Arts & Culture

Stories of the City: A Magnum exhibition on the Paris Metro

Magnum photographers discuss the significance of the city as their work is rolled out across the Paris metro in a huge public exhibition

Magnum Photographers

Alec Soth What is your vision of the city? As someone who has never lived in major city, I've always seen cities as somewhat exotic and remote from my experience. The city lives in my dreams.   What does (...)
Thomas Hoepker “Pictures exist to be seen. Hopefully this picture transmits the right message: horror and war can happen out of the blue and a sunny sky. But life goes on.” Young people relax during their lunch (...)
Bruno Barbey “This picture was taken in 1980 during Bruno Barbey's second trip to Shanghai (he first visited in 1973). The year 1980 corresponded to the beginning of China's Reform and Opening era, which defini (...)
René Burri What was René Burri’s personnal view on the city though this image ? “The protests which drew over 10,000 students to Tiananmen Square were violent, brutal and repressive. While in the middle of (...)
Ian Berry “Berlin is a great city, especially for a photographer. The changes have been enormous between 1963 when I took this photograph and a more recent visit after the Eastern sector had opened up when I (...)
Carl De Keyzer What is your vision of the city ? I used to love working, living in big cities. I lived in a semi-big city for 35 years. Visited and worked in cities of 100 different countries. 4 years ago we mo (...)
Elliott Erwitt Elliott Erwitt ; Photo Poche, Actes Sud, 1988 "Sometimes, humour lays in the photograph, not in what you are photographing. You can photograph the most biting situation and make a lifeless photog (...)
Raghu Rai “Mumbai being a Bollywood city - India on average produces one feature film a day. Bollywood creates dreams for everybody - Mumbai is known as city of dreams and dreams for everyone.  Even while tr (...)
Raymond Depardon “I enjoyed losing myself in those foreign cities; I tried to hide in the groups of bystanders in the bustling streets of those big cities. For a few hours, for a few days, I was an inhabitant, all (...)
Stuart Franklin “Even on rainy mornings, people go to work riding a bike. In times of planned economy, the choice of clothing was quite limited in these moments. Over the last 30 years, Chinese people have increas (...)
Erich Hartmann “You will understand that there is no way that I can know what Erich was thinking when he took this picture. I can only tell you that he was never without a camera as is evident here where he photo (...)
Richard Kalvar What is your vision of the city? I ’m a native New Yorker. My idea of the city is a place intensely concentrated, crawling with people, and thus a rich lode to be mined by a photographer.  I just (...)
Matt Stuart “I wish I could claim I had the famous RATP logo in mind when I shot this in Oxford Street, London but it bears an uncanny resemblance.a lady looking into the sun. ” Oxford Street. London, Eng (...)
Guy Le Querrec “I have always been concerned with interactions between the eye and the ear. Here, I photograph Archie Shepp in Barbès. I stick to the subject, you can feel the presence of the city in the backgrou (...)
Alessandra Sanguinetti “Paris to me is a swirling spiral with a breathtaking, splendid, fairytale-like center that unwinds into layered wonderfully intricate neighborhoods that seem to hold secrets I, as a foreigner, wil (...)
Constantine Manos What is your personal view about this city through this image? The picture was made in a small seaside city in Florida in the U. S. A. called Daytona Beach. Every year during the first week of M (...)
Gueorgui Pinkhassov "To me, Instagram and the urban space are the most direct, modern and original locations. They are the places in which I would rather present my pictures. Nowadays, art is out of museums and galler (...)
Inge Morath © The Inge Morath Foundation This image of the Llama, even though shot in 1957 is relatable even today due to its simple but absurd subject matter. This image speaks to the quirkiness of life in the big city; in this case, Lin (...)
Trent Parke “What I love about the city is the endless stream of humanity. It is full of surprises. Anything can happen. You never know who or what is coming around the next street corner. ” Surfers Paradise (...)
Martin Parr What is your vision of the city? Cities are full of people, chaos and doer, so this is a great place to take photos. What is your personal of the city expressed through this image? This is Wa (...)
Moises Saman “Port-au-Prince is a magical city. Every morning at dawn, when the first hints of daylight filter through the decaying architecture, it is when the line between the real and the otherworldly blur, (...)
Jérôme Sessini What is your vision of the city? Being born in a small and very quiet town, I experience mixed feelings in big cities, I feel a sense of fascination for megacities as well as rejection, and someti (...)

“I’ve always seen cities as somewhat exotic and remote from my experience,” says Alec Soth, who has never lived in a major city. For him, and others like him, visiting a city can be an alien and overwhelming experience. “Being born in a small and very quiet town, I experience mixed feelings in big cities, I feel a sense of fascination for megacities as well as rejection, and sometimes anxiety. I think that this image evokes my vision of the city as a voluntary confinement with the others – loneliness,” concurs Jérôme Sessini.

To mark Magnum’s 70th anniversary, RATP, which runs the famous Paris metro system, is hosting an unprecedented exhibition across their territory of the city. From February 28 to June 30 2017, 174 images by 91 photographers will be displayed across 11 Metro stations. The diverse curation explores the city in all its guises and is showcased to its diverse audience in its public spaces.

Some photographers muse on the nature of city life itself: “The city is a place of intense concentration, crawling with people,” says Richard Kalvar; “For a few hours, for a few days, I was an inhabitant, albeit a slightly peculiar one. I remained a stranger, but I was adopted and protected by the crowd,” says Raymond Depardon. Or Guy Le Querrec, who demonstrates the way a city creates “music that the eye catches,” describing how his work captures that sound: “You can feel the presence of the city in the background, you can hear the noise of the city and the metallic roar of the aerial metro.”

Others still consider the unique individual personalities that cities seem to have: “Bollywood creates dreams for everybody – Mumbai is known as city of dreams and dreams for everyone.  Even while travelling in a taxi – the interior decor has such contrasting patterns and colors you wonder – the dreams continue,” says Raghu Rai of his image taken inside a Mumbai taxi; while Carl de Keyzer captures the mood of communist Cuba: “the end of ideology, a tired nation waiting for something new.“

Some work becomes emblematic of the photographer’s practice: “Burri goes beyond particular events and cuts to the core of human life. Although he traveled to all the conflict spots in the world, his images are not violent. They show modern life, but its abuses, pains and triumphs are all sublimated under the concept of the human condition,” wrote Rene Burri’s biographer Corinne Diserens.

The slideshow above is a small representation of the images showing on the Paris Metro, and are presented here with the thoughts of the photographer or their estates.

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