Magnum Street Wise

Magnum Street Wise – ERIC KIM

How have Magnum photographers influenced your own street work?

If it weren’t for Magnum photographers, I would have no direction in my street photography. I consider all the Magnum photographers as my heroic guides, enlightened teachers, as well as “skin in the game” practitioners (not mere theorists).

Magnum photographers have also influenced me in teaching me:

Street photography can be both beautiful (poetically) as well as relevant (sociologically).

What is the Magnum legacy in street photography.

The legacy of Magnum photographers (especially our fathers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa) exist in the bones and sinews of the entire culture of street photography. The Magnum legacy is that we street photographers must be exacting, courageous, and must take risks to make powerful photographs and images.

The Magnum legacy is also humanistic. It reminds us that no matter how beautiful our street photographs are, if there is no social impact, the photos die in vain.

Do young photographers still look to Magnum for new developments in the genre? Can you think of any examples?

Of course. Magnum has always had a spirit of innovation– ever since Magnum admitted Martin Parr. I still remember what Henri Cartier-Bresson said to Martin Parr (when looking at the high-color saturated and flash photos of Martin Parr): “You and I are from different planets.” Note that Henri Cartier-Bresson was very anti-color and anti-flash photography; yet, Martin Parr paved a new generation of photographers.

I am especially impressed with Magnum photographers who have taken on innovative new forms of integrating technology, social media, and storytelling into their work– namely David Alan Harvey. Here is a photographer who is an old-school “OG” — yet embraces young photographers more than anyone else in the genre.

Lastly, a big shout-out to Josef Koudelka, the photographer whom I admire most. He has never stayed still, and is still prolific in his photography well into his 80’s. Koudelka has also taken on new technologies– shooting digital medium format for his monochromatic panoramic work.

Any favourite Magnum SP books which you can talk about in a few sentences?

Magnum Contact Sheets and Magnum Stories.

Magnum Contact Sheets: Learning that Magnum photographers weren’t demi-gods; that they had to shoot a lot of photos to get a few good ones. The book gave me hope and optimism that if I put enough hard work, hustle, and effort– I could also become a great photographer. I still love Henri Cartier-Bresson’s quote, “Sometimes you must milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.”

Magnum Stories: Learning about the personalities of photographers– deep and under the surface. Learning that Bruce Gilden (one of my idols) considers himself a shy person– and he used his aggressive style of street photography to overcome his shyness.

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