Magnum Photographer Stuart Franklin Shares an Important Message

All images by Stuart Franklin. Used with permission from Mr. Franklin on behalf of Magnum Photos.

“I wish, but I think it’s unlikely,” replies photographer Stuart Franklin to us when asked if he thinks his image will inspire action against Global Warming. “John Piper’s beautiful painting of the destroyed church at St Mary Le Port didn’t stop World War Two.” Mr. Franklin’s stunning photo of a glacier in the Alps is part of the latest Magnum Square Print sale called Works of Imagination. It’s a solid choice for the sale considering its ethereal look. The photo was shot over a decade ago on Fujifilm Astia. Those of us who’ve been around for a while know how magical slide film like Astia was. Anyone purchasing this photo who knows the story behind it will probably be filled with nostalgia. And from there, the imagination will run wild. So we talked with Stuart more about this photo.

A Critique of This Image Shot by Stuart Franklin

Stuart’s image is a thing of beauty. If you’re looking at the image for what it is, it’s easy to think that it’s merely a wave of water. One could also make an argument to say that it’s a macro photo. Part of this is a result of the pleasing composition and colors. This is aided by the directional quality of the light beckoning our eyes to stare into the center. A person’s eyes will then move around the photo trying to make sense of it. And that’s what helps to make photos like this so effective. In today’s world, we’re bombarded by mediocre images that don’t force us to stare at them. Very few images make us contemplate them. Once you learn of the more serious subject matter of the scene, it’s up to you to consider your own actions. Global warming is a huge problem. And if we don’t do something about it, glaciers will continue to recede. All of this aside, it’s a gorgeous photo. It’s nice to be able to find the beauty of a chaotic moment. As enamored as people may be with this image, it’s a reminder of what we’re doing to Earth.

If you’re interested in making a purchase of this print or others, head to the Magnum Square Print sale website.

Phoblographer: Why this photo for the “Works for Imagination” sale?

Stuart Franklin: I suppose because it’s quite an ambiguous image and allows the viewer to imagine.

Phoblographer: For the techies out there, we know that this was shot on 4×5 large format. But what film was used? And what sort of challenges did you face in getting this shot? It looks like it’s a telephoto shot, and I can’t imagine that setting up large format in the freezing cold is simple. I’ve only ever done it in the summer.

Stuart Franklin: The film was almost certainly a transparency film called Fuji Astia 100 ASA. It was a beautiful film until discontinued after 2003 (but still available until about 2007). It’s big advantage, if you had enough colour going on in the shot, was that it had a very long tonal range so was perfect will [sic] extremely contrasty subjects such as this one. You may notice that I have held all the detail in the toughest highlights. Of course I took Polaroids before making this shot and possibly have copies of these.

Phoblographer: Considering that the glacier is literally melting in front of you, did you feel like you were at all in danger when shooting this image? I look at photos like this and I can’t help but imagine scenes where an avalanche could happen or something.

Stuart Franklin: No, I was working with an experienced mountaineer and an assistant.

Phoblographer: Obviously, you shot the photo, so you know what it is. But when talking to people about the image, what thoughts from others have really stuck out at you?

Stuart Franklin: That’s for others to imagine.

Phoblographer: You shot this over a decade ago. Have you ever gone back to revisit that spot? How has it changed?

Stuart Franklin: No, but I have read that the Gurgler glacier has continued to retreat.

Phoblographer: What do you hope people “imagine” from this image?

Stuart Franklin: That we might think more about our impact upon the planet, upon each other, and upon the rest of nature.

Other images in this story are by Tanja Pfoehler. If you’re interested in making a purchase of this print or others, head on our to the Magnum Square Print sale website.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.