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Photography is the 21st century alphabet. We take notes with it, record, converse, investigate, compose, expose and memorise. We share essays, stories, and moments intimately and globally. Pictures are our global common language”

Claudine Boeglin, co-founder of Magnum in Motion
Visual Playlist
Magnum in Motion Condensed

This precept gave birth to Magnum in Motion at the heart of Magnum Photos, New York in 2004. Curl up, tune the volume and experience what digital storytelling was about until 2008, before social media accelerated the pulse of events and video editing itself.

Video #1
Personalities by Eve Arnold (2007)

Eve Arnold, born in 1912 in Philadelphia, was one of nine children. Her parents were Russian Jews fleeing persecutions. In Personalities, she touches upon the imperceptible bond linking women who had to make it in the Hollywood stardom era. She speaks of the dislike for photography and women of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. When asked which point of view she is using to cover black activist Malcolm X, Eve answers with pragmatism: ‘I think we were both using each other’.

Video #2
Pop Sixties by Magnum Photographers (2007)

In the rear-view mirror of Magnum archives, one of the most tumultuous decades in American history, rolls out. Pop Sixties is a multimedia composition mixing still and motion images with extracts of speeches and social commentaries. The timeline could be seen as a case study for the 90s. From the X-Files to Matrix, the closing decade of the 20s century prefigures the mirage of data neutrality or how giant servers.

Video #3
9/11 by Magnum Photographers (2007)

Magnum photographers voice their personal experiences of the harrowing attacks in New York, September 11, 2001. American photographers had to cover an attack taking place on their own ground. This principle of mixed voices on common themes could lead to future productions cross-referencing several authors on environment and climate crisis, inequality and radical wealth, land and identity, teen spirit.

Video #4
Climate Change by Magnum Photos (2008)

A co-production Magnum in Motion / Zago Design for the United Nations, this essay attests in retrospect of the emergency needed to act upon climate change. The once silent war is now roaring thanks to devoted activists, experts, authors and journalists. And each time a global sense of defeat and a persistent political denial reign, comes an Al Gore or today a Greta Thunberg to spark its sense of urgency.

Video #5
Access to Life – Haiti by Jonas Bendiksen (2008)

Access to Life commissioned by The Global Fund was a campaign to support the long-term funding of antiretrovirals in the fight against AIDS. Eight Magnum photographers met patients in eight countries to document their everyday life before and after undergoing treatment. The campaign was transmedia, launching simultaneously as an exhibition in Washington and a book; eight documentaries were released online and featured in numerous conferences. The 7-to-12 minutes films were a ground for new experiments in storytelling. For example, in Haiti, Jonas Bendiksen invited carers to build a day-to-day record of the patients on Polaroid films.

Video #6
Access to Life – India by Jim Goldberg (2008)

For Access to Life in India, Jim Goldberg’s documentary shows how Magnum in Motion aimed to be bespoke. In transposing the author’s vision online, the essay adds video segments and a soundscape to the serpentine print that stretched up in the gallery space.

Video #7
The Downward Spiral by Paolo Pellegrin (2008)

September 2008. This jewel of expressionism by Paolo Pellegrin goes under the belly of Wall Street in shock following the fall of Lehman Brothers. The photography is paired with an audio piece by controversial billionaire George Soros, initially recorded by PBS for The Journal. Soros evokes the frivolous nature of financial markets. Using the allegory of ‘angels can dance’, he talks about how free markets build upon myths and moods, and ultimately break followed by loss of confidence, bailouts and regulations.

Video #8
Un Jour. La Nuit by Patrick Zachman (2008)

The meditative journey into the nights stretching across cities worldwide is composed along an imaginary soundscape. A raucous whisper, a heartbeat, the metronomic beat of heels on pavements, music beat bursting out of a club and suddenly the kaleidoscope of nocturnal moments forms just the one night we traverse.

Video #9
Ghost Town by Thomas Dworzak (2006)

A sea of people is left for days on bare sites covered in garbage, waiting for support. Dead bodies are lying on the streets. No one picks them up. ‘Bush Liar’ says a picture. Thomas Dworzak was one of the first photographers to arrive in New Orleans in the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina, August 2005. His words were recorded right when he returned to New York. He shares on the scale of the disaster and the unforgivable delay in governmental response. The day prior recording he had entered mid-waist in putrid water to document a dead body, bloated, floating head down. Later that week, Homeland Security in New Orleans announced a ‘zero access’ policy to prevent members of the media from reporting on the recovery of dead bodies. CNN threatened to suit. The ban was lifted.

Video #10
Niagara by Alec Soth (2008)

“I think these pictures are more related to a love song on the radio that they are a documentary study on love. They evoke a feeling and I wanted to paint a passionate feeling.” Niagara by Alec Soth was first a book and an exhibition until the essay went online. The response was immediate. Alec’s voice overlaying the images with melancholic fragments of thoughts, is pure beat poetry only he can do as such. In the vein of Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac, Alec road tripped along America’s wilderness playing games with his own mind. Niagara is in fact a highly atmospheric and introspective love song with a tone of voice so personal, it escapes all forms of traditional documentary forms.

Video #11
Capitolio by Christopher Anderson (2008)

“I sometimes imagine Caracas as a breathing animal. Obscured by the darkness, it appears both violent and sensual, but perhaps its true nature will only be revealed at the moment it devours me,” reads the introduction to Capitolio. The word Capitolio refers to the domed – and doomed – building that houses the government but it ultimately encloses the whole of Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. Capitolio by Christopher Anderson is a visual and political metaphor, precursor of the farce several current governments have at play in other countries. The film composed of stills browses over the skin of the city; the rundown architecture, the ghostlike shadow of the devil, a man looking in the rear-mirror with frightened eyes. Capitolio is a film noir with no happy end. How did Anderson capture the profound sense that this was somehow engrained way beyond President Chavez’s role on the chessboard?

Video #12
Libera Me by Alex Majoli (2006)

Requiem to Samba, Libera Me and recently Scene build an ink-black philosophical composite and reflection on the human condition. And particularly on the theatrical self. Alex Majoli captures humanity’s epic and dramaturgy. Could one act in free will under the projectors and thereby write the script of one’s own play? And what defines the role of the director in a nomadic theatre set in the real? With Scene, Alex finds out the lights that delimitate the frame are what turns people on or off stage. Not the photographer recording the act. In that, Majoli’s body of work is prescient of what social media have revealed. When people are invited to create a digital profile, they are inclined to build an imagined self.

In Libera Me, Alex Majoli and Adrian Kelterborn built a composition that pre-figures the future of photographic stages. Between realities and fictions, on stages along audience interplays, there is no longer one truth nor one reality but multiple perceptions and believes or what Gilles Peress coined: radical interpretations. In Scene, Majoli makes a definitive point. No borders nor geographies delimitate human imagination but the frame of a stage.

© Dandy Vagabonds 2019