“Being honest with yourself, as photographer and as a person, is the most important thing.”
This is how Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson rounded off the NJP seminar on Wednesday, September 20. Anderson and Linda Bournane Engelberth both presented their personal projects and talked about how they have developed their own voices and personal photographic expressions.
“It seems that to find my own voice, I have to take pictures of things I really like and work in a way that really makes sense for me: Getting as close as possible to people”, observed Linda Bournane Engelberth at the NJP seminar.
She has tried different picture formats and done in-depth work with films and books alike.
“What I did – and still do – is to challenge my own limits. How close can I go? How close can I get to people?”
For Linda, it is all about how the person viewing the pictures is supposed to see what is important through the eyes of the photographer.
“I think cinematically. I think on different scenes and I also use my notes actively to develop my projects. I also think that my own mental state at any given time helps shape my visual imagery”, she told an audience that filled Fritt Ord’s meeting room.
Engelberth showed several of her ongoing projects. Persona is a story that will feature several chapters. Right now, she is working on the first one.
“It’s about my mother, who died of MS. It’s a conceptual project; I stage pictures of myself as my mother. I also use old pictures of her and letters she wrote. I give my mother a different life, a life in which she gets married and has children”, commented Engelberth.
Around the world
Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson took those in attendance on a journey through a long, very rich life in photography. He started out taking pictures as a hobby, but that hobby eventually turned into a job.
“After September 11 2001, I became rather captivated by world events. I travelled the world on assignment for newspapers and magazines, working as a photojournalist. I hadn’t given much thought to what kind of photographer I wanted to be, but I was constantly on a quest to use my images to tell a story that was larger and universal”, explained Anderson.
“About my experience”
In 2004, he was given an assignment that took him to Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez ruled the country. The people were divided between those who loved the president and those who hated him.
“I realised that the pictures I took were becoming increasingly personal. They were more about my experience of being in Venezuela than about documenting and explaining in a manner typical of photojournalism. This ultimately turned into the book Capitalo, marking the beginning of the end of my career as a classic photojournalist”, continued Anderson.
When his first son came into world, and Anderson responded by using his camera.
“I documented my son the way any father would have done, instinctively and intuitively. It took quite some time before I realised that these pictures would become an important part of me as a photographer.
“Eventually, I understood that everything I had done before my son was born was done in preparation. The images of my child were my most important pictures”, said the Magnum photographer. The photographs ended up in a book entitled SON, a personal chronicle about his new-born son as well as a story about his father and the photographer himself.
He also developed his visual voice during that period. He made no effort to take ‘good’ pictures; he simply saw things and photographed them. He no longer tried to be a typical ‘clever’ photographer.
“The photograph should reflect me. You needn’t try to capture emotions in your photos; you just need to feel them. Trying to capture something in a picture is the opposite of what makes a good photograph for me. I believe in honesty. It is essential to be honest with yourself as a photographer and as a person”, he concluded.