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 2014, Magnum ran a workshop in Reggio Emilia, Italy, led by three of its photographers: Abbas, Jonas Bendiksen and Patrick Zachmann, who each chose a participant to be featured in British Journal of Photography.[bjp_ad_slot]
More than 45 photographers took part in the workshop, which offered the opportunity to explore the city photographically over a three-day period. Their work was shown as part of Fotografia Europea festival.
Here, we showcase a selection of images from the three selected photographers, who also share their experiences of working with their mentors.
Allan Kliger was chosen by Abbas for his photo essay, which focuses on the immigrant population in Reggio Emilia, a city that has “become a melting pot for immigrants coming to Italy in search of a better life,” Kliger tells BJP. His series explores the city’s changing character, he says, and the people who come here “to make a new home.”
“When I arrived in Reggio Emilia, I found what seemed to be a sullen industrial city that seemed to lack colour, vibrancy or a heart,” he says. “It was also pouring with rain, and was grey and overcast so perhaps this [affected] my initial perspective of the place. I went to the main train station in the city and it didn’t take long before I was lost in the moment, capturing images of the many diverse peoples, and their fleeting expressions… I explained [to one Nigerian woman I met] that I was hoping to find and photograph people who were new to the city. The woman and her friend were happy to help and suggested I photograph their group of friends as they went about their daily activities. This was exactly what I was hoping for and I wholeheartedly agreed. I spent the next few days photographing them in their homes and in the city, at work, or as they met up with friends.”
Explaining that he became like “a fly on the wall, all but invisible as they soon felt comfortable with me,” Kliger wanted to capture the positivity that shone through the apparent hardship he witnessed.
“Some [of my subjects] had been out of work for some time, while others were employed but struggling,” he says. “Despite this, their closeness, and respect and affection for one another always came through. Individually they each had a hard life, but together they formed a wonderful, strong emotional bond, which resonated with me. I tried to [present] a glimpse of a real community and show how people come together in new places and difficult environments to support each other.”
Discussing his experience of the workshop, Kliger praised the knowledge and proficiency of the tutors, commenting: “Magnum is world renowned, and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to learn from some of the most respected photographers in the world.”
Of Abbas, his mentor, Kliger said how gracious he was – “a real gentleman” – whose honest feedback he greatly appreciated. “His sense of humor was engaging and put everyone at ease. At the same time, Abbas didn’t waste time sugarcoating his thoughts – he simply cut to the core of what he thought. He was open to different styles and able to guide each of us on what may have been missing from our shots and what might have made them more compelling, emotional and relevant… I want to continue to capture real and emotional moments that we can identify with – the common threads of our humanity.”
Carlos Folgoso Sueiro was selected by Jonas Bendiksen.
“We were given the theme, ‘no place like home'”, explains Sueiro. “I understood ‘home’ in a wide sense – not just a house or the place where we live, but everything which [contributes to] the ambience of where we stay. I tried to provide a personal view of the atmosphere of Reggio Emilia, searching for invisible situations that coexist with normal life but may sometimes go unnoticed.”
Before taking part in the workshop, Sueiro confided in a friend who told him that Reggio Emilia “’was one of the most boring places in Italy’”, he recounts. “My challenge was to uncover situations that showed what Reggio Emilia could give off. If you type the city’s name into Google, you find lots of images of beautiful landscapes and buildings, but I decided to break away from that by searching for alternative situations, going to the outskirts of the city, and speaking with a range of people. I looked for particular conditions of light, and allowed my intuition to carry me away.”
Inspired by Bendiksen’s Satellites, Sueiro jumped at the chance to take part in a workshop with the photographer. “I have long been fascinated by the amazing images that Jonas gave to us from the remote places of the former Soviet Empire,” he says. “Jonas looked at our older work and gave suggestions on how we could improve our shooting and editing processes. He also showed us some of his older and newer unedited work so we could see his process. Everyday we edited and discussed our images together in a big group, so everybody learned from each other.”
Some of the best advice he received was “to be at ease. To sleep and eat well, and to wear comfortable clothes, and to keep warm,” says Sueiro. “As a photographer I often don’t have enough time to those things, but I’m trying to change that.”
Luisa Mizzoni was selected by Patrick Zachmann. With a background in multimedia, Mizzoni says she has always taken an interest in images, and photography’s “extreme versatility as a communication tool.”
“During the Masterclass, we were given general information about the city, especially the neighborhood of Rosta Nuova that, with its particular history, could serve as the starting point for a possible project,” says Mizzoni. “We were then [instructed] to individually look for our ‘who, what and where’. Mine came by chance. When walking around the Rosta Nuova neighborhood, I met two girls who work in Reggio Emilia. It took a couple of days to get to know them and that’s when the project began to develop.”
Of her experience learning with Zachman, Mizzoni is full of praise. “It was a pleasure to listen to and follow Patrick Zachman because, in addition to being a great photographer and an esteemed member of one of the most important photojournalism agencies in the world, he is a very nice person,” she says. “He puts you at ease, which allows you to share your thoughts more easily. There were discussions and exchanges of ideas, but at the same time he was honest and critical about our work. His complete availability allowed me to open and empty my mind, which meant I could receive and learn even more.”
Zachmann gave advice on how to get closer to subjects, says Mizzoni, and helped the participants to develop their ideas from scratch. “[We learnt] how to carefully observe the environment around the subject and look through the frame for visual connections between the elements,” she says. “Patrick pointed out and taught me things in three days that you only learn after years of experience in the field.”
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