Marseille’s City Light
Gueorgui Pinkhassov plays with light in the streets of the French city of Marseille and shows why even the ordinary can be sublime
“It’s a city that speaks to me, speaks to my senses. I feel it,” says Magnum’s Gueorgui Pinkhassov, who recently applied his characteristic plays with light to photographing the French city of Marseille. Drawn by its cultural and visual diversity, the photographer mused on why the city resonates with him:
“I was born in Moscow, I’m from the North, from the cold, but my roots are in the South. My grandparents were Uzbeks, from Tashkent. It’s central Asia, the land of sunshine and diversity – a mix of Persian, Turkish, Greek, Mongolian, Arab and Russian influences. I found that in Marseille. I realized that cities like this, cities at a crossroads, are part of my DNA.”
"...cities like this, cities at a crossroads, are part of my DNA"
- Gueorgui Pinkhassov
Pinkhassov’s fine-art photographic approach is much more personal and expressive than a journalistic approach. “I photograph what I see, not what happens. I think the artistic approach helps strip away prejudices,” he says. The act of photographing has become part of Pinkhassov’s daily routine. In Marseille that manifested in a natural exploration, led by instinct and curiosity as he chased sunlight and perfect compositions.
“In the morning, I usually go jogging with a small camera, I get lost in the streets. In Marseille, I was going against the course of the sun, from the west of the city to the east. I wasn’t seeking anything in particular, just what Cartier-Bresson called ‘the decisive moment,’ that fraction of a second that gives meaning to a fact through a poetic composition; because the everyday, the ordinary, is sublime.”
This story is part of The France Project: perspectives on the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary France. In this ongoing project, initiated in 2016, Magnum photographers explore the background to issues influencing debate in the country in the run-up to the election. See more stories from this project here.