My favorite photo by Martine. FRANCE. Provence. Town of Le Brusc. Pool designed by Alain CAPEILLERES. Photo by Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

“Taking a portrait of someone – be it man or woman – starts with a conversation.” – Martine Franck

Why I love Martine

Martine FRANCK, looking intense and pensive.

Martine Franck, one of the great female masters of photography is (in my opinion) generally under-appreciated or unknown.

I think she is better than Cartier-Bresson

She was the wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and I think she was the better photographer. She has more soul, emotions, and more sublime compositions. She interacted with her subjects, instead of being a passive observer.

Feminism

French photographers Martine FRANCK and Henri CARTIER-BRESSON. 1971.

Cartier Bresson was 30 years her senior. Obviously, there were issues of him overshadowing her. Cartier-Bresson was also more famous.

I respect Martine for making a name for herself, not just relying on HCB. For example, before Magnum she was in the agency Vu and even started her own agency.

A story: she once hosted a solo exhibition of her own work, but when she saw the advertising material showing Cartier-Bresson’s name and face, she cancelled the exhibit.

Well played, Martine.

How to shoot like Martine

Practical advice from her:

  1. Focus on capturing hands and eyes
  2. Natural light
  3. Wait until your subject forgets your presence
  4. Photograph strong women and curious children

How she shoots:

“It is important for me to try and catch the person when they are listening or when they are in a pensive mood or have forgotten my presence. I rarely ask a person to pose for me as I prefer that they reveal themselves as they wish. For me, the eyes and the hands are most important and when possible I like to use natural light. All through my life as a photographer I have made a point of photographing women whom I admire, who have done something special with their lives, who have protested against their fate, also those close to me like my daughter and grand-daughter and intimate friends all of whom appear in this collection.” – Martine Franck

2. HARNESS the unexpected

“A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie, but nor is it the truth. It’s more of a fleeting, subjective impression. What I most like about photography is the moment that you can’t anticipate: you have to be constantly watching for it, ready to welcome the unexpected.”

The reason I enjoy photos, the IMPROVISATION, the randomness, and the unexpected.

How do we anticipate “the decisive moment” before it happens? My idea; open awareness.

For example,

  1. Headphones off. Listen to the environment. Eavesdrop on conversations, listen to the sound of construction and random street chatter.
  2. Don’t always look at your phone. Let your eyes wander. Don’t text and walk.
  3. Look: Be visually curious. It is not rude to stare. Stare more at things that interest you, and ask yourself ‘why does this interest me?’ I’ve been tracing photos I like to better understand them.

3. Photo Cubism x Sculpture

Martine wrote an art thesis on cubism and sculpture. I think this is where her eye for design, geometry, and composition come from.

Keep that in mind when analyzing her work.

4. Show your empathy for what’s happening in the world

“I feel concerned by what happens in the world…. I don’t want to merely document; I want to know why a certain thing disturbs or attracts me and how a situation can affect the person involved.”

Don’t just document what’s happening on earth, but make your own social, political, or economic statements. Don’t be a passive observer. But an ACTIVE and OPINIONATED photographer.

5. Broaden your mind

“My advice to photographers is to get out there in the field and take photographs but also if they are students to finish their course, learn as many languages as possible, go to movies, read books visit museums, broaden your mind.”

Learn foreign languages, watch great films (I recommmend Alfred Hitchcock), read literature that inspires you, look at exhibitions, go to the museum, and BROADEN your mind. Don’t just be stuck being inspired by photographers. Find inspiration EVERYWHERE. No limits.

6. Photography is harder than painting.

“I think everything can be painted because painting can change reality; but everything cannot be photographed and the photographer often comes home empty-handed, with images which (often) have a documentary interest, but which rarely go further than that. One has to be completely available, very tenacious and admit that many subjects won’t give any results… and a miracle sometimes happens, without warning. – Martine Franck

We can paint everything, but we cannot photograph everything.

This makes the challenge of photography very hard. For example, how do you photograph abstract notions of memento mori, life, death, courage, and love?

Of course it is not easy to paint nor photograph (good) photos.

Takeaway point: Don’t lose faith in yourself. Keep working hard, and hustling.

Here are my favorite photos of her. Credit to Magnum Photos.

UNITED KINGDOM. England. 1977.
Suburbs in Newcastle on Tyne, North of England.
FRANCE. Clamart. Library for children. Built by the “Atelier de Montrouge”: Jean Renaudie, Pierre Riboulet, Gerard Thurnauer and Jean-Louis Veret. Ile de France. Haut de Seine. 1965.
Dublin.
In the background one of the Guinness factory.
USA. Long Island. Amagansett. Family of fishermen. Eames’ house.
INDIA. State of Orissa. Town of Puri. 1980.
FRANCE. Paris. 3rd arrondissement. Wedding in the synagogue of Notre Dame de Nazareth street. 1977.
FRANCE. Alpes de Haute-Provence. Montjustin. Melon plantation.
GB. ENGLAND. Town of Newcastle on Tyne. 1978.
MOROCCO. Agadir. Club Med.
FRANCE. Ile-de-France region. Hauts-de-Seine department. La Defense. 1989. La Grande Arche. Property credit for La Grande Arche (c) Johan Otto von Spreckelson.
FRANCE. Haute Provence, Col de l’Homme Mort. 1994.
JAPAN. Kyoto. 2006. Daitokuji Temple.
SOVIET UNION. Russia. Near Suzdal. Kidekcha. Fishermen.
NEPAL. Bodnath. Shechen Monastery. Tulku KHENTRUL LODRO RABSEL (12 years old) with his tutor LHAGYEL. At the age of 5, KHENTRUL decided that he had lived enough with his parents and that it was time for him to enter the monastery. Two or three years after their death, important lamas are reincarnated in the body of a child. The search for this child is based on the information left by the lama himself: dreams, visions and the intuition of other lamas. The Tulkus are discovered at 3 or 4 years of age, declared at about 4 or 5 and then enter the monastery at the age of 6. According to the rules of the monastery, each Tulku is instructed by a tutor and is either prevented or restricted from seeing other young monks from their age group. All the Tulkus are called Rinpoche which means “the precious one”. 1996.
The Yangsi making fun of the television crew during the enthronement ceremony.
TENZIN OSEL RINPOCHE is an 11 year old Spanish boy. He is currently studying at Seraje monastery and lives with his father and brother. For the moment he studies with private tutors, but in a few years he will start debating with the other monks. Practising his tibetan writing.
Two or three years after their death, important lamas are reincarnated in the body of a child. The search for this child is based on the information left by the lama himself: dreams, visions and the intuition of other lamas. The Tulkus are discovered at 3 or 4 years of age, declared at about 4 or 5 and then enter the monastery at the age of 6.
According to the rules of the monastery, each Tulku is instructed by a tutor and is either prevented or restricted from seeing other young monks from its age group. All the Tulkus are called Rinpoche which means “the precious one”.
Bodnath. Shechen Monastery.
Tulku DORJE GYALTSEN (5 years old) with a monk, Ugyen CHOPEL.
Two or three years after their death, important lamas are reincarnated in the body of a child. The search for this child is based on the information left by the lama himself: dreams, visions and the intuition of other lamas. The Tulkus are discovered at 3 or 4 years of age, declared at about 4 or 5 and then enter the monastery at the age of 6.
According to the rules of the monastery, each Tulku is instructed by a tutor and is either prevented or restricted from seeing other young monks from its age group. All the Tulkus are called Rinpoche which means “the precious one”.
Karnataka. Drepung. Rato Dratsang Monastery.
Tenzin TOSAM Rinpoche with his tutor Gen PAGDO.
Two or three years after their death, important lamas are reincarnated in the body of a child. The search for this child is based on the information left by the lama himself: dreams, visions and the intuition of other lamas. The Tulkus are discovered at 3 or 4 years of age, declared at about 4 or 5 and then enter the monastery at the age of 6.
According to the rules of the monastery, each Tulku is instructed by a tutor and is either prevented or restricted from seeing other young monks from their age group. All the Tulkus are called Rinpoche which means “the precious one”.
IRELAND. Donegal. Tory Island. 1995.
TORY ISLAND: Donegal
Alyssa Meenan, on the day of her fifth birthday.
TORY ISLAND: Donegal
Father O’NEILL the Island’s priest, ringing the bells for mass. West Town.
IRELAND. Donegal. Tory Island. 1995. Cormorants along the North coast.
FRANCE. Paris. French photographer Henri CARTIER-BRESSON. 1992.
FRANCE. Paris. 1978. French stylist Yves SAINT-LAURENT at home, in front of his portrait by Andy WARHOL.
FRANCE. Paris. Hotel Plaza Athénée. Lili BRICK (USSR), sister of Elsa TRIOLET, companion of the Soviet poet and author Vladimir MAIAKOVSKI. 1976.
FRANCE. Val de Marne. Ivry-sur-Seine. Hospice.
FRANCE. Ile de France region. Yvelines. Orgeval.
US photographer Paul STRAND in the garden of his house.
RUSSIA. Moscow. March 2000.
Russian actress Maria GOLUBKINA, step-daughter of the renowned Russian actor Andrei MIRONOV.
Starring in Pavel LOUNGUINE’s film “The Wedding”.
French designer Jacqueline De Ribes
FRANCE. Ile de France region. Paris.
Italian painter Leonor FINI at home.
Barthelemy TOGUO, Cameroonian painter.
State of Mississippi. Charles EVERS, mayor of the town of Fayette.
Ariane MNOUCHKINE during the rehearsal of “Le songe d’une nuit d’été”. Création au Cirque Médrano. Théâtre du Soleil.
Yaacov AGAM, Israeli artist.
GB. England. 1978.
Ile de France region. Near Paris.
SUISSE. Canton de Berne. Paysage à Lauenen.

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  1. Why Study the Masters of Photography? 
  2. Great Female Master Photographers
  3. Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
  4. 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
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The Masters of Photography

Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

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