguinetti
“In March of 1992, I made a road trip down the Mississippi River with my future wife Rachel and our dog Tasha. We traveled from our home in Minneapolis to Memphis. Each night we’d hunt for a discreet place to park so that we could sleep in our van. We’d unload all of our bags and make a small bedroom. A decade later I would travel the Mississippi again for my first book, Sleeping By The Mississippi. This picture is like looking at the seed from which all of that work sprung.” © Alec Soth
Some of the most powerful photographs are those that crack open our lives, cleaving our existence right down the middle and into a “before” and an “after.” Magnum co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson might have called the instant in which such an image is conceived a “decisive moment,” so it’s appropriate that more than sixty years later, Magnum is revisiting this theme by asking its photographers to select a single photo that “Changed Everything.” Scouring their archives, these artists paired their image with its backstory, illuminating the transformative currents that linger beneath each frame. We’ve chosen our favorite 14 stories to share on Feature Shoot.
The assignment was open-ended; artists could choose an image that altered the course of their own lives or countless others, one that could have reshaped a single moment or an entire lifetime. They range from those that capture joy and endurance during times of suffering to those that mark the instant in which two people fell in love.
All the chosen photographs will be available as museum quality square prints for the low price of $100 apiece. Magnum has made it easy to view the images via their Instagram; because the prints will all be square, what is presented on Instagram will mirror exactly how the prints will look. Unlike most limited edition print sales, this Magnum print sale is limited not by number but by time, and each print will be available only for five days, beginning on June 8th and ending June 12th, 2015. Visit the Magnum store to purchase.
“Long ago, when my grandmother died, I wanted to bring something to her grave other than traditional flowers, something that mattered to me in a time when I had just figured out what I wanted to do with my life: be a photographer. So I brought a print of a photograph I was proud of — a picture I made of my naked cousin when I was about fifteen years old in 1985. I felt good about the gesture. But, a few weeks later, I heard news that some people in my family were upset because someone put a nude photograph on my grandmother’s grave, and that an investigation had been opened. I didn’t know what to do, so I told my mother that it was me who had put the picture there. It was an enormous misunderstanding. But, to this day, I like this photograph. That experience taught me something about the unpredictable power of a picture. When I put the print on my grandmother’s grave, I had good intentions, and the act meant something specific and personal to me. But then, once the picture left my hands and entered the world, I realized my intentions were basically irrelevant. The power of the picture took on an entirely new life that was out of my control.” © Alex Majoli
“My wife Ann and I had been digging during the day, transplanting lilies from the front of this abandoned farmhouse back down the road to where we live. We finished. She was tired and laid in the grass. I took a picture. The house is now gone. The walnut trees have been bulldozed and burned. I saw this picture the other day for the first time in years and realized how photographing life within a hundred yards of my front porch had helped me focus on everything I cared about.” © Larry Towell
“The picture made me a vegetarian. But only for a while.” © Elliott Erwitt
“Very early one morning in 2000, I was dragged out of my bed by my Japanese fixer, the amazingly patient Ito Kadowaki, who guided me through his confusing and ultimately fascinating country. We walked to a river, stripped off all our clothes and made our way into the hot springs that gushed up from the centre of the flow. I was at the point in my career when I was learning that I did not need events to drive my pictures. Photography and authorship are so much about confidence, and I was beginning to understand that I could be less intrusive, let the situation develop and see pictures in the ordinary, in the in-between moments. This particular moment was so amazing: the mist, the heat and coldness in the same place. Taking that photograph of my feet was exactly what I kept from the experience. To be journalistic in that situation seemed wrong, and I simply tried to demonstrate my own experience by becoming part of the photograph. I did my best to keep my rangefinder camera out of the water and simply laid back calmly, relaxed and photographed my feet. Ultimately, I try to let pictures happen, because now, I have the confidence that they always will. What could be simpler?” © Peter Marlow
“It was my first assignment abroad. I was a young freelancer for Gamma photo agency, and when I arrived at the Gamma offices, the bureau chief needed a photographer to travel to Albania immediately with some French Kosovar volunteers who planned to join fighters of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). So, he asked me bluntly, ‘You want to be a reporter? Are you ready to go now?’ I replied that I needed time to organize the travel and my life. He walked away and came back with 30 rolls of film and 800 dollars, ‘Now you’re ready. Good luck. Call me when you are in Albania.’ An hour later I was on my way, lost and scared. This photograph is one of the first I made the day I arrived in Tirana. I think it’s an image that reflects my state of mind at that moment: chaotic, filled with doubt and fear. As a young photographer, I was very influenced by black-and-white photographers — especially Bruce Gilden and Mark Cohen — so I think that part of me was trying to copy them by introducing the maximum number of elements into the frame. Looking back, I realize how much my approach has changed, as I look to make photos better by subtraction rather than addition.” © Jerome Sessini
“I had wanted to use flash for a long time, but it took me years to try it. I don’t like to do things differently than the way I know how to do them. That’s not because I don’t like change — I just trust what I know. But I always loved film noir, and I always loved shadows. So in 1980, I shot like 600 rolls of film in the streets of New York and developed them all in one fell swoop in my bathroom. I looked at what I had and found that there was nothing good. Nothing. It was all shit because I couldn’t separate the foreground from the background. I said to myself, ‘Bruce, you gotta start using flash.’ So I tried it, and immediately, making pictures started to feel like a fun game. I was trying things, playing and experimenting. This was the first picture I ever took with a flash that I felt really good about. It marks the beginning of something simple, but something that changed my life as a photographer.” © Bruce Gilden
“In 1966, I was losing my girlfriend, to her new lover. So, I decided to make a movie about her and him, hoping that, when she would see the result, she would understand how much I loved her. Filming her, I was able to create distance. I became less vulnerable. I understood her and myself better. I was able to let her go.This became an important thing in my photography, to be less there and more there at the same time.” © Harry Gruyaert
“I never felt comfortable with street photography. If I take snapshots of total strangers, it feels a bit like I am stealing something from them. This picture comes from my first book, Ou Menya, which was my graduation project when studying photography. My initial idea was taking pictures in small villages alongside the Trans-Siberian Railway. Because I could not afford hotels, someone wrote me a letter in Russian that allowed me to ask people on the street if I could spend a night in their homes. This is how, one night at a time, I became part of a stranger’s family. Surprisingly, this opened a whole new world for me. I finally started to feel comfortable taking pictures. Without knowing one word of the language, I was able to achieve intimacy with families that I had only just met. These short, but very intense encounters, like the one represented in this photograph, became very important to me, and I continued this practice in many countries.” © Bieke Depoorter
“I took this picture in May, 2008. Having spent the previous few years on a series of embeds with the American armed forces, I had only seen the war through the narrow lens of a foreign military, almost devoid of any connection to the local population. I felt more like I was in America than in Afghanistan or Iraq. This trip was the first time I went un-embedded. I traveled around the north with Dost Mohammed Khairy, a disabled Afghan living in Phoenix who had gone back to Afghanistan to get married. This picture was taken on his wedding night, his bride Fahima posing with his nieces. Because of that trip, I began to realize the deep limitations of my perspective. Where Afghans had been shadowy and collective figures to me before, they had finally become individuals that I could start to see. I felt ashamed that my scope had been so narrow, and began to change the way I work.” © Peter van Agtmael
“The picture that changed everything? When I fell in love with Sabine and she taught me how to dance. After that moment, I stopped taking pictures to prove anything or to be daring. After that moment, I started taking pictures out of love and curiosity. After that moment, I started dancing. Sabine had put on lipstick, high heels and a polka-dot dress. It’s was the christening of her sister’s first baby. ‘Peqqeraava? Am I beautiful?’ Sabine asked. She lifted her skirt, revealing her star panties and a pair of laddered tights. ‘Lorunaraalid. You’re wonderful.’ I replied, grabbing hold of her and starting to dance. I’ve often watched Sabine dance at the village hall without wanting to join in. But now that we’re alone in her uncle’s house, I surrender to both the dance and Sabine. We danced across tables, chairs and mattresses. Wilder and wilder. Through the open window we can hear the church bells chime but Sabine insists: ‘Aamma, aamma, qilinnermud ilinniardiiatsiikkid!’ (‘More, more. Let me teach you how to dance!’)” © Jacob Aue Sobol
“This is a photograph from my project East 100th Street. In 1966, I began to document the neighborhood in Spanish Harlem known as ‘El Barrio.’ At first, I met with the local citizens’ committee, Metro North, to obtain their permission to produce a document that would serve as a calling card, to be presented to local politicians, prospective business investors, and the mayor. The community workers took me around to meet and observe people living in abysmal housing. I witnessed people working together to improve lives and create a place of peace, power, and pride. At that point in American history, we were sending rockets to the moon and waging a futile war in Vietnam. I felt the need to explore the space of our inner cities and document both the problems and the potential there. I photographed the people of East 100th Street and their environment in an open ‘eye to eye’ relationship, using a large bellows camera with its dark focusing cloth. I carried a heavy tripod and a powerful strobe light along with a portfolio of pictures taken in the community. As I stood before the subjects, the physical presence of the classic camera lent a certain respect to the act of photography, placing me in the picture itself.” © Bruce Davidson
“In 1984, I was 29 years old, and I was asked to do a work with young kids in Marseille who had dropped out of school, and were suffering domestic or social difficulties. They were almost all teenagers of immigrant origins, and many of them were involved with drugs and gangs. I was supposed to give them small compact cameras, and introduce them to photography, not necessarily so that they may become photographers, but say so they could use photography as a medium to express themselves and help their struggles. I chose to make them focus on their identities, on their neighbourhoods, their families, friends. This fascinating experience lasted six months. While they took pictures, I decided to follow each of them in their daily life and make a photographic work of my own. Thanks to this cultural assignment, I understood I could penetrate very closed and sometimes dangerous communities if it was understood that I wasn’t a reporter who would just pass through, take pictures and leave, but that I was a ‘teacher.’ It changed everything! I was not only ‘taking’ something, but giving something.” © Patrick Zachmann