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Curiouser and Curiouser

Agata. Neuilly-Plaisance, France. September 4, 2018. © Bieke Depoorter / Magnum Photos. Bieke Depoorter: “This photo is part of my ongoing collaborative series, ‘Agata,’ in which Agata and I explore the complexities of the photographic enterprise, grappling with the relationship between photographer and subject. ‘Agata’ is also the story of a young woman searching for identity by playing with it as if it were a toy. In this photo, Agata assumes the identity of Germaine, a woman who died several years ago in the house in which Agata is now living. As Agata writes: ‘She didn’t have any family. Everything she left behind stayed here intact. It used to be a mausoleum for her seven cats, but Andrea and I transformed it into a temple of living memory. I started to dress up in Germaine’s clothes on a daily basis. I cannot do too much, make it too strong, too dramatic, too theatrical. I mean, I can, but then we would be doing a different thing, it would change the picture and the way we work."
Mardi Gras. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. 1993.© Constantine Manos / Magnum Photos. Constantine Manos: “This picture was made in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, 1993. It was part of a long term project to make color photographs all over the USA, which ultimately appeared in two books, American Color and American Color 2. The mission of the books was not intended to be documentarian, but was meant to capture unique moments that were AMERICAN. For me, as a photographer, these were obsessive projects, which I undertook on my own time at my own expense. I believe that obsession is a powerful force that motivates creative people.”
Man holding a surfboard on beach steps in Corona Del Mar. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos. Dennis Stock: “I just want to alleviate some of the suffering we tend to go through as human beings and leave behind some beauty and humor.”
Neighbors gather to celebrate a quinceañera in the outskirts of Havana, Cuba. 2018. © Diana Markosian/Magnum Photos. Markosian: “A photograph for me is not a single image, it is a relationship that builds over time. I met Pura by chance. When I arrived to photograph her, I noticed crowds of people gathered outside her home, waiting for her to emerge. It was her 15th birthday, her quinceañera, a traditional celebration marking a girl’s transition into womanhood. This celebration had another meaning for Pura. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a child, and was not expected to live to see this day. Yet I didn’t meet a victim. I met a young woman who was determined to live. On the day of her party, I was overwhelmed by the tears of her neighbors, a community of people obsessed with celebrating the victory of her life. This feeling eventually took the form of a friendship, one that led me to create this image and left me feeling so fortunate to have been welcomed as a witness to this moment in her life.”
New York City, USA. 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos. Elliott Erwitt: “I am obsessed with dogs—because they remind me of people but with more hair.”
Forbidden Love: two men kissing in the entrance to a subway stop in Manhattan at the time of the Stonewall riots. New York City, USA. 1969-1970. © Ernest Cole / Magnum Photos. Ernest Cole Estate: “Ernest Cole’s work in South Africa during the early 1960s chronicled the cruelties and contradictions of apartheid–as seen in his book, House of Bondage (1967). Cole’s lesser known work in North America concentrated upon the ‘cultural revolution’ happening in New York in the late 60s and early ‘70s.”
USA. New York City. 1956. Spanish painter Salvador DALI and rhino, from “Chaos & Creation” for CBS show. © Philippe Halsman /Magnum Photos. Philippe Halsman Estate: “Salvador Dali, the subject most frequently photographed by Halsman, had an obsession with mathematics and mysticism, and the interconnection of the two. Always dissecting reality with his ‘paranoiac-critical’ method, he discovered the same sacred geometric spiral was apparent in a rhino’s horn as in Vermeer’s painting, ‘The Lacemaker.’ In 1956, Dali was invited on CBS’ Morning Show to present his findings, and Halsman, who collaborated with Dali over the course of 37 years, was backstage to document the unfolding event. There were many props on hand to illustrate Dali’s theories, including the rhino pictured, 20 cauliflowers nailed to boards in Fibonacci spirals, and enlargements of microscopic photos of nature illustrating the same spiral."
Copenhagen, Denmark. 2010. © Jacob Aue Sobol/Magnum Photos. Jacob Aue Sobol: “To me the camera has always been a tool to find and depict love to a point that it became an obsession. How close can I get to a love that feels true in my images? Is this the love I have been searching for myself these past 20 years? Is this the love of my life? I photographed young couples in love across the planet to remind us that we are all the same, to remind us that what we have in common is greater than what separates us. That young couples in love from Beijing share the same love as young couples from Moscow, Paris or New York. And, even after this obsessive search for love came to an end, I found Martin and Pernille in my own neighbourhood in Copenhagen.”
Bus Stop, D965. Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. 1990. © Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos. Jim Goldberg: “During my honeymoon in Turkey, I opted for public transportation to get around. I remember pulling over, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, at this strange but evocative bus stop. I realize now that I’ve frequented bus stops all over the world–from Hollywood to Athens, Beijing, and Kiev–strangely drawn to the banality of the places where people wait.”
Daleside, South Africa. 2018. © Lindokuhle Sobekwa / Magnum Photos. Lindokuhle Sobekwa: “My obsession with photography has made me penetrate places and spaces I thought I could never have access to. Daleside used to be a predominantly white area where my mother was employed as a domestic worker. On days when I used to go with her to work, I was not allowed to enter the house, and would sit outside and wait for my mother to finish working. The only time I was allowed to go inside was during school holidays, when I would work on the garden in the back. My mother recalls a time when I was just six months old. Her employer still did not want me in the house, so she would wrap me in so many blankets that I wouldn’t catch a cold, and would put me outside on the lawn where she would be able to see me from the house.”
Girl in the Grass. Bristol, England. 2017. © Lua Ribeira / Magnum Photos. Lua Ribeira: “This image is from a body of work entitled ’Subida al Cielo’ (Ascent to Heaven). While working, I constantly find myself on a patch of grass, in a park or a garden, or drawn toward photographing a climbing plant. It is a way of de-contextualizing, and removing information to bring a timeless and more universal quality to the photographs. The archetypal image of the garden as an idyllic place is a recurring motif within my work. I am interested in how symbolic these spaces become when inhabited by a figure, or how enigmatic they can be within a wider sequence of images. I am always trying to find paths, bushes and hidden groves. These help me to keep telling a story.”
Touchet, Washington, USA. February 2019. © Mark Power / Magnum Photos. Mark Power: “From Ed Ruscha to William Eggleston, the history of American photography is littered with images of gas stations. These humble structures remain a defining symbol of American culture; over 100,000 operate across America today, although this is just half the number that existed during the gas-guzzling heyday of the 1950s. I was in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year, working on my long-term project Good Morning, America (my own private obsession) when some of the worst snowstorms for decades descended on Washington state. Snow has a tendency to simplify, homogenise and beautify a landscape, and–be it a trope or a cliché–I couldn’t resist this one.”
A model in the visual arts studio at the Heydar Aliyev Centre. Salyan, Azerbaijan. 2016. © Rafal Milach/Magnum Photos. Rafal Milach: “For over a decade I’ve been obsessed with propaganda, control and manipulation mechanisms, and how they are camouflaged in our daily surroundings: From architecture to small scale objects as well as social structures. I’m fascinated with how innocent and neutral spaces intersect with politically defined backgrounds gaining new contexts. I found this still life in the Heydar Aliyev Center in Salyan, Azerbaijan, in 2016. In 2013, to mark the 10th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev’s death, his son and successor as president, Ilham Aliyev, issued an order that the country’s 70 subdivisions should all build a monumental center named after his father, each intended to uphold the cult of the dead leader. Almost all of them house a museum devoted to the life and work of Aliyev senior, as well as a chess school and the local folk song and dance ensemble."
Stable, horse, pool and house planned by architect Luis Barragán. Cuadra San Cristóbal, Mexico. 1976. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos. Clotilde Burri Blanc, wife of René Burri: “René Burri’s personal tribute to the spirit of Luis Barragán.”
USA. Orinda, CA. 1955. Joan Miller. © Wayne Miller/Magnum Photos. Jeanette Miller, daughter of Wayne Miller: “Wayne was not obsessed with photographing Joan, his wife, but was compelled. His eyes followed her with his camera throughout their 70-year marriage. She once said, ‘Wayne never did think he did a good job of shooting me.’ She was his photographic testing ground and source of inspiration.”

All images courtesy of Magnum Photos. Guess what? Prints are on sale for the above images and many more through June 14th, 2019.


Lead Image: Puebla, Mexico. 2019. © Cristina de Middel / Magnum Photos. Cristina de Middel: “I moved to Mexico in 2014, but in my mind I had been living there way before. At once unreal, surreal and incredibly harsh, like a comedy, drama and romantic movie playing at the same time on a surreal screen. I’ve been obsessed with making the portrait of Mexico for years now; the closer I believe I get, the farther I feel I am. This picture was shot near Puebla. It was the first time I saw the volcano Popocatépetl after dreaming of it so many times. I spent three days trying to make a picture that could explain my feelings while standing so close to such a phenomenal stone beast. Using a portrait of Benito Juárez–a preeminent symbol of Mexican nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention–helped me to convey the unique dynamic there is between nature and culture, both of which are so powerful and especially relevant today in Mexico.”


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