In the autumn of 1979, Erich and Ruth Hartmann bought train passes and set off on a journey around France with no set route, no firm destinations and no hotel reservations. Using a small compact camera, Erich Hartmann captured France on the train, from the train, in stations, hotels and in towns and villages along his chosen route. The resulting pictures prove that it is the eye, not the camera, that captures the moment. Pictured here, a train travels through the mountainous landscape of south-western France, between La Tour de Carol and Foix.

Photographs should be symbolic rather than descriptive...they should suggest to the reader an internal rather than an external part of life

Erich Hartmann
© Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos

Born in Munich, Erich Hartmann was 16 years old when he went with his family in 1938 to Albany, New York, as a refugee from Nazi Germany. The only English speaker in the family, he worked in a textile mill, attending evening high school and later taking night courses at Siena College.

Hartmann enlisted in the US Army, serving in England, France, Belgium and Germany. At the end of the war, he moved to New York City, where he worked as an assistant to a portrait photographer and then as a freelancer.

Hartmann first became known to the wider public through his work for Fortune magazine in the 1950s. His poetic approach to science, industry and architecture shone through the photo essays Shapes of Sound, The Building of Saint Lawrence Seaway and The Deep North. Throughout his career, he pursued many long-term personal projects, and photographic interpretations with literary echoes.

In his later years, he photographed the remains of the Nazi concentration camps, resulting in a book and exhibition, In the Camps.

At the time of his death in 1999, Hartmann was engaged in a photo project called Music Everywhere.

© Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos

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