“Taking a portrait of someone – be it man or woman – starts with a conversation.” – Martine Franck
Why I love Martine
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.
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:
- Focus on capturing hands and eyes
- Natural light
- Wait until your subject forgets your presence
- 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.”
How do we anticipate “the decisive moment” before it happens? My idea; open awareness.
- Headphones off. Listen to the environment. Eavesdrop on conversations, listen to the sound of construction and random street chatter.
- Don’t always look at your phone. Let your eyes wander. Don’t text and walk.
- 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.
“He without a past has no future.”
- Why Study the Masters of Photography?
- Great Female Master Photographers
- Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
The Masters of Photography
Classics never die:
- Alfred Stieglitz
- Alec Soth
- Alex Webb
- Anders Petersen
- Andre Kertesz
- Ansel Adams
- Blake Andrews
- Bruce Davidson
- Bruce Gilden
- Constantine Manos
- Daido Moriyama
- Dan Winters
- David Alan Harvey
- David Hurn
- Diane Arbus
- Dorothea Lange
- Elliott Erwitt
- Eugene Atget
- Eugene Smith
- Fan Ho
- Garry Winogrand
- Gordon Parks
- Helen Levitt
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Irving Penn
- Jacob Aue Sobol
- Jeff Mermelstein
- Joel Meyerowitz
- Joel Sternfeld
- Josef Koudelka / Part 2
- Josh White
- Lee Friedlander
- Magnum Contact Sheets
- Magnum Photographers
- Mark Cohen
- Martin Parr
- Mary Ellen Mark
- Rene Burri
- Richard Avedon
- Richard Kalvar
- Robert Capa
- Robert Frank
- Saul Leiter
- Sergio Larrain
- Sebastião Salgado
- Shomei Tomatsu
- Stephen Shore
- The History of Street Photography
- Todd Hido
- Tony Ray-Jones
- Trent Parke
- Vivian Maier
- Walker Evans
- William Eggleston
- William Klein
- Zoe Strauss