Magnum Photos Workshop Showcase: Irina Sokolova

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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, Magnum’s workshops provide opportunities for photographers at different stages in their careers to benefit from the vast experience of Magnum’s established photographers.

In January, Magnum photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov hosted a workshop in Paris. At the end of the event, he selected Irina Sokolova’s portfolio to be featured in British Journal of Photography.

We speak with Irina Sokolova about her work.

BJP: What is your story about?

Irina Sokolova: Though we had no particular topic or theme during the workshop, I decided to compile the story from numerous pictures taken during wonderful wanderings in wintery Paris. I’m very much addicted to the enigmatic process of carving images from everyday life, finding unexpected allusions and colours. When I examined all the pictures taken during the workshop, I found that the imperial red colour was everywhere, and it seemed very symptomatic. Therefore, I found it possible to bring together some pictures that shared a similar atmospheric light and alarming red colour.

BJP: Why did you choose this particular subject, and how did you go about shooting it?

Irina Sokolova: I’m very much inspired by contemporary art, which helps me to avoid stereotypes and look for fresh interpretations. I think I’m only on the verge of finding my vision. Any particular project needs plenty of practise and concentration, and this time in Paris I tried to find the so-called “Genius Loci”. As I only had a few days, I tried to absorb street impressions, to capture them with my camera viewfinder, as if collecting quotes in my notebook. As for technical features, I like to use natural filters, reflections and occasional light spots, which add something magical and inspiring to ordinary life.

BJP: Why did you decide to sign up to the Magnum workshop?

Irina Sokolova: Magnum is legendary, and I wanted to get close to the agency ever since I had my first camera. I think it’s important to use the possibility of taking lessons from masters with an outstanding reputation and skills.

BJP: How was the experience of learning with Gueorgui Pinkhassov? What’s the best advice you received from the workshop?

Irina Sokolova: Gueorgui Pinkhassov is a great artist, philosopher and master. To be a master is very very rare gift. He is open-minded and provocative, always forcing you to find the unusual in the trivial, the sublime in the humdrum. He has a great sense of humour — a visual sense of humour. The most important lessons for me: there are no featureless subjects, light creates miracles, art and visual discoveries are “lying underfoot”, and great things can be found at the intersection of knowledge. He also taught us that photographers should adopt methods of image-making from other “visual” professions, and that the photographer should concentrate on the visual experience, never stop shooting, and neglect “likes” and fans in order to be faithful to their own methods and philosophies. In conclusion, this workshop really transformed my consciousness.

BJP: What are you planning next?

Irina Sokolova: I’m planning to travel and search for new visual experiences. My next trip is to China. It seems there are great cultural shifts in contemporary China. Now I’m looking for other cultural trends and discoveries. My mind is like a boiling pot – I’m reading about different destinations, flipping through pictures and books. I hope I can create new photo stories after that.