Exploring the push and pull of breaking free, this curated selection of Magnum’s July Square Print Sale comes at a time when many have been confined at home or unable to travel for long periods due to the ongoing pandemic. It brings together imagery representing the things we take solace in, and the ways we make our getaway.
For many Magnum photographers, a project offered a chance to break free from the day-to-day: to drop everything in order to go in pursuit of a story. This theme, Way for Escape, shares stories of traveling in search of an external subject, or finding answers which lie within.
The stories behind the making of images can present unexpected elements. Blind shares a selection of these photographs alongside the photographers’ words.
Khalik Allah: Harlem, New York City, USA, 2017
“The only way of escaping a problem is by facing it. Averting our gaze is often how problems are deepened. The more you look at fear, the less you see it. Shooting at nighttime in the streets, without a flash, my photography is predicated on available light, proximity and time; but I’m trying to escape those limits by focusing on what’s eternal in a person. By documenting the light in the eyes of what people in the streets see, the result is emotion written on emulsion. The way the system is built — some of my subjects are locked-up on the outside. They’re not contained by barbed wire and prison gates, but a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape.”
Christopher Anderson: Onboard an airplane, 2017
“I made this photograph on a flight over the Mediterranean Sea. It was summer. Everyone had the ‘holiday’ tan. I guess we were all escaping something. Many of my pictures are of moments ‘found’ while going about my daily life. This image found me. Buckled in my seat, I didn’t have much choice of subject matter or angle or composition: it was just there. I photographed it in an attempt to ensure the instant would not escape.”
Peter Van Agtmael: Sicily, Italy, 2015
“I can escape to the beach, but no matter how hard I try, I have trouble escaping from my camera.”
Jonas Bendiksen: Veles, North Macedonia, 2020
“The murmurations swirled and tossed up in the sky, seemingly free of gravity and friction. I didn’t let myself enjoy the sight. Instead, I was tightly gripping a 400mm lens, barely breathing, frenetically trying to keep my framing on the building tight, finger on the button, ready to capture and freeze, eager for the poor birds to fall into my trap.”
René Burri: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA, 1997
“In 1903, the Wright brothers made their historic flights on the beach at Kitty Hawk. On December 17, Orville piloted the first-ever powered flight, which traveled 37 meters and lasted 12 seconds. Later the same day, his brother Wilbur flew a distance of 260 meters, lasting 59 seconds.
René Burri wrote in 1981, ‘…Maybe I’m still looking for what is beyond the horizon. It could be around us or right behind me…’”
– Estate of René Burri
Robert Capa: Biarritz, France, August, 1951
“The most professional American tourists call themselves foreign correspondents. For years I have been talking with and taking pictures of kings, peasants and commissars, and I have ended up believing that curiosity, plus freedom to travel and low fares, is the closest thing to democracy in our time—so maybe democracy is tourism.”
– Robert Capa, in Holiday magazine. Quoted in Richard Whelan, Robert Capa, 1985.
Bieke Depoorter: Sète, France, 2014
“I have always preferred photographing at night. Maybe we all experience night-time as the moments when it’s easier to hide. Yet, at the same time, I feel that night is when our masks begin to fall. The night can be more honest than the day. Sometimes it seems like the less light there is, the more we see.”
Bruce Gilden: Coney Island, New York, USA, 1986
“It was a busy Sunday afternoon in Coney Island in the summer, and I had been walking in front of Nathan’s, the famous hot dog vendor and Coney Island landmark. When I saw the little girl in a baby carriage with a carton of beer underneath, I waited there for something to happen, to complement her in the image. Then, this family of 4 showed up. They instantly filled the scene with energy, so I snapped the shutter, and here it is.”
David Hurn: Ringo Starr, England, Great Britain, 1964
“I was asked by director Dick Lester to be a ‘Special’ photographer on the Beatles film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. I accepted on the condition that I would not have to set up pictures and could concentrate on the relationship between the fans and their idols. The experience was an eye-opener. I had no idea of the fear within oneself that can be evoked by a swarm of excited followers. I was always frightened — what it must have been like for the four! So much time was spent trying to hide, and trying to escape. The pressure was relentless.”
Gueorgui Pinkhassov: Paris, France, 1997
“The most important thing is to go out into the street – to see what’s there. This is the greatest commandment of our collective’s founder, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Your prejudice and obsessions are holding you prisoner. As a first step, you must break free from your own self. Freedom is an illusion. All you need to do is open your eyes and step forward. Every disadvantage has its advantage – make use of it, and your basket will be filled with fruit.”
The Magnum Square Print Sale takes place on the Magnum Photos Shop: www.magnumphotos.com/shop. It’s open until Sunday, July 18, 2021, 11:59 PM PST.