A Time To Grow Old • Martine Franck • Magnum Photos

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Society

A Time To Grow Old

Martine Franck's book examined old age through a series of sensitive and revealing images

Martine Franck

Martine Franck Painting by Paul Delvaux. Grand Palais, Paris, France. 1972. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck US photographer Paul Strand in the garden of his house. Orgeval, France. 1972. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Cumberland Fair. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Old people's home. Ivry sur Seine, Ile de France, France. 1975. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Pilgrimage to La Salette. Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Woman in chair. Cannes, Cote-d'Azur, France. 1979. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Welcome home visit. Paris, France. 1980. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Vietnamese refugees in a refugee Camp organised by caritas. Hong Kong. 1980. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Marathon of the Figaro. Paris, France. 1979. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Social Welfare Home for the Aged Shisei Gakusha Showaen. Tokyo, Japan. 1978. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Maison de Nanterre, old people's house. 1978. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos
Martine Franck Sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. France. 1976. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos

Throughout her career Martine Franck oscilated between on the one hand photographing some of the world’s most famous artists and on the other, the most anonymous of subjects: those seemingly rendered invisible in society. Franck’s work dwelled upon the marginalised: the poor and the elderly. The latter form a particularly poigniant subsection of her archive, and many of her most touching images of the elderly were collected in the book ‘Le Temps de Vieillir‘ (A Time to Grow Old) –  published by Éditions Denoël in Paris, in 1980.

Today – to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons – we share a selection of images from Le Temps de Vieillir along with a letter, written by Franck in 1980 (the same year she joined Magnum) which concisely reflects upon both the limitations of photography, and her own empathetic leanings. The letter’s text is translated below, and it is shared courtesy of Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, in Paris, France.

1980-Le temps de vieillir - Manuscript MF © Collection Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

You can’t photograph everything.

There are times when suffering, and human decay catch you and stop you.

Other situations that are sociologically interesting, mean nothing visually.

Photography mostly shows, more than demonstrates, things. It does not explain “the why” of things.

Martine Frank “Le temps de vieillir” (“the time to grow old”) 1980

Martine Franck Woman in the 13th arrondissement. Paris, France. 1978. © Martine Franck | Magnum Photos