Square Print Sale

Written by Light, Exploring the Theme

Magnum and World Press Photo-awarded photographers explore the theme of the latest Square Print Sale, titled "Written by Light"

“Photography is sunlight pouring in through windows, through doors, bouncing off the moon, bouncing off water, glass, walls, skin; creeping in through door cracks, forest canopies, blinding you at noon, making gold at sunset, purple at dusk, gray when it’s cloudy, and pitch black in its absence,” Alessandra Sanguinetti writes of her image ‘The Models,’ selected for the upcoming Square Print Sale, Written by Light.

It is one of the 107 images that form the curation for this sale, sitting alongside 76 Magnum photographers and estates, as well as 31 World Press Photo winners in an unprecedented partnership with the World Press Photo Foundation. 

View the full collection and shop the signed and estate-stamped prints here. The sale runs until 23:59 ET on Sunday, October 22 all all prints are priced at $110/£110/€120.

Inspired by the growing number of conversations around the use of artificially generated images online, the curation for this sale seeks to celebrate the fundamental difference between the practice of these photographers and A.I.-generated images: the use of light. 

“As photographers, we were all at some point, seduced by light and the possibility of capturing it in our own unique way,” explains Magnum president, Cristina de Middel.

From the series 'The Afronauts.' 2012. © Cristina de Middel / Magnum Photos

"The time feels right to go back to our roots and reflect on the very origins of our photographic practice, to the camera obscura, and how an image is recorded by the impact of light on a surface."

Anna swimming during a rain squall on her birthday. Bohuslän coast, Sweden, 2023. © Jonas Bendiksen / Magnum Photos

The result is a collection of images that celebrate the act of photography. Some, such as Jonas Bendiksen’s image of his wife, Ana, swimming in a squall of rain,  explore the experience of being present and the act of shooting an image. “Photography in its simplest form,” he writes. “And I get to save this moment, bathed in dim storm light, that embodies everything I love.” 

Others pay tribute to the power of light in moments of transient beauty. Nikos Economopoulos, who selects an image of two women laughing together in a bustling street restaurant in Myanmar, writes: ​”This interplay of light and emotion — between the celestial, iridescent light and a moment of shared joy and humanity — is almost as if the sun itself is drawn to the sheer happiness they exude.”

Myanmar, 2013. © Nikos Economopoulos / Magnum Photos

And several photographers, such as Jérôme Sessini, use the exercise to reflect on their own practice. “I try not to fall into the trap of research at all costs,” he writes. “To choose ‘the right light’ and the ‘beautiful image,’ and to concentrate instead on the meaning. I do not seek to seduce but rather to mark consciences. Of course, without light there is no photography, but I avoid light becoming the only subject of my images.”

And yet,  his selected image of fellow Magnum photographer Mikhael Subotzky lounging in a patch of sun during Magnum’s 70th Annual General Meeting in New York, may just be “a counterexample of my photographic research,” he concludes.

Artist and photographer Mikhael Subotzky, during the 70th Magnum AGM in New York. USA, 2017. © Jérôme Sessini / Magnum Photos

For Erich Hartmann‘s contribution, of a bed bathing in sunlight and shadow, the Estate explores how Hartmann used light to transform seemingly mundane scenes into something entirely different: “I have been able to use familiar, sometimes commonplace situations and, by the introduction of an unfamiliar way of using light, transform them into photographs that seem to me disquieting, questioning, ambiguous.”

Maine, USA, 1975. © Erich Hartmann / Magnum Photos

Joining the 77 participating Magnum photographers and estates are 31 World Press Photo-awarded photographers from around the world. The partnership was inspired by several members of Magnum Photos and World Press Photo who met in the context of a working group focusing on ethical standards for visual journalism in the age of A.I.

The Moon, 1969. © Neil Armstrong, NASA. 1969 World Press Photo Contest Winner.

The selection from the World Press Photo photographers spans five decades — from Neil Armstrong’s image of Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin posing on the moon (which won the annual contest in 1969) to M’hammaed Kilito (one of this year’s winners) and an image of the last cluster of palm trees left in southern Morocco’s Tanseet Oasis. 

“To me, photography transcends being just an artistic endeavor,” Kilito explains. “This may sound simple or naive, but I believe that my work is mainly a statement —  a message meant to make people reflect and inspire action.”

Cluster of Palm Trees. Tanseest Oasis, Morocco, 2021. © M'hammed Kilito, VII Mentor Program / Visura. 2023 World Press Photo Contest Winner.

And Alessandro Digataeno, a contest winner in 2005, contributes an image of a young man caught between old and new. He poses in front of the ruins of a former home in the Lujiazui area of Shanghai, a building that he had to help demolish, with the bright lights of the city’s high-rise buildings glaring on the horizon.

Shanghai, China, 2004. © Alessandro Digaetano, Polaris Images. 2005 World Press Photo Contest Winner.

All images in this article, and many more, are now available as exclusive 6×6″ square prints from the Magnum Shop. Priced at $110/£110/€120, prints will be shipped and delivered worldwide in time for the holidays. 

View the full collection here.

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