Magnum Photos Now: Empathy & Photography

Non classé

Lecture at the Barbican | 08 December 2016
with Olivia Arthur, Jess Crombie and Colin Pantall

‘What compels photographers to record historic events?
Why do they choose to engage in dangerous, difficult work?
How do they stay emotionally involved, and what is their legacy today? ‘


What is empathy?
How do we visualize empathy?
How do we engage with empathy?
How do we create and provoke others’ empathy?


To tell a story, we need some characters to play the roles, portraits and figures. Photography is a kind of self-portrait, whatever we try to escape from that. Our photographs will always transcend a part of the self, under the disguise of these personas.

Look at the cracks in your life and your family to create Empathy. Perfection is boring. Imperfections are good, they are natural, they are human.


Photographer Patrick Willocq, working on assignment with Save the Children and Pearson, has created a photo series starring Burundian and Syrian refugee children. For more information (here)


We can choose to tell the stories of Others. Therefore it is about building a relationship with someone, create connections, and access into the intimacy of the subject. It is a journey based on human values, trust and sharing. It engages a conversation and an exchange : we meet people and we make friends, we talk to them and we meet their stories. It is a collaborative work, to create the picture together, along the discovery of the otherness from each side.

Photography is intrusive and voyeuristic. Don’t forget to ask yourself about the reasons and the consequences of  why do you want to take something away from someone (or something) and share it with someone else. By showing the Other’s story, we often forget to wonder how do the subjects feel the experience to be portrayed? We should consider the Other’s feeling properly…and deeply, ‘looking over the fence to hear what others think’ (Jess Crombie)

A book to read : Primo Levi, If this is a man, the Truce
A film to watch: Clouds over Sidra
An experience to try : Sit opposite to a stranger and look in the eyes of each other during 4min without speaking or looking at something else.


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