Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson talks about his journey in photography and what motivates him to create photos that transcend journalism and present emotional truths.
The goal of every photographer, regardless of their chosen genre, is to let viewers see the world through their perspective at a given place and point in time. However, what goes on in the making of each photo and what makes a certain shot more powerful than the others aren’t always easy to see for viewers. In a VICE Picture Perfect episode, Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson shares some compelling and inspiring details about his career — his photography journey, the projects closest to his heart, and why it’s important to him to make sure his work is filled with emotional truths.
“Why would I make photographs that I assumed no one would see?” Anderson asked in recollection of that time he was taking pictures on a sinking boat that left Haiti and sailed towards the US. His answer to this important question would eventually become his guide for his work.
“The actual act of making pictures, photography in and of itself, it had much to do for me about explaining the world to myself as it did explaining it to someone else… I wanted to find a way for someone to feel what it was that I experienced — an emotional quality that cut through all the ideas of facts and journalism, but went straight to something else, which is an emotional truth.”
Another important detail that many of us may find inspiring is how Anderson shared his path to becoming a professional photographer — even without formal training, degree in Journalism or Photography, and initially not even knowing how to operate a camera. He became a professional by learning on the job, which is something that doesn’t come easy for most of us now, given the emphasis and preference for degrees and formal training. However, we can also take it as a challenge to look for our own opportunities to learn and do outstanding photography. The video has many gems, but allow us to pluck out one more for all of us to ponder on. For Anderson, New York City is terribly photogenic, which makes it a big photographic cliche, and even a genre on its own. The major challenge for every photographer in the city, therefore is to create photographs that go beyond what has already been photographed. His response to this is perfect not only for New York City, but also for any place that has had so many lenses pointed at it.
“As I’m working, I’m thinking of these images that I make on the street today, what that picture will mean 10 years from now. I think sometimes pictures age well in the sense that today, it’s a picture that doesn’t look like much, or it doesn’t mean much. But can you imagine this thing 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now? That’s how photography, to me, is interesting.”
Screenshot image from the video by VICE