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Conditions of the Heart: on Empathy and Connection in Photography

Explorations of the notion of empathy and the vital connections between photographer, subject and audience by Magnum photographers

Alessandra Sanguinetti Yuyitos (Flowers). 2005.“The first photographs I took were of fields, animals and my older sisters in 25 de Mayo costumes.I was a kid then, but I’m still making those same pictures. They are in (...)

Inspired by Magnum co-founder David ‘Chim’ Seymour’s lasting legacy, Conditions of the Heart explores the notion of empathy and the vital connections between photographer, subject and audience. Explore the full slideshow of 72 images below, the sale here, and read more to uncover the connections at the heart of this project, spanning the classic and contemporary practices of Magnum photographers.

"Chim picked up his camera the way a doctor takes his stethoscope out of his bag, applying his diagnosis to the condition of the heart"

- Henri Cartier-Bresson
Alex Webb Kochi, India, 2014“Connection in photography can take many forms. While one typically thinks of the connection in photographing people one knows, there can also be a kind of intimacy with a place (...)
Alec Soth Untitled. Bogotá, Colombia. 2003. From Dog Days Bogotá, Steidl, 2007.“In 2002, my wife and I adopted our baby girl, Carmen, from Colombia. While the courts processed her paperwork, we spent two m (...)
Susan Meiselas “I remember the day I met the Prince Street Girls, the name I gave a group of young Italian girls who hung out on the nearby corner almost every day. This is Dee and Lisa posing for me - or maybe f (...)
Werner Bischof A flute player on the road to Cuzco, near Písac, in the The Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River, Peru. May, 1954.“In May 1954, the photographer Eugene V. Harris met Werner Bischof in Machu Picch (...)
Robert Capa © International Center of Photography Generation X boy, Gunnar Moe. Norway. 1951.“[Twenty-three-year old] Gunnar Moe has made his world a big one. He has had only seven years of schooling, but he is extremely well informed, political (...)
Matt Black Downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2016.“Emotions, like photography, are spontaneous and fluid. A situation that one thinks might lead to feeling empathy can instead leave one feeling detached (...)
Wayne Miller David in Robot Costume. Orinda, California. 1956.“My brother David was always building things. Here he is off to the school bus wearing his latest creation, a robot, made of cardboard, silver pa (...)
Peter van Agtmael “I met Raymond Hubbard in the fall of 2007, in Washington D.C. At the time, he was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after having lost his left leg in Iraq the previous summer. I had b (...)
Bruce Davidson Coney Island July Fourth Fireworks. New York City, U.S.A. 1962.“Sometimes they don’t tell stories, they simply speak as images. They express feeling, increase knowledge. Photographs can draw pas (...)
Chris Steele-Perkins Adam and Eve Pub in Hackney, London. U.K. 1976.“All of my working life I’ve been drawn to subcultures, small worlds which have the whole world in them. The Teddy Boys (Teds) were a major subcult (...)
Steve McCurry "I photographed these elephants and their mahouts at a rescue sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The mahouts dedicate their lives to caring for a specific elephant, spending their days and nights t (...)
Olivia Arthur Lighty and her sister play fight on the roof. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2010.“I met Lighty when I was working in Saudi Arabia. She was different from most of the girls I had met, a bit wilder. She w (...)
Harry Gruyaert Marieke in Venice.“We were spending the Christmas holidays in Venice, staying in an old palazzo. That particular morning my daughter Marieke, who was ten at the time, had trouble getting out of (...)
Christopher Anderson “I was assigned to photograph the artist Chuck Close for The New York Times Magazine. There have been so many images of Chuck made over the years. There are also, of course, Chuck’s paintings of hi (...)
Jim Goldberg Prized Possession (#2). Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa. 2008.“This image was taken at the Mugunga refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the time of my visit, in 2008 (...)
Paul Fusco RFK Funeral Train. U.S.A. 1968.“I took this photograph from the train that brought Robert F. Kennedy’s remains from New York to Washington, D.C. The train tracks were lined with up to two millio (...)
Paolo Pellegrin Near the town of Kukës, Albania, during the Kosovo War, 1999."When I do my work and I'm exposed to the suffering of others – their loss or, at times, their death – I feel I am acting as a witne (...)
Antoine d’Agata Gaza, Palestine. 1999.“The brothel lit the dark night of origins: nothing to celebrate there except flowing streams of wine and body fluids. Was it compassion or physical desire I (/we?) felt f (...)
Eve Arnold Fisherman and family. Bahía Honda, Cuba. 1954.“Magnum dispatched [Eve Arnold] to Cuba and Haiti to take pictures for magazine projects that [Robert] Capa had arranged. In both countries, she was (...)
Bruno Barbey The walls of the old city. Chefchaouen, Morocco. 1972.“No matter where you have come from, it is the gate that greets you. Its name is Marhaba – welcome. The moment that you arrive, its familia (...)
Ian Berry Jane Birkin OBE is an English actress and singer based in France. Here she sits with Serge Gainsbourg, her husband at the time, in their Paris flat. 1970.“I was given a magazine assignment to pho (...)
David Seymour Audrey Hepburn. Paris, France. 1956.“David Seymour (Chim), one of Magnum Photos’ four founders, was a legendary photojournalist who produced some of the most memorable images of the 20th century (...)
Micha Bar Am The return from Entebbe. Ben Gurion Airport, Israel. 1976.“After terrorists hijacked a Paris/Tel-Aviv flight and forced it to land in Entebbe, Uganda, about 2,400 miles from its destination, Isr (...)
Abbas Homage to Chim (David Seymour)“I do not believe in empathy in photography, unapologetic or otherwise. I believe in sharp observation, always and in confrontation with my subjects, sometimes. Alt (...)
Tim Hetherington Portraits of pupils at the Milton Margai School for the Blind. Tim maintained close contact with the students of Milton Margai from the moment he first met them in 1999 until his death in 2011. To (...)
Bruce Gilden Man walking in Wall Street, New York City. September 17th, 2001.“I had just arrived in Surrey, England to print my book Coney Island when I was told by the cab driver that two planes had hit the (...)
Rene Burri “Attentive, concentrated, patient – René waits like an eagle focused on his prey from the beginning of the hunt to its end.All of a sudden, the image springs to the fore, like a shot, and he se (...)
Thomas Hoepker Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Wedding. Berlin, Germany. 1963.“In 1963 I was a young photographer working for Kristall, an illustrated magazine published in Hamburg, Germany. Two years e (...)
Dennis Stock “In a way, this image of James Dean is a story about not belonging.It was 1955 and James Dean had visited the town where he had spent his youth, Fairmount, Indiana. He was staying with his relati (...)
Michael Christopher Brown Sheepherder with Mount Mikeno. North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2016.“Though much of my work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo depicts dire circumstances, I remain optimistic (...)
Carolyn Drake Crater Lake National Park Vista Point. Crater Lake, Oregon, U.S.A. 2015.“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote moun (...)
Jonas Bendiksen Qikiqtarjuaq, Canada. 2004.“I took this picture in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, a small village in Northern Canada. At the time, in 2004, I was on a photography assignment for a German magazine. While (...)
Patrick Zachmann “What drives me to take a picture?With the exception of certain specific periods in my life when, having been exposed to too much violence, I felt a deep desire to work on landscapes, my lens ge (...)
Trent Parke “I always try to put myself into my photographs. Usually it’s through an event or a feeling that I am being influenced by in my life at any given moment. The camera is just a black box. I never del (...)
Inge Morath © The Inge Morath Foundation Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits. Reno, Nevada. 1960“In an interview with director Gail Levin for her documentary, Making ‘The Misfits’ (2002), Morath recalled the difficulty of photogra (...)
Elliott Erwitt Ireland. 1968.

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another is the reason everyone should have a dog.”

– Elliott Erwitt © Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos
George Rodger Dinka girls of Duk Faiwil. Sudan. 1949.“This photograph was taken in 1949, when George was able to travel freely through the Kurdufan territory, where few Westerners had ever been. He was very k (...)
Stuart Franklin “This photograph was taken in the Kola Peninsula in Russia, where the landscape has been tainted by nickel smelter. For me, landscape photography is like poetry; just as great poets of nature muse (...)
Cornell Capa © International Center of Photography Savoy Ballroom. Harlem, New York City. 1939"The Concerned Photographer produces images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism."– Corn (...)
Burt Glinn The head cheerleader and the football captain embrace after a game. Their team had just won for the first time in three years. Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. 1955.“After graduating from Harvard and (...)
Guy Le Querrec Jeu de Foulard (Scarf Play). Brittany, France. August 5, 1973.“To choose my subjects, I often read the newspapers. These guide my eye and my Leica to events that stimulate my curiosity. I do no (...)
Mark Power “This picture is important to me for many reasons. It was one of the first I made during my initial trip to Poland in September, 2004; it would have never occurred to me at the time that I would em (...)
Jérôme Sessini Child with mask. Ciudad Juarez. Colonia Zaragoza. 2009.“In many ways I have a close connection with Mexico, which has drawn me there recurrently over the past ten years.As I wrote in my book, (...)
Nikos Economopoulos “In Turkey, I was going to places not so much in order to discover, but mostly to recall. Gestures, human emotions, or an overall feeling that was somehow imprinted in me would occasionally be awak (...)
Leonard Freed West Germany. West Berlin. 1961. American soldiers stand guard as communist East Berlin puts up the wall. Checkpoint Charlie.“‘In defense of Western Civilization, an American soldier's hand rest (...)
Jean Gaumy “Winter. 1998. Moreno and I were there, silent on the rusted deck of the Spanish fishing boat ‘Rowanlea’, between two lifts of the trawl. Neither one of us was in great shape. I took one or two pho (...)
Thomas Dworzak Nino Ramishvili, ‘Grande Dame’ of the Georgian ballet, watching a performance of her group. October, 1994. Tbilisi, Georgia.“This is a toast to the Caucasus, and through the Caucasus to Georgia. (...)
Erich Hartmann “Erich always had a camera available, resulting in many family pictures. The children and I became oblivious as he recorded our everyday activities, and we were agreeable when asked to pose so he c (...)
Bieke Depoorter “This photograph was one of the first I took where I finally could feel what photography means to me. Before, I had always treated people as pawns in my photography. I would wait for hours until th (...)
Newsha Tavakolian Iran. 2015.“When I take a camera in my hand, the world around me slows down. As do I. I love to work slowly, to have time. People, in an event like the one in this picture, will start to trust m (...)
Max Pinckers She Will Use the Birds. From the series The Fourth Wall, 2012“‘She Will Use the Birds’ is a visual interpretation of a passage from Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, a non (...)
Constantine Manos Miami Beach, Florida. U.S.A. 2003."This picture was made in an ice cream parlor in Miami Beach in 2003. I went in to buy an ice cream cone and found this man taking a nap in a quiet corner of the (...)
Alessandra Sanguinetti Yuyitos (Flowers). 2005.“The first photographs I took were of fields, animals and my older sisters in 25 de Mayo costumes.I was a kid then, but I’m still making those same pictures. They are in (...)
David Alan Harvey French teenagers on a boat in the river Seine. Paris, France. 1988.“I was commissioned by National Geographic for a piece for their special issue on France. I decided I did not want to present (...)
Matt Stuart “This is the picture I get the most compliments on. I shot it in Trafalgar Square, London, early one weekday morning. I was fascinated by the workers’ black legs and their graphic shapes against th (...)
Diana Markosian “My work often deals with memory, time and things that aren’t visually descriptive. This image was taken at my father’s home. We were separated when I was seven, and it took me fifteen years to fin (...)
Gueorgui Pinkhassov “I chose this photograph simply because it touches me in some way. I'm not sure why, exactly. Nothing in particular is going on here. A street scene in the Latin Quarter in Paris, that's all. But i (...)
Miguel Rio Branco El Cabrero (Goatherder). Seville, Spain. 1993.“Why do I feel this empathy with those who are down, who are outsiders, who have fallen, the street, dogs? Maybe it is my own lack of real roots, b (...)
Richard Kalvar Two men sitting in front of a holy statue at the Feast of San Gennaro. Little Italy, New York. 1969.“Well, I feel empathy and a connection with these guys, but do they feel it with each other? It (...)
Raghu Rai “Ayodhya: a holy city of Hindus to many. Under Emperor Babur, in the early 16th century, the Mughals destroyed a structure marking the birthplace of Lord Rama. They built the Babri Mosque in its pl (...)
Eli Reed “I had been sent on an assignment to photograph President Obama. He was irritated because the ‘Blue Dogs’ had been fighting him over new health insurance policies he was trying to push through. He (...)
Moises Saman "The drama inside the helicopter unfolded in front of my eyes, silently and in slow motion. The last thing on my mind was to photograph it.About two hours before taking this photograph, an etern (...)
Donovan Wylie “Flying by an unmanned surveillance post on the northern tip of Labrador, Canada, I stared in wonder, from the helicopter, at the sheer emptiness and void of the landscape, nothing but sea and ice, (...)
Jacob Aue Sobol “I lived with The Gomez Brito family in a remote, mountainous area of Guatemala for two months in 2005. Every day I took part in the daily work on their land, growing corn and beans.Juanita an (...)
Mikhael Subotzky Ghana, West Africa. 2007.“I met Kwabla and Yaovi Ahotor while on assignment for Colors Magazine in 2007. The Ahotor brothers are both blind, and make a living as fishermen, working alongside one (...)
John Vink “I have always wondered if photographing without empathy is even possible? Maybe it is when photographing, say, a plate of ossobuco for a lifestyle magazine. Ossobuco is not a person, although it w (...)
Larry Towell "I hadn’t seen Peter’s family since the road trip I’d made with him, his wife and eight children the year before. In November 1994, after earning $2000 for a season’s labor, he loaded everyone, mys (...)
Sohrab Hura “His eyes, flowing out of their sockets, barely held on to the last threads of his veins. He had not slept the last twenty years and it was almost as if time had pillaged everything in its passing (...)
David Hurn “Living is wonderful, the world is so full of surprises. While wandering in West Wales I came upon the perimeter of a waste site. The person overseeing the site had collected dumped, unwanted child (...)
Hiroji Kubota “Doesn't this young Harlem dweller look full of curiosity and a kind of happiness? I came to know him in 1967 through an assignment for The New York Times. He lived on Morningside Ave. in Upper Man (...)
Peter Marlow "I try to let the environment provide the picture rather than imposing my photographic desire onto a situation. I identify the things that seem insignificant at the time but when you look back on t (...)

Magnum co-founder Chim is perhaps the least well-known of the four founders who, at the end of World War II, together created what has been described as the world’s most prestigious photo agency. Yet, his reportage work leaves an enduring legacy within the agency and the photographic community at large. Prolific during the Spanish Civil War (where he met Robert Capa) Chim remains best-known for his empathetic relationship to the refugee children he photographed in the wake of the war in Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Germany. Chim became President of Magnum Photos in 1954, after Capa’s death. Only two years later, he died in Egypt under machine gun fire. His engagement, the connections he created through his life and work, and his commitment to reporting on the important stories of his day, reflect a deeply-rooted belief in a collective sense of our own humanity which still imbues the agency’s spirit today, and which we explore in this Square Print project. “We are only trying to tell a story. Let the 17th-century painters worry about the effects. We’ve got to tell it now, let the news in, show the hungry face, the broken land, anything so that those who are comfortable may be moved a little.” —David ‘Chim’ Seymour

 Connecting to our Fellow Man

“Photojournalists are part of a continuous line that goes back to the Age of Exploration. They spread out across the world, seeking and discovering along the way. They are adventurers as the explorers of the past were. […] But they are not in search of treasure or new science. They are in search of moments that will connect us to our fellow man,” said Kathy Ryan, New York Times Magazine Director of Photography, in a speech at the W. Eugene Smith Grant Ceremony at the School of Visual Arts, on October 13, 2016. Jim Goldberg’s portrait of Wembe and his prized radio is a testimony to this deep need to connect our fellow men: a refugee at the Mugunga Refugee Camp, “Wembe had had this radio ever since escaping a rebel attack in his village, one year before. It was the only possession he was able to keep. Wembe told me that he climbed the hill every day to listen for good news.”

Werner Bischof A flute player on the road to Cuzco, near Písac, in the The Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River, Peru. May, 1954.“In May 1954, the photographer Eugene V. Harris met Werner Bischof in Machu Picch (...)
Jim Goldberg Prized Possession (#2). Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa. 2008.“This image was taken at the Mugunga refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the time of my visit, in 2008 (...)

Werner Bischof’s advice was to take pictures with your heart; in this project we show the last picture taken by the photographer before his tragic death in the Andes. The flute-playing child echoes down the decades to resonate with other images of children in this selection: Eve Arnold’s photograph of a Cuban family living in poverty, so poor that they begged the photographer to adopt their child; Tim Hetherington’s longstanding relationship with the blind pupils of the Milton Margai School for the Blind, in Sierra Leone, who referred to him as ‘Uncle Tim’; Hiroji Kubota remembering a youth he photographed in Harlem in 1967; Herbert List buying the child in his photograph a bag of candy, a gesture which the young shepherd would remember forever. Cornell Capa is well-known for his adoption of the term ‘concerned photography’: “The Concerned Photographer produces images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.”

Christopher Anderson “I was assigned to photograph the artist Chuck Close for The New York Times Magazine. There have been so many images of Chuck made over the years. There are also, of course, Chuck’s paintings of hi (...)
Michael Christopher Brown Sheepherder with Mount Mikeno. North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2016.“Though much of my work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo depicts dire circumstances, I remain optimistic (...)

The Responsibility of Representation

As Kathy Ryan noted in her speech, “pictures are intended to have consequences.” For some, there is a burden to being a photographer, the price to pay being that of a heightened sense of responsibility. Often “complete outsiders” to the situations they photograph (Jonas Bendiksen), the photographers have to make decisions about how, why and when they make the images they do, for these are the images that connect the subject and their viewers. For his portrait of Chuck Close, Chris Anderson notes, “I wanted to feel his presence in the image. I wanted to sense the passage of time on his face and his isolation, without actually seeing the wheelchair. Intimacy and empathy go hand in hand.” “A situation that one thinks might lead to feeling empathy can instead leave one feeling detached and alienated. But sometimes, a fleeting moment caught just from the corner of the eye draws you in and connects you. It cannot be planned or managed. Good photographs are the same,” says Matt Black, whose Geography of Poverty project endeavours to comprehensively document high poverty areas in the USA.

Matt Black Downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2016.“Emotions, like photography, are spontaneous and fluid. A situation that one thinks might lead to feeling empathy can instead leave one feeling detached (...)

Embarking on long-term projects, photographers spend long periods of time in a region or documenting a specific issue, such as Michael Christopher Brown has done in the Congo. His optimism for the future fate of the country shines through his portrait of a young sheep herder. “I have always wondered if photographing without empathy is even possible,” asks John Vink. Chris Steele-Perkins, who documented the British ‘Teddy Boys’ for many years, writes “All of my working life I’ve been drawn to subcultures, small worlds which have the whole world in them.” These long-term investigations are deeply rooted in the agency’s DNA.

Chris Steele-Perkins Adam and Eve Pub in Hackney, London. U.K. 1976.“All of my working life I’ve been drawn to subcultures, small worlds which have the whole world in them. The Teddy Boys (Teds) were a major subcult (...)

Witnessing History

“When I do my work and I’m exposed to the suffering of others – their loss or, at times, their death – I feel I am acting as a witness; my role and responsibility is to create a record for our collective memory,” writes Paolo Pellegrin. From Micha Bar-Am’s emotive image of the moment of safe arrival of freed hostages from a Paris – Tel-Aviv flight to Bruce Gilden photographing people on the day Wall Street reopened after 9/11, the need to record, to communicate through images, without language, yields important documents that become icons of our shared history.

Paolo Pellegrin Near the town of Kukës, Albania, during the Kosovo War, 1999."When I do my work and I'm exposed to the suffering of others – their loss or, at times, their death – I feel I am acting as a witne (...)

Robert Capa’s portrait of Gunnar Moe, a Generation X boy, speaks to his early recognition of the disenchantment and fatalism of the post-war generation.

Robert Capa © International Center of Photography Generation X boy, Gunnar Moe. Norway. 1951.“[Twenty-three-year old] Gunnar Moe has made his world a big one. He has had only seven years of schooling, but he is extremely well informed, political (...)

Eli Reed’s portrait of President Obama is an image which for the photographer elicits a kinship of feeling as two pioneering African-American men. Paul Fusco’s photograph taken from Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train captures some of the 2 million or so people who came to witness its passage, waving a last farewell to the much-beloved president.

Paul Fusco RFK Funeral Train. U.S.A. 1968.“I took this photograph from the train that brought Robert F. Kennedy’s remains from New York to Washington, D.C. The train tracks were lined with up to two millio (...)

Leonard Freed’s image embodies a silent connection between an American photographer and an American soldier guarding the Berlin Wall, in 1961, an image which went on to become the introductory photograph of his Black in White America book and, spanning cultures and continents, is displayed both at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Thomas Hoepker also recalls the Berlin Wall for this project, photographing the children who played in its vicinity, oblivious to the disconnection the Wall embodied: “children on the western side used the ugly edifice as a playground. They climbed up to take a peek of the other side or bounced their football against the bricks.” Early documenter of the Civil Rights movement Bruce Davidson says of the power of photographs: “Sometimes they don’t tell stories, they simply speak as images. They express feeling, increase knowledge. Photographs can draw passion, beauty and understanding. And then there is love.”

Bruce Davidson Coney Island July Fourth Fireworks. New York City, U.S.A. 1962.“Sometimes they don’t tell stories, they simply speak as images. They express feeling, increase knowledge. Photographs can draw pas (...)

Family and Other Animals

Eugene Smith once said: “The journalistic photographer can have no other than a personal approach; and it is impossible for him to be completely objective.” The intimate bonds shaped by familial relationships provide the backdrop for some of the photographers’ most personal work. Alec Soth shares an image from his project Dog Days, Bogota, where he spent two months waiting for his daughter’s adoption papers to be processed by the Colombian court, so that he would be able to take his daughter home. Of his image of a small dog, he writes, “During my long walks I regularly encountered homeless children. Seeing these kids was a profound part of my experience, but I couldn’t bring myself to make pictures. I suppose my feeling of connection with my new daughter overwhelmed my desire to be a photographer. As a substitute for the kids, I photographed the city’s many homeless dogs.”

Alec Soth Untitled. Bogotá, Colombia. 2003. From Dog Days Bogotá, Steidl, 2007.“In 2002, my wife and I adopted our baby girl, Carmen, from Colombia. While the courts processed her paperwork, we spent two m (...)

Harry Gruyaert’s vivid of photograph of his daughter lit by Venetian sunlight, Wayne Miller photographing his son David in robot costume on his way to school, or Erich Hartmann playing with lasers to create an experimental portrait of his wife Ruth (who lives to tell the tale for this photographer’s contribution to the project), all speak to the bonds that bind humans together. Intimate connections such as the sisterly dynamic captured by Olivia Arthur or Peter van Agtmael’s photograph of a war veteran and his kids playing represent the appeal of this universal connection to the other. “Sometimes I mark time through this photograph,” says Peter van Agtmael. And sometimes, the bonds between humans and their animals are just as strong as these bonds, as shown in Jacob Aue Sobol’s or Steve McCurry’s photographs.

Olivia Arthur Lighty and her sister play fight on the roof. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2010.“I met Lighty when I was working in Saudi Arabia. She was different from most of the girls I had met, a bit wilder. She w (...)
Peter van Agtmael “I met Raymond Hubbard in the fall of 2007, in Washington D.C. At the time, he was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after having lost his left leg in Iraq the previous summer. I had b (...)
Harry Gruyaert Marieke in Venice.“We were spending the Christmas holidays in Venice, staying in an old palazzo. That particular morning my daughter Marieke, who was ten at the time, had trouble getting out of (...)
Wayne Miller David in Robot Costume. Orinda, California. 1956.“My brother David was always building things. Here he is off to the school bus wearing his latest creation, a robot, made of cardboard, silver pa (...)

In Diana Markosian’s personal quest to find her father, she speaks to the capacity photography has to help forge these bonds: “My work often deals with memory, time and things that aren’t visually descriptive. This image was taken at my father’s home. We were separated when I was seven, and it took me fifteen years to find him in Armenia. I don’t think photography can ever bridge that gap between us, but it has allowed us to confront our past, to be vulnerable, in the process of building a relationship together.”

Diana Markosian “My work often deals with memory, time and things that aren’t visually descriptive. This image was taken at my father’s home. We were separated when I was seven, and it took me fifteen years to fin (...)

Elliott Erwitt sums it up with his pithy aphorism: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another is the reason everyone should have a dog.”

Elliott Erwitt Ireland. 1968.

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another is the reason everyone should have a dog.”

– Elliott Erwitt © Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos

Connecting Places

From Mark Power’s “passionate love affair” with Poland to Jerome Sessini’s “close connection” to Mexico, a deeply-rooted sense of connection is often borne out of a photographer’s relationship to a place. Nikos Economopoulos’s trips to Turkey or Thomas Dworzak, whose image is a “toast to the Caucasus”, a region he has photographed almost obsessively, are testament to this. “Connection in photography can take many forms. While one typically thinks of the connection in photographing people one knows, there can also be a kind of intimacy with a place or a culture itself. As a street photographer, it is this latter connection that intrigues me,” says Alex Webb.

Alex Webb Kochi, India, 2014“Connection in photography can take many forms. While one typically thinks of the connection in photographing people one knows, there can also be a kind of intimacy with a place (...)

Similarly, on photographing Morocco, Bruno Barbey said, “Here, it is sometimes so difficult for a photographer to do his job that he must learn to merge into the walls. Photos must either be taken swiftly, with all the attendant risks, or only after long periods of infinite patience…” Donovan Wylie is known for his recursive work on places and spaces. Steve McCurry’s vivid images of faraway destinations have graced the pages of many National Geographic magazines. Matt Black travels the length and breadth of America for his project. Stuart Franklin has poetic relationship to the landscapes he photographs, seeing our humanity reflected in them: “I’m interested in the nature-society phenomenon, the way in which we anthropomorphize aspects of the landscape and see ourselves reflected in it or as shadows across it.”

Steve McCurry "I photographed these elephants and their mahouts at a rescue sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The mahouts dedicate their lives to caring for a specific elephant, spending their days and nights t (...)

Cultural Connections

“Chim’s capacity to connect with people, and indeed humanize them, also translated to Hollywood superstars… This tranquil moment shows Audrey Hepburn in deep concentration at a ballet studio. Chim captured her quiet intensity, self-confidence and graceful composure,” says Ben Shneiderman, nephew of David Seymour. Magnum photographers often have interesting and longstanding creative relationships with their cultural landscapes, photographing writers, thinkers, actors, and musicians, their experience in the field serving them well.

Ian Berry Jane Birkin OBE is an English actress and singer based in France. Here she sits with Serge Gainsbourg, her husband at the time, in their Paris flat. 1970.“I was given a magazine assignment to pho (...)
David Seymour Audrey Hepburn. Paris, France. 1956.“David Seymour (Chim), one of Magnum Photos’ four founders, was a legendary photojournalist who produced some of the most memorable images of the 20th century (...)
Inge Morath © The Inge Morath Foundation Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits. Reno, Nevada. 1960“In an interview with director Gail Levin for her documentary, Making ‘The Misfits’ (2002), Morath recalled the difficulty of photogra (...)

Dennis Stock’s portraits of James Dean are some of the most recognised images of the actor, but his early photograph of Dean at home marks a fleeting moment of transition. “There is a moment when we are not quite sure where our place in the world is, though we all must undertake the search to find it. Dennis has captured this moment. Perhaps this is why this photograph was one of his favorite images of James Dean; in fact, he often said it was his best-composed photo,” writes Susan Richards, wife of the photographer. In 1970, Ian Berry photographed Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin: “I spent the whole day with them, and they were totally relaxed, obviously in a great relationship. They attempted in no way to direct or influence what I was shooting, which made my life very easy.” When Inge Morath photographed Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits, she waited patiently for the rare moment when the hyper-aware star wasn’t actively posing, to capture a single and subtly vulnerable shot of the actress, as what she called “the unposed person”.

Dennis Stock “In a way, this image of James Dean is a story about not belonging.It was 1955 and James Dean had visited the town where he had spent his youth, Fairmount, Indiana. He was staying with his relati (...)

Connected Moments

Kathy Ryan notes, “photographers have committed themselves to telling the stories of others. They cannot just stand by and watch the turmoil going on in the world today. They need to explore it and make sense of it. They have the clarity of vision and the purity of heart to do so.” Moises Saman survived a helicopter crash, and, once on board a second helicopter, took a picture of his fellow survivors inside, “almost unconsciously” photographing a shared near-death experience, which electrified his sense of being alive. This experience prompts him to write, “I had adhered to a false sense of distance from my subject, one that allowed for the pursuit of a sort of superficial creativity over genuine empathy. I was simply trying too hard.”

Moises Saman "The drama inside the helicopter unfolded in front of my eyes, silently and in slow motion. The last thing on my mind was to photograph it.About two hours before taking this photograph, an etern (...)

This immediacy speaks to the power of photography to create lasting connections. Another long-term project, Susan Meiselas’ Prince Street Girls project encapsulates many years of friendship between New York Italian women, but also serves as an anchoring point in the photographer’s life: ”It was important for me to keep on photographing them as they grew up, especially when I came back from abroad where I had been photographing wars. Looking at these pictures now reminds me of how difficult it was to integrate my two lives – family and friends at home, and my life as a photographer on the road. It was often a painful separation, though not one I regret having chosen.”

Susan Meiselas “I remember the day I met the Prince Street Girls, the name I gave a group of young Italian girls who hung out on the nearby corner almost every day. This is Dee and Lisa posing for me - or maybe f (...)

These fleeting moments create lasting connections that echo still today: Patrick Zachmann photographing a lone ice cream seller in the middle of the Atacama desert; the empathy and welcome shown George Rodger by the Nuba and Dinka tribes in 1949; Rene Burri’s photo of a little boy gazing up at a statue by Brancusi, capturing a fleeting moment of pure, distilled connection between child and art; two men captured mid-digestion by Richard Kalvar; Matt Stuart’s ground level view; David Alan Harvey photographing a gang of Parisian teenagers on the cusp between adolescence and adulthood.

David Alan Harvey French teenagers on a boat in the river Seine. Paris, France. 1988.“I was commissioned by National Geographic for a piece for their special issue on France. I decided I did not want to present (...)

Jean Gaumy describes his encounter with a weary, sea-wizened Spanish fisherman as total understanding without need for a common language. The connection between the young cheerleader and her sweetheart football player remains frozen in time in Burt Glinn’s photograph, a testament to his long documentation of the city of Seattle for LIFE in the 1950s.

Burt Glinn The head cheerleader and the football captain embrace after a game. Their team had just won for the first time in three years. Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. 1955.“After graduating from Harvard and (...)

Photographic Connections

In many ways this project reveals the relationship between the photographers and their connections to photography. Bieke Depoorter, whose contribution to the project is the single image that made her realise what photography meant to her, describes the moments she shared with her subject, just before taking the picture: “Without saying a word, she took me under her arm, brought me to her tiny house, fed me and showed me how to wash myself in a little basket. Still arm in arm, still in silence, we then went for the most peaceful walk I had ever taken.”   In the same way, Alessandra Sanguinetti’s contribution speaks to the act of photography itself, revealing how it can shed light on the self: “I was a kid then, but I’m still making those same pictures.”

Newsha Tavakolian Iran. 2015.“When I take a camera in my hand, the world around me slows down. As do I. I love to work slowly, to have time. People, in an event like the one in this picture, will start to trust m (...)

Newsha Tavakolian reveals her working process: “When I take a camera in my hand, the world around me slows down. As do I. I love to work slowly, to have time. People, in an event like the one in this picture, will start to trust me in this way, which allows me to blend in.” Trent Parke highlights the power of emotion and imagination in making his work: “I take documentary photographs and turn them into something else. They are what they are, but when they come into my world, I place them into different contexts. Nothing is ever what it seems to be.” Max Pinckers, ultimately, leaves it in the hands of his viewers, creating the conditions in his work for the “viewer to form their own interpretation of the scene.”

Max Pinckers She Will Use the Birds. From the series The Fourth Wall, 2012“‘She Will Use the Birds’ is a visual interpretation of a passage from Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, a non (...)

Pinkhassov defines empathy as “that rare point of intersection between ethics and aesthetics” the photographs in this Square Print project, indeed, weave a path between visual representation and duty to record, between emotion and fact; dualities overcome by the power of the image to connect us in our shared humanity.

Trent Parke “I always try to put myself into my photographs. Usually it’s through an event or a feeling that I am being influenced by in my life at any given moment. The camera is just a black box. I never del (...)