The Magnum Square Print Sale will take place on the Magnum Photos Shop: www.magnumphotos.com/shop
It will be open from Monday, March 22, 1AM PST to Sunday, March 28, 11:59 PM PST
During the sale, and one week only, over 100 archival-quality prints, signed by the photographers or estate-stamped by the estates, are available for just $100.
Magnum Square Prints are printed on 6×6” (15.24×15.24 cm) archival paper; image size is 5.5” (14 cm) on the longest side. Images will not be cropped but will instead have white borders. They are not editioned by quantity, but editioned by time, as these items will not be made available outside the sale window. The images in each sale are always different, and will never be available in this format again.
By downloading and publishing these images you agree to include the following information in editorial.
Under strict embargo until March 15, 9AM EST
Over 100 signed or estate-stamped, museum-quality 6x6” prints by Magnum photographers for $100. Available for one week only.
High-res images and the accompanying statement are available below. Quotes and interviews with some of the photographers will be available for limited press usage during the Square Print Sale only.
Contact for Magnum Photos
Mark Best (London)firstname.lastname@example.org+44 (0) 776 495 0818
Alexandra Fanning (New York)email@example.com
White doves are kept at the Shinto Yasukuni shrine, dedicated to military personnel killed during Japan's wars. They are considered to be spirits of the departed. Tokyo, Japan. 2000
“Sometimes I don't shoot: I linger: I choose the frame in my viewfinder, including all the elements — walls, trees, pylons, spaces — that will provide the desired mood or character, and I wait patiently for the theatre of life to surprise me with people, animals, shadows.”
Abbas, in Return to Mexico
From the 125th & Lexington series. Harlem, New York City, USA. 2018.
“Long before becoming a photographer I was in Harlem studying Knowledge of Self. Books and VHS tapes from Dr John Henrik Clarke, Ivan Van Sertima and Hakim Bey fortified my education. In those days I would mostly avoid 125th and Lex, so it's unexpected that those four corners became the nucleus of my photography.”
Virus series. Paris lockdown. France. March 17, 2020.
“2020. Unexpected events and imperatives, related to the urgency of survival, transformed lived experience into the object of invisible fears and revolts. Humans rediscover dissatisfaction, carving out their own destinies to become protagonists of History.”
Sète, France. 2011.
"If it is expected, what is the point? Without the unforeseen, there is no thrill, no revelation."
Illinois, USA. 2017.
“In the winter of 2017, I was in southern Illinois documenting the environmental consequences of coal mining in the region. I rented a helicopter to survey damage that was hidden from view. From above, the world can become simultaneously richer and more intangible, as the eye takes in far more details, sweeping across the scene, than it can easily distill. For me, the camera is not so well suited to the vastness of the landscape, but can render its details in ways that are both abstract and descriptive. After I photographed the surface mining and the polluted runoff, I had a few minutes left. The pilot clearly loved to fly, and through a microphone I guided him to where my instinct took me. I found this bend in a creek surrounded by bare trees.”
Peter van Agtmael
Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Long Island, New York, USA. 1955.
“This image was made by Eve during her first shoot with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had shown Eve her down-to-earth, relaxed personality as they worked together. But the photographer had yet to really witness the actress’s candour. The following is an excerpt from a passage in Eve’s book, In Retrospect, in which she recalled meeting with Marilyn a second time, in order to show her the photographs she had taken:
She met me at the door in a diaphanous black negligee. She had a hairbrush in her hand. Would I mind sitting through an interview for a European magazine—then we could talk? Almost immediately the reporter showed up. Marilyn greeted her, and while the woman had her head down, looking in her purse for notebook and pencil, Marilyn asked if she minded if she (Marilyn) brushed her hair during the interview. No, of course not. When the woman raised her head, Marilyn was brushing her pubic hair.
Due in no small part to Monroe’s laidback temperament, the two were to become close over the months that followed.
Michael Arnold, Estate of Eve Arnold
Kids at Ski Dubai, Dubai. U.A.E. 2013.
“One of the more surreal experiences I’ve had was a visit to Ski Dubai, a large indoor ski slope with sub-zero temperatures and real snow. You take a lift up to the top of the nearly half-kilometer long slope and halfway down you can stop at a little wooden hut and have a hot drink or snack. Standing outside with my coffee, under a gas-heater, in what is essentially a giant freezer in a desert, I couldn't help thinking about the crazy lengths we go to entertain ourselves.”
The child of women working in the nearby fields in the West Bank hills between Nablus and the Jordan river. 1973.
“When driving through the biblical hills of Samaria, on my way to a crossing over the River Jordan, I spotted a strange package near the road.
I stopped the car to have a closer look - and I realised it was a well wrapped baby smiling at me.
I had hardly clicked a few frames when I noticed an angry woman rushing to save the child from the evil eye of the camera. Only then did I see the group of women nearby, perched in a row plucking and harvesting wheat, or maybe chickpeas…”
Ras al-Hadd near Sur, Oman. 2004.
“While travelling through Oman, I came across this fort near Sur. Always on the lookout for the unexpected, I spotted these children playing with kites fashioned from plastic shopping bags. As happens maybe once a year, all the elements – kids, kites, bike, goats, even the telegraph wires – slotted together to make the shape and capture a joyous moment.”
Shinjuku, Tokyo. 2016.
“I was in Tokyo working on a chapter of an ongoing project, and had finished photographing for the day. Tokyo is a city packed with light, movement, and intensity, so I still had my camera on me and ready, just in case. I was starving and heading to dinner but had to wait at one of these huge zebra crossings in Shinjuku. They’ve been photographed so many times before, so figuring that to make a picture I would be happy with here would require more time and effort than I had blood sugar for, I wasn’t paying much attention. Then this zebra-dressed woman placed herself right in front of me. Click. Thank you. Sometimes you get more luck than you deserve."
A cloud on the top of a hill near a phosphate field. Al-Mitlawi, Gafsa, Tunisia. 2015. .
“In the late 19th century, specifically in 1889, the French occupation brought laborers from different regions to Gafsa in order to extract phosphate from the mines. The new society that emerged in this desolate land faced two struggles: exploitation and the harshness of the place.”
Zied Ben Romdhane
Floating snails’. Zurich, Switzerland. 1936. .
"Werner Bischof turns again and again to nature for his ideas, even his simple studies of nature have conscious form, and often it is nature itself which prompts the shaping impulse. Bischof's endeavour is to isolate law and regularity from the apparent chaos of the accidental.
Excerpt from the writings of Hans Finsler, Werner Bischof’s professor at Zurich School of Art and Design, in Graphis Magazine, Issue No.7-8, 1945, selected by the Estate of Werner Bischof
Country road. Lindsay, California, USA. 2013.
“A life without change is bad for anyone, and for the photographer in particular. It is in the unexpected that good things happen.”
Ganesh festival. Mumbai, India. 1980.
“The birthday of Ganesh Chaturthi, the elephant-headed God who was the son of Shiva and Parvati, takes place at the end of the Monsoon season in late August and September. Traditional clay effigies are carried through the city to the Bombay waterfront where they are immersed in the sacred waters and left there to decompose.
This photo was published at the time in the book "Bombay" which Bruno completed for Time and Life Editions.
What is striking is how improbable it was to see how people manipulated the statue of Ganesh which is supposed to be respected during such a holy feast...”
Caroline Thienot Barbey, Estate of Bruno Barbey
Wilting lotus flowers on Kunming Lake. The Summer Palace, Beijing, China. 1964.
"If you dare to cross a border at the right time, magical things can happen.”
Gladys Crowder and Eddie "Shorty" Davis. Two of the great Lindy Hop dancers, in the Kat's
Corner at the Savoy Ballroom. Harlem, New York City, USA. 1939.
"I am not an artist and I never intended to be one...I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point and, perhaps, even make a difference."
Students having fun on an artificial lake on the weekend. Istanbul, Turkey. 2018
“The Qur’an school is an ordered, structured, and predictable environment for learning, so during holidays and break-times, when these girls are allowed to be led by their own whims, they seek the fresh air of the outdoors without any particular plan or direction. There they can let the day take them away to other shores where the wind carries their dreams on unpredictable currents of imagination.”
New York City, U.S.A. Circa 1971.
“One of the strangest phenomena of street photography is when the photographer appears to engage in a form of cultural prophecy. The collision of today with tomorrow requires an uncanny ability to sense the future in the present.
Ernest Cole's 1971 image of a New York hipster predicts the b-boy stylings of the mid-1980s: the dinky hat, the sportswear, the early version of a stereo beatbox. The unexpected pose of the proto-b-boy seems to leap forward decades to the pages of style magazines like The Face and iD.
And the new culture is neatly complemented by Cole's parallel pictures of graffiti adorning the New York streets, years before books began to collate and document that burgeoning art form. How strange it must have been for Ernest Cole, to watch the development of hip hop culture during the 1970s and 1980s - an identity that he had presciently foreseen in the late 1960s.”
“Himmel Über Belfast.” Belfast, Northern Ireland. 1990.
"At 17, with two years of high school still ahead of me, I bought an ‘interrail’ ticket that allowed me to take any train in Europe. Having read an article about a photographer in Belfast, I went to Northern Ireland during the Easter holidays. I stayed in a youth hostel. Rented a bicycle to get around. Terrified of getting caught, I tried to take pictures of the British soldiers from my hip. I had five rolls of East German ORWO black and white film.
Still used to the way in which we took pictures in my family, one at a time, and one per event, those rolls lasted me the whole trip.
When I developed them I found images of edges of roofs, phone lines and a lot of clouds and the sky. This line of police surveilling a Sinn Fein event is about the only photo in which I hadn’t aimed too high."
Women watching the dancing during a local feast. Avlona, Karpathos, Greece. August, 1989.
"A circle of elderly Karpathos women, and an unexpected dog, overseeing a dance performance at Saint John’s feast."
New York City, New York, USA. 1955.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Doves on train tracks. Third Avenue El. New York City, NY, USA. 1956.
“The doves take off [from] the train tracks like New Yorkers take off for the Hamptons on summer weekends.”
'The tank man'. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. June 4, 1989.
“In June, 1989, following the Beijing massacre, a man stepped into the path of a row of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square and into the history books. It was an unexpected act of defiance. Courageous too. More than thirty years on there's still a great deal we don't know: what became of the man, why he was carrying two shopping bags, and the nature of his exchange with the tank driver. One day I hope we'll know more.”
Robert Kennedy funeral train. USA. 1968.
“Shooting with film, Paul never knew exactly what he had captured until it was developed. The circumstances of shooting from the funeral train, while in motion, were very unusual and the results Paul achieved were unexpected. He wrote of the work:
‘I was taking photographs of people and I was trying to show what it meant to them there, what they were feeling. I was very concerned that the movement would ruin every shot. I began to concentrate on tracking the subjects in every photo to lessen the effects of the train’s motion, hoping that I would be lucky enough to get a few usable photos. When I started to edit the film in New York I was very excited and optimistic about the subjects and quality of the photos. It didn't take long to get very strong emotional reactions from the photos.’”
Marina Fusco Nims, Estate of Paul Fusco
New York City, USA. 1990.
“I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the expressions on the faces of these two seemingly related women as the younger one was pushing the other along Madison Avenue in her wheelchair. Whatever the reason, her mouth was wide open. The scene spoke to me about the mother-daughter relationship: I imagined that the daughter had had enough and was perilously pushing the older woman over a cliff.”
New York state senator Robert Francis Kennedy campaigning. Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. 1968.
“In 1968, Burt spent many weeks photographing Bobby Kennedy as he travelled around the country during the Presidential campaign, as well as at Hickory Hill, his home in Arlington, Virginia, where Kennedy and Ethel raised their large family of eleven children.
The day he took this photo in Indianapolis, the press photographers were all crowded into the backs of trucks behind and ahead of RFK’s convertible. Bobby yelled to Burt, who was about to board one of the trucks: ‘Hey Burt, come with us, plenty of room in the back!’
They had been at Harvard together back in the late 1940s. As soon as Burt, his many cameras, and his usual well-worn and greased trench coat got into the car, the photographers ahead of them started squealing, ‘Hey Glinn, get down, you’re ruining the picture!’ He did as he was told and (from his new position lying down in the back of the campaign convertible) he looked up — and there they were! Ethel and Bobby in the rear view mirror.
Tragically, a week later, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Chicago by Palestinian militant Sirhan Sirhan. 1968 was to be an extremely violent year in our country’s politics.”
During the 'Cavalcade des cirques', the elephants of the Bouglione Circus pass the Eiffel Tower. Place du Trocadéro, 16th arrondissement, Paris, France. 1978.
"One day four elephants visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I don't know if they climbed the 674 stairs or took the elevator. When they were at the top, they looked towards India, their native land, and they regretted having left. It was Wednesday, December 20, 1978.”
Guy Le Querrec
The port of Le Havre, Normandy, France. 1991.
“I will not say anything about the circumstances under which this photograph was taken. Nor will I reveal the most unexpected part of it. It was my surprised eye that acted, intuitively, animally, at this moment… In this respect, I always expect the unexpected.”
Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA. 1991.
“A band of kids invited me up to Psycho’s squat above Hollywood Boulevard. We walked up winding roads and past crowded homes tucked into the hillside. The kids in front of me disappeared in-between two houses, they had climbed a makeshift ladder through the brush. I followed. All of a sudden the overgrown landscape opened to a vast derelict estate. At one time this is where Errol Flynn’s mansion stood: formerly notorious for its two-way mirrors and voyeuristic hiding places, it had since burned down (the land is now owned by Justin Timberlake). On top of that hill it was as if they reigned over all of Hollywood.
An alternate version of this photograph was initially included in Raised By Wolves – a book in which I worked closely with and documented runaway teenagers on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles during the 80’s and 90’s.”
Gao, Mali. 1988.
“In 1998, I was working on an assignment in Mali. I was staying in a little hotel in Gao, a small town on the River Niger. It was terribly hot in the hotel. Looking for some air, I went to the room on the top floor. There was an opening in the wall which perfectly framed the landscape outside, while the light coming from another opening was cutting a sharp geometric pattern in the surrounding shadow. The air was perfectly still. And just as I started shooting, a sudden draft blew the curtain hanging on the right to a perfect angle. For me, photography is all about trying to be lucky.”
Pant-y-Wean. Wales, UK. 1961
“This young boy, who Philip found taking a line-out (throw-in) atop this dilapidated piano, epitomizes the ambivalent Welsh love for both rugby and music. Pant-y-Wean, was once, in the 1930s, voted the most beautiful village in South Wales, but it has long since been obliterated by opencast mining. When Philip asked this boy what he was doing with this broken instrument, he replied, ‘My mother gave it to me to mend.’”
Estate of Phillip Jones Griffiths
Shadows on sea and sand. Santa Monica, California, USA. 1979.
“The idea of the ‘unexpected’ could easily be applied to all of Erich Hartmann’s personal photographs. In addition to whatever photographic equipment Erich was carrying for a given assignment he always had, often in his shirt pocket, a loaded auto-focus camera and several rolls of black and white film easily accessible. He was thus always prepared for the ‘unexpected’.
On this occasion, the destination was the Santa Monica Pier, a popular tourist spot that juts out into the Pacific just north of Greater Los Angeles. Along the Pier there were always groups of tourists, shops to browse, and the sea itself, all beckoning to photographers. Erich, however, as always, found the odd, enigmatic aspect. In this photograph only the surf-strewn foam is real. Everything else in the image — pier, railing, people — are but shadows cast by a lowering sun.”
Ruth Bains Hartmann
Solar eclipse. North Carolina, USA. 2017.
From Confederate Moons, TBW Books, 2018.
Tippi Hedren. Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA. 1962.
“In 1962, LOOK magazine gave Philippe Halsman the assignment to shoot their December cover story: ’Tippi Hedren: Hitchcock's new Grace Kelly’. Halsman traveled to the set of Alfred Hitchcock's movie ‘The Birds’ in Northern California. The film was to be a revenge story, in which birds get back at humans for centuries of being hunted. Hitchcock was excited to show Halsman all the effort that went into the use of mechanical birds and the training of live birds for his latest film. The main animal trainer Ray Berwick said of Tippi: ’That nice girl took a lot of abuse. It's a miracle she got through it with her face intact.’ This photograph shows the unexpected bond that developed between Tippi and Buddy the raven, who had been trained to light matches. Apparently Tippi grew so fond of him that she put a sign on her dressing room door that read: ’Buddy and Tippi’. Many of the photos from this shoot also ran as a cover story for LIFE magazine in 1963.”
Estate of Philippe Halsman
“Leaping horse”, on the set of the Misfits. Nevada, USA. 1960.
Some are questions
Some are answers,
I love it when they embody both.”
Tuva, Russia. 2018.
пена каплет с конских губ.
тебя не стало,
вдруг исчез ты на бегу.”
“Horse of the steppe
froth drips down the equine lip.
Guest of the night,
you suddenly vanished mid-gallop.”
Alexander Vvendensky, ‘Guest on a Horse’. English translation by Eugene Ostashevsky. Selected by Nanna Heitmann
Marilyn Monroe during the filming of ‘The Seven Year Itch’. New York City, USA. 1958.
"Perhaps the most unexpected thing about Bob Henriques was that he had ever been a photographer at all. While he was renowned and successful as a photojournalist through the 1950's and 60's — documenting the civil rights movement, the Cuban Revolution, photographing both movie stars and politicians, and becoming associated with Magnum in 1954 — he all but gave up on photography in the mid-‘60s and lived the majority of his life running a candle-making business in Jamaica. One can only imagine how large his archive might have been had he continued to take photographs."
Estate of Bob Henriques
Muhammad Ali, world heavyweight champion showing off his left fist. Chicago, USA. 1966.
“A 2015 search through hundreds of black-and-white negatives and color slides, for a new book on Muhammad Ali, soon turned into an exciting and unexpected journey of discovery. One striking example is this image, which we chose to be the cover of the book, BIG CHAMP.
Decades of use had left many scratches on this strip of negatives, which only added strength to the image. I decided to let them stay. On the contact sheet the picture looked hopelessly under-exposed and dark, but when I scanned the negative, I saw two sides of ‘the Greatest’; Muhammad Ali: the dark and brutal fighter, but also Ali, the wounded and scarred victim of countless punches and vicious attacks from his adversaries.”
A Black Mountain wild pony and young tourists brave the elements at this traditionally windy spot. Black Mountains, Wales, GB. 1974..
“The nature of photography is that normally the photographer sallies forth with some potential content in mind. However, many of the most memorable pictures are an extension of that search when, suddenly, one sees the unexpected. If one has the technical skill to capture this moment, it is often this ‘living’ picture that lasts the test of time.”
Yusuke. Cambodia. 2008.
“I thought I had photographed only the dog and the man, until I processed my negatives.”
Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming. USA. 1989.
“Yellowstone National Park - sited mostly in Wyoming, but also crossing state borders into Montana and Idaho - was the first national park opened in America. It was signed into existence in 1872, and is thought by many to be the first national park founded anywhere in the world.
In summer, the park is extremely busy, but in winter, few tourists visit, due to the region’s severe cold weather. Many buffalo roam the park’s snow-covered fields. It is very serene and beautiful. When I travelled to Yellowstone in the winter of 1989, one could still hire snowmobiles near the park's entrance. Taking my images aboard one of these, I left the engine running, as the buffalos could run very, very fast.
I love this lone buffalo picture the most out of those I made in the park that winter. During this era of worldwide pandemic, my hope is that this picture gives the viewer a moment of relief.”
St. Emilion, France. 1977.
“Why is this big ugly dog suddenly stalking me???”
“What is this little cat doing in the family basket???””
Fishing village. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. 1985.
"I was a full time assistant teacher at a local academy in Belgium when I took this photograph, during one of my trips to India. Due to my teaching I always travelled in the summer holidays, meaning I arrived in India during the summer monsoon. The rain was unavoidable, and usually followed periods of scorching 40° heat. India was where I learned to use a flash in complex situations and to work more intuitively, instead of waiting for the right light and composition.
This image is one of the first from my 1987 book, India, where I had dared to go out in the pouring rain, an umbrella strapped to my chest, and equipped with a medium format camera and one of the five heavy C60 Metz flashes I needed to make the project. By the end of the project the rain had destroyed four of these flashes.
This boy, in a fishing village near Mumbai, was enjoying the cool rain. For some people in India the monsoon is a blessing: for the country as a whole it's a recurring nightmare.”
Carl De Keyzer
Reflections of San Marco. Venice, Italy. 1953.
“I aimed to capture the magic of appearances in pictures, yet I did not always succeed in portraying things so that their underlying meaning revealed itself. It turned out that the pictures I took spontaneously, and with a bliss-like sensation, as if they had long inhabited my unconscious, were often more powerful than those I had painstakingly composed. So I grasped their magic, as it were, in passing…”
Herbert List, translated from Du magazine, 1973.
Scrambles Track, McHenry, Illinois, USA. 1965
The Bikeriders was a book made in two worlds, the world of motorcycle racers and the world of the Outlaws. The track at McHenry was a favorite destination for both. Racers scrambled on the hilly dirt track winding through the woods. The Outlaws lay in the grassy hills above to watch. Leather-clad riders reached the peak of a hill and both wheels left the ground. Watching the racers in the ground glass of my Rolleiflex, I knelt behind a snow fence, my foreground. There was something dark and forbidding about the landscape before me, like a Dürer etching or Brueghel painting. The track at McHenry was the curator Hugh Edwards’s favorite picture in my book. When I republished the picture later with Aperture in a horizontal format book, Edwards said it was the wrong design. It had to be vertical. “You would design an entire book around this one picture?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered.
Daytona Beach, Florida, USA. 1997.
“This picture, of the shadow of a girl riding a bicycle past a wall, next to a dangling phone receiver, was made in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1997. In all my photographs I look for such a ‘magic moment’ - one that only happens once and will never happen again. The image appeared in my book American Color 2.”
Snow Square. Greenwich Park, London, Great Britain. 2009.
“In winter you can place bets that snow will fall within the grounds of Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day. The bookies nearly always win.
Unexpected snow always brings Londoners joy — until it messes up their travel plans.”
Estate of Peter Marlow
Bull. Guerrero, Mexico. 2018.
“The burning of the bull is a ritual in Mexico that is linked to the sacred and the magical. It is a symbolic act that highlights an important moment for a person, family or community, either marking an advance in social status or celebrating an important date. This image shows a child’s third birthday celebration. It’s the ritual that commemorates life.”
Flower Seller. Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. 1996.
“I was staying next to Dal Lake in Kashmir. I would often take a water taxi to the various floating markets throughout the lake. One cold November morning when much of the color had vanished from the valley, I spotted a flower seller moving silently through a channel with his boat full of flowers. It was an unexpected magical moment. I asked him if I could follow him and photograph his routine. I went on to meet him on several more occasions.”
Battle for the old city. Western frontline, Mosul, Iraq. April 2017.
“Someone I trusted told me it was safe, so I followed him. In fact, it was a small dead-end road with no place for turning back. That's when I learned that fear can make a chicken fly far.”
‘Molotov Man’. Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters. Esteli, Nicaragua. 1979.
“It was on July 17, 1979, the day before Somoza fled Nicaragua, that I photographed Sandinista Pablo 'Bareta' Arauz, whose name I didn’t know at that moment. He was throwing a molotov cocktail at one of the last remaining National Guard garrisons.
Back then I was working with two cameras, one loaded with black and white film and the other with color. I missed the shot of Bareta’s decisive gesture in black and white, but captured him in color. The image that became known as the ‘Molotov Man’ was reproduced and painted all over the country, before appearing on matchbooks commemorating the first anniversary of the Sandinista revolution.
25 years later, Bareta's likeness was adopted as the ’official’ symbol of the fight against the Somoza dictatorship. In 2018, the ‘Molotov Man’ was printed on T-shirts worn by university students protesting now against the Sandinista President Daniel Ortega.
An image can have multiple lives, which in this case neither Pablo or I could predict or control.”
Dhana. From the series The Afronauts. 2011.
“What makes an image unexpected? Lately a scarcity of layers in our way of thinking and a general reluctance to adopt nuance as a valid approach to understanding this world is suffocating a range of possibilities, in which we, as humans, could be giving the best of ourselves. A better understanding of context and motivation is more necessary than ever if we want to interrogate who we are and what we do, but also in order to avoid the Manichean hordes that divide public opinion into black and white.
The year 2020 saw world-changing events that reminded us of the value of life and the fragility of the cultural constructions in which we live. If we limit ourselves to what we already know and to what we already expect, everything will stagnate forever. It is clear that the strength for questioning and improving our society does not come from those who believe in the idea of right and wrong, but from those who go beyond and challenge any classification.”
Cristina de Middel
From the project “The First March of Gentlemen.” Września, Poland. 2017.
“In what way does an image have agency, and does it have the ability to shift power structures?"
Ella Fitzgerald. Chicago, Illinois, USA. 1948.
“I like stories, I just love them. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, and as a photographer, if you’re doing a story, you have to have a beginning and you have to have an end. You don’t know what the end is going to be. And you don’t know what’s happening, you have to develop it as you’re there, and looking at the subject and feeling it, and hearing it,
being pushed around and all. You have to find out:, what is the common thread here? What is it that I could say? To me, I find it exciting as can be. The test is just immense. You know you’ve got to pull it off…”
Wayne Miller, An Eye on the World: Reviewing a Lifetime in Photography, 2001, UC Berkeley Bancroft Library.
Chelsea Hotel, 23rd Street. Mr. Gross, one of the managers, tried to run a travel service for a while. New York City, USA. 1968.
“Photography is a strange phenomenon. In spite of the use of that technical instrument, the camera, no two photographers, even if they were at the same place at the same time, come back with the same pictures.”
Inge Morath, in Camera Austria, no.19/20, 1985.
People gather in a stadium during a large rally before the independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq. September 2017.
“For a long time, I wanted to keep control over what my future would be made of. This feeling that I had a sense of direction reassured me. However, during my studies and throughout my career as a photographer, I have come to realize that the most important moments in my life, which had a positive impact on my destiny, were the moments I hadn't anticipated. It’s a feeling certainly shared with many people, quite banal in itself. But I am now aware that I need to leave more room for the unexpected. It is often by chance that the most beautiful things happen: in life and in photography.”
Pyongyang, North Korea. 1997.
“North Korea is maybe the most surreal country on Earth. Being there is like walking around on a film set. People don't want to engage with a foreigner, such as myself, but I loved coming across this baby, who was very happy to stare right back at me!”
Flying Foxes. Mataranka, Australia. 2004. From the project Minutes To Midnight.
“In 2003, Narelle and I quit our Sydney apartment, bought a two person tent, and took off on a road trip around Australia. For two years, we travelled from beach to bush, covering over 90,000 kilometres.
We had no set itinerary: letting life lead by chance and coincidence. Never knowing what was around the next bend.”
Kiev train station, Moscow, Russia. 1995.
“At some point I became more fascinated by the magic of photography than by its content. Or rather, the magic itself became the content. The metaphysics of pattern replaced the physics of content. Everyday narratives are unworthy of eternity’s design. Meaning has lost meaning, and harmony dictates the world order.
As for this photo – I don’t remember what happened there. Who were these people in uniform, why did they come to the station platform? It didn’t really interest me. I was trying to capture the instant, that unexpected decisive moment, and paint my canvas out of spots and lines, leaving the viewer to guess at the events.”
Rumford, Maine, USA. 11.2019
"Even if I know where I'm going I can never predict what I’ll see when I get there, and walking the streets, turning a corner, or making the decision to go left or right can all lead to unexpected encounters. Some, of course, are more memorable than others.
Recently, while making pictures for my project ‘Good Morning, America’ in New England, I made a detour to Rumford, Maine. I knew a paper mill had been operating in the town for over a century and that it was now under Chinese ownership — acquired the previous year by Nine Dragons Paper Holdings — but I couldn’t have imagined how it would dominate the place.
The steam emanating from the plant blended with the thick, low-lying mist which (fortunately for me) hung about all day, as if the mill was on fire."
Practicing Kalari on the beach of Cochin, Kerala, India. 2017
“Kalaripayattu, the oldest surviving martial art in India, known as Kalari for short, originated in Kerala, the southern coast of India. Even some of the Indian classical dance forms are said to have originated from Kalari. It then was adopted in modified forms around South East Asia.
While working on my book on Kerala I was interested in connecting with a few of the schools teaching this martial art. Since it requires one to almost fly in order to attack the opponent, the beach with its sand and water provided a soft and supporting environment for the young and beginners to practice on, without risk of getting hurt. Kalari is also enhanced and enriched by yogic practices, and control over one’s breathing patterns.
But what was most amazing, was that each time one of these guys leaped up into space, they hit the target… as if, in that moment, they had acquired wings of precision and accuracy. These were unexpected and magical moments.
This weightlessness and body control seemed like a miracle of its own kind.”
Man guiding the parade during Easter celebrations for children. Puente Genil, Córdoba, Spain. 2019.
“Do ye complain” says he, “of sudden death?” that have carried death about ye, ever since you were born; that have been entertained with daily spectacles of carcasses and funerals; that have heard so many sermons upon the subject; and read so many good books upon the frailty of life and the certainty of death. Do ye not know that every moment ye live brings ye nearer to your end? Your clothes wear out, your woods and your houses decay, and yet ye look that your bodies should be immortal. What are the common accidents and diseases of life, but so many warnings to provide yourself for a remove? Ye have death at the table, in your daily food and nourishment; for your life is maintained by the death of other creatures. And you have the lively picture of it, every night for your bedfellow.
Fragment of The Sixth Vision of Hell, from The Visions, by Francisco de Quevedo, 1927. Selected by Lua Ribeira.
Encounter in the Prehistoric Valley, Cuba. 1999.
“In the Caribbean breeze, a short stroll among the great, disappeared animals reminds us of the contrast between the fragility and strength of life.”
Cristina Garcia Rodero
Jaipur, India. 1977.
“While in India in 1977 photographing such architecturally perfect wonders as the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, the Fatehpur Sikri and the Jantar Mantar, George unexpectedly drove past this magnificent sight on the outskirts of Jaipur: a training school for tractor drivers. What a contrast to the ordered magnificence of the previous locations he had visited.
George always said that the best way to see a country was to travel by the least reliable form of transport you could find. Thus granting you opportunities — when the unexpected happens — to create the most memorable images.”
Orphan rhea (ñandu). Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 2017.
“I said goodbye to my friend Maria and was on the highway on my way to Buenos Aires, when her son called me excitedly saying they had a surprise for me, and I should turn around and come back.
I was a few hours away by then, but I made a U-turn. On my return they were waiting for me with the table laid for dinner and this little orphan ñandu (a distant relative of the ostrich) standing on it like a magical centerpiece. We fed it small balls of bread soaked in milk, and after dinner, Maria, reading my mind, grabbed a blanket and held it up as a backdrop while I made this photo.”
Camels on display at a camel market in the village of Birqash, on the outskirts of Cairo. Birqash, Egypt. 2011.
“Seeking a break from the daily protests and violence that engulfed Cairo ten years ago, I spent a day visiting the famous camel market in the village of Birqash. However, the rough treatment of these animals by their herders did not offer much respite.”
The boat bound for Ellis Island. New York, USA. 1986.
“All of us look toward the unexpected.”
Audrey Hepburn. Jardins des Tuileries, First Arrondissement, Paris, France. 1956.
“Chim’s photo of famed actress Audrey Hepburn playfully tugging on a bouquet of balloons records her delightful style, which captivated audiences around the world. This photo, taken in Paris’s Jardins des Tuileries, was made in 1956 when she was starring in the film ‘Funny Face’ with the renowned dancer and singer Fred Astaire. Hepburn’s charm is apparent and expected by her devoted fans, who still see her as exemplary and inspirational. The unexpected part of this is that Chim, who was famous for photographing orphaned children after World War II for UNESCO, was called on to take publicity pictures for a big screen production.
Chim’s gentle personality, which enabled him to build trusting connections with traumatized children so they became collaborators in telling their stories, was equally valued by Hollywood celebrities. Chim’s portraits of Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas, Joan Collins, Ingrid Bergman, and others made him the unexpected choice for Hollywood image makers, who saw that Chim could elicit honest, intimate, and fresh portrayals of well-photographed stars. Together with his subjects, Chim would reliably deliver the unexpected.”
Ben Shneiderman, nephew of David “Chim” Seymour
Caravan in the woods. Vosges, France. December. 2016.
“I was walking in the cold, dark woods of Les Vosges, in the east of France. I had the welcome surprise of coming across this caravan. I wondered, ‘What is it doing here, what is it for?’ I still don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. I like this picture for the colors, the atmosphere, and the surprise the discovery gave me.”
Vivian Kurz, Director of Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship/Shechen, The Estate of Marilyn Silverstone
A surprise sunset after a storm. Off the coast of Sanya, Hainan, southern China. 2018.
“It’s a fine balance, to prepare well for things in life but remain open to serendipity and curveballs. As an artist, though, experimentation is life!”
Sim Chi Yin
‘Girl at the Flower Shop’. Lower Manhattan, New York, USA. 1958. © 2021 The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith
“After quitting LIFE magazine in 1954, W. Eugene Smith moved into a shabby loft on 6th Avenue at 28th Street in New York's flower district. The broken window became his focal point. Smith wrote to Ansel Adams: ’Always there is the window ... and I breathe and smile and quicken and languish in appreciation of it, the proscenium arch with me on the third stage looking through it, down and up and bent along the sides and the whole audience in performance down before me, an everchanging pandemonium of delicate details and habitual rhythms.’
LIFE published portions of this work, ‘As From My Window I Sometimes Glance’, under the headline ‘Drama Beneath a City Window’ in 1958, and in its 1978 retrospective book Great Photographic Essays from LIFE.
Befitting the theme of the unexpected, this image was unlike any of the others: Smith was at the window observing a police car parked in front of the flower shop across the street. Suddenly, the motionless scene became dynamic.
The LIFE caption read: ‘Bursting from the florist's in what was probably her Communion dress, the girl seemed a Dresden figurine come alive. Amid [the] city's tired things — ashcan, hydrant, battered flower stands — she became a creature of lovely fantasy.’ Smith reflected: 'For the moment, she took over the scene. Everyone turned to look at her.' The caption added: ‘Then she was gone.’ But surely not forgotten.”
W. Eugene Smith Estate
Banksy. Hollywood Hills, CA. 2017.
An old hunter is dead and most of the settlement is attending the funeral. Tiniteqilaaq, Greenland. 2000.
“Taqqisimat didn't die in his red house but in the hospital in Tasiilaq. His last days were spent on white sheets. On the landing ground the coffin is received by Hans and Taqqisimat's family. The pastor has brought a large, white sledge, and Taqqisimat's family a large, white cross. In the church the coffin is filled with red, yellow, violet, green and blue plastic flowers. Then Taqqisimat is driven through the village. The cross bearer leads the way, followed by the villagers. At the holding room close to the churchyard the funeral procession draws to a halt. Because of the heavy frost it's impossible to bury the dead, so a holding room has been built. The coffin stays here until the ice melts and the earth softens. The holding room is a small red construction with three chambers, all just big enough for a coffin. Two of the chambers are now occupied.
Four men put the coffin into one of the chambers while Taqqisimat's family and friends sing one last song for him. I think of the few times I've seen Taqqisimat sitting in front of his house repairing his old sledge.”
acob Aue Sobol, extracted from his book Sabine, 2004
‘Bhayi alembathwa lembathwa ngabalaziyo’. 2020.
“The series Ezilalini (The Country) grew out of my project ‘I carry Her photo with Me’, a hand-made photobook about my sister Ziyanda. As I investigated her disappearance I traced her footprints back to Tsomo, in the Eastern Cape, which is my ancestral home and is where my sister grew up. Unexpectedly, this journey provided the opportunity to reconnect with my family, identity, and culture: engaging parts of myself and my history that I had not considered before, or perhaps had avoided thinking about. Tsomo has a deep meaning to my family, and to me personally, but I feel it is a place I don’t know very well. There is also a feeling of conflict for us there: to this day my grandmother curses Johannesburg as a place that swallowed her children.
The title of this image is ‘Bhayi alembathwa lembathwa ngabalaziyo’, relating to the idea that only the pot knows how hot the fire is.”
Diving platform. Lake Garda, Brescia, Italy. 2003.
“I was walking to a beach area of Lake Garda looking for something interesting to photograph when this little cameo unfolded and then dissolved. I hung around for a while, and then wandered on.”
Audrey Hepburn. Long Island, New York, USA. 1954.
“This image was made during the filming of ‘Sabrina’, which starred Hepburn, alongside Humphrey Bogart. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards the following year, including one for Hepburm for Best Actress. In spite of her celebrity, Hepburn was unexpectedly down to earth and accessible. Dennis appreciated that quality in her as it was an unusual trait for a star of her caliber. He was a little in love with her (who wasn’t) and said she treated everyone kindly, indifferent to her (or anyone else’s) celebrity. More than anything she valued family, and her work with UNICEF.”
Susan Richards, Dennis Stock Estate
Jaco. Beaufort West Prison, South Africa. From the series Beaufort West. 2006
“For many years I had driven around the traffic circle at the centre of Beaufort West without realising it contained a prison. In 2004 and 2005, I worked on a project exploring the relationship between the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the South African carceral system. In 2006, while pausing in Beaufort West on the long drive between Cape Town and Johannesburg, I realized what was there and chose this ‘prison in an island’ as a starting point for a wide-ranging portrait of this small town’s social dynamics.
On entering the prison for the first time, Jaco was one of the first inmates I met. I saw him asleep in front of the mural he helped create. Others have described the painting in this photograph as a ‘thought bubble’ to his dreams. I am still struck by the way it shifts space, rendering the town’s surrounding landscape on the very walls that separated him from that vista. What I found surprising, although perhaps not unexpected, in retrospect, was the absence of people in this landscape - an idealisation of Beaufort West that omitted the very social dynamics that drew me there. By photographing those surroundings over the span of three years, I hoped to ‘re-people’ that landscape, to tell the stories of those whose lives took them into and around that traffic circle.”
Mennonites in the Cuauhtémoc Colonies. Mexico. 1992.
“I'd spent a week driving from the Canadian border to Chihuahua in Mexico with Jacob and Susanna Wheeler and their seven children. Sometimes I rode with the boys in the pickup: sometimes with the parents and younger kids in the van. This was the first Mennonite migrant family I'd gotten to know. In the colonies around Cuauhtémoc, it was fall harvest. On a wagon full of oats, Cornelius Wall leaned over and kissed his wife Helen. The most conservative Mennonites in the world never publicly kiss, let alone in front of a camera. It didn't seem to bother them, meaning I'd gained their confidence. I would keep in touch with Cornie and Helen for years to come.”
‘Sancti Spiritus’. Cuba. 1993. From the collaborative book, Violet Isle, with Rebecca Norris Webb.
“I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known, awaits just around the corner.”
“I was travelling by train in Cambodia for a magazine story. As I was walking through its very crowded compartments I looked up and saw these two men sitting on the train’s broken roof.
We try hard as photographers to control our frame, to anticipate situations in order to get good pictures, but the magical ones often are offered to us when we least expect them. The unexpected makes good pictures even better.”