Magnum Portrait


A one minute movie by Chien-Chi Chang

838 Responses to “Magnum Portrait”

  • Paul
    awesome, awesome, awesome quote collection! bring it on!

  • Eva, me too.

  • Great quotes…better than coffee…I don’t drink the stuff anymore…that’s why ;-)

  • OK here are some more!! Just pulled out my old quote book :)

    Another Koudelka quote, straight out of “On Being A Photographer” by Bill Jay and David Hurn. Last one for Koudelka for a couple of days :)

    “It reminds me of a remark by Joseph Koudelka who was shooting images around my cabin. I couldn’t understand what he was seeing, as the images seemed to have no connection with his known work. He said: ‘I have to shoot three cassettes of film a day, even when not ‘photographing’, in order to keep the eye in practice’ That made sense. An athlete has to train every day although the actual event occurs occasionally”

  • This one’s for you Panos! Reminds me of your comment about shooting directly into the light, breaking the rules and subsequently learning….
    “It is important to do what you don’t know how to do. It is important to see your skills as keeping you from learning what is deepest and most mysterious. If you know how to focus, unfocus. If your tendency is to make sense out of chaos, start chaos.”
    Carlos Casteneda(American author, 1925-1998)

  • DAVID,

    My earlier question to you seems to have fallen through he cracks during your week in Cortona, so I’ll repost and ask you again:


    While you’re apparently present on the Comments section and while I still remember it, I recently watched the video of your presentation at the World Press Photo meeting in the Netherlands and was quite taken with the cumulative power of the entire presentation, even though I had seen 95% of the photos before.

    However, one detail gave me pause… in your “Dream Hotel” segment, despite being described as a project from Bangkok, 4 (at least) of the 12 images shown were from Seoul… Now, I know that you called this a ‘work of fiction’ and as such you can mix and match anything you like.. but I wondered if you yourself remembered that those four photos were from a different time and from South Korea… Maybe no one but me and a few others would notice, and maybe the “Dream Hotel” is a state of mind independent of location or cultural milieu, but to my eyes it was a jarring note since it was described as a Bangkok-based fiction in your talk. And to me anyway, Bangkok and Seoul are not only very different places but very different states of mind, different universes in fact. Your thoughts?

  • “Dear I want to be an Author,
    By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.
    Welcome to the club.
    That’s how novels get written.
    You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat”

    Sorry! Forgot to write down the author of this one, only know this is an old quote, must of been one of the very first ones :(

  • “What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat”

    God, I hate writing.


    i was teaching in Italy last week, and I guess i missed a question from you regarding locations of pictures in my Dream Hotel essay….you are quite correct, Seoul and BKK are two totally different cultures…but , also as you say, this is a work of fiction based on my state of mind living at the real Dream Hotel in BKK…it is a BKK based piece of fiction, but yes there are several Seoul pictures in the mix…so i shoulda coulda woulda described to the Amsterdam audience to be technically correct that there are literally pictures from both BKK and Seoul, although the Dream Hotel is about a BKK experience ..or fictionalized experience…my mistake..i speak from the hip, no notes, and often make a variety of slip ups i am sure…cutting short a full explanation probably happens to me all the time…i tend to abbreviate the experience in a public speech…i have never taken a speech making course , so my execution should certainly be more perfected…….by the way, i am on my way to Seoul…..BKK later in the fall….more fiction? maybe..thinking short film with Dream Hotel title…location?? surprises await!!

    cheers, david

  • I can never really see the problem in finding ideas for projects. The biggest problem for me is what NOT to do; there are stories/ideas everywhere. However time and money is limited so the problem is trying to work out which project/s you MUST do…

  • a civilian-mass audience

    PAUL…rock on
    maybe Neil Gaiman’s …

    MICKAELK…your book is overdue too…
    let’s get ready to rumble those fingers
    (to be perceived as a compliment)…:)))

    BURNIANS…safe travels …wherever you are going
    and yes, make me proud…and come back to share…YOUR VISION…

  • a civilian-mass audience

    ROSSY…”there are stories/ideas everywhere”…”The biggest problem for me is what NOT to do”
    no worries…it might be ADHD…

    What not to Love…spread “your vision”

    BURN is the place to BE BURNED !!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    BURN is the place to BE BURNED !!!…to be perceived as a compliment …

    not running…no taxis for 13 days (imagine NY with no taxis…oime)

    stuck inside grecolandia with no taxis …again:(

    spread YOUR VISION

  • ROSS

    i feel the same as you…i always have too many ideas…but so many of my students seem to always struggle finding an idea…and many here the same….i always wonder about this….

  • David,

    “more fiction? maybe..thinking short film with Dream Hotel title…location?? surprises await!!”

    short film, surprises….no good spilling the beans but maybe a little more info?!?!
    sounds awesome!

  • I meant to say “no fun spilling the beans”

  • CARLO…

    well if you see the Dream Hotel slide show, you will sort of see it is a sketch for a movie…you have to have a really good imagination!!! i see it, but i will have to see if i can make it comprehensible to others and still have the subtleties i want…

  • I think the key is that practically everyone has an interesting tale to tell. I have often thought about approaching 50/100/whatever number; strangers and asking to tell their particular story. Or phone a bunch of random numbers and try to do the same thing. It would sure be a test of your own inventiveness; and probably the ultimate test in my theory that everyone is interesting… Just another idea to add to the list! :-)

  • Of course; no editing of the people selected; just take it as it comes…

  • Civi…

    Book? I am hopeful.

  • Paul, I have James L Stanfield’s book The Eye of The Beholder, in which he describes the first month of a Nat Geo assignment by saying that he may as well not have film in his camera as it takes that long to get tuned in to a story (the Nat Geo Glory Days) so Joseph Koudelka’s remark makes some sense.

    For my own part; I once went to Scotland with members of my extended family and, after an early morning foray taking photographs I was asked by my niece’s daughter “Was the light right uncle Michael?”.

    Being of a certain age and having taken a fair-few snaps, I resist taking a photograph that I am already subliminally consigning to the trash. Could be missing some surprises.

    DAH “I have never taken a speech making course ” – took me back to school. My class had to take turns in saying the School Prayer at morning assembly: I used to watch my name move to the top of the list. Having a speech problem/impediment/stutter I dreaded the experience. My prayer began with “…. Dear………..God……. (I wanted to laugh). Eventually I rebelled – no more School Prayer for Mike.

    Today I made the equivalent of the School Prayer; approached an organisation to request photographs. Looks promising – your fault. Thanks.

  • Civi, I used to drive a taxi – I used to jam the airwaves until I could speak. If I couldn’t say the call-sign of the cab I drove (Echo was not easy) I would be “Thingy” ….”Thingy over, Thingy back”.

    You would have free taxi rides from Thingy.

  • I too enjoy some of the quotes but I wouldn’t get too caught up in that kind of thing. What people do is almost always much more important than what they say.

    Most successful people practice a lot and work hard. You’ve probably heard the old joke about Carnegie Hall. And most great artists have great visions, practice a lot and work hard.

    So apropos of that, here’s a quote from a Lou Reed song in which he quotes Andy Warhol:

    Sometimes when I can’t decide what I should do
    I think what would Andy have said

    He’d probably say you think too much
    That’s ’cause there’s work that you don’t want to do
    It’s work, the most important thing is work
    It’s work, the most important thing is work

    Funny New Yorkish story, one time trying to persuade my daughter to practice her guitar I asked if she knew how to get to Carnegie Hall. She said sure, take the F train to 57th. Unfortunately, that shortcut mentality doesn’t work. The answer will always be practice, practice, practice…

  • David,

    I found a post from 2007 with 2 images from “Dream Hotel”…also read the entry of course.
    Wish I could see more.
    I can sort of see that they look like screen caps from a movie if those are the ones:

    Funny enough I stayed at the sukhumvit hotel when I visited Bangkok in 08? not sure at the moment.

  • So I got my blurb proof book of speakers corner back.
    102 Pages
    Slick paper.
    Nice end sheets.
    Stupid money.

    So So So utterly dissapointing.
    looked great as an indesign project, and even as a PDF.
    proof though is just mainly flat and dead and lifeless……and i think, naturally, that “of course it is” “the pictures were always shit” “you just wanted them to be great” “you idiot” ….and I hear Davids words ringing in my ear “none of us are feeling this john”, and I think “yeah right. what a pile of shit, who did you think you were kidding???” “Burn the lot of it and start again..harry crews style”

    …..and then I have to remember that I love these images.
    Have defended them against very strong opposition.
    Believe in them.
    Will Redo.

  • John I made one blurb proof book, chucked it in the bin not worth the effort, there is a need for a great printer of books so it is a matter of saving and biting the bullet for quality.

  • DAH “i feel the same as you…i always have too many ideas…but so many of my students seem to always struggle finding an idea…and many here the same….i always wonder about this….”. I think that it is the burden of photographic history; the books we have read etc.

    I remember reading Eve Arnold saying that when she saw Robert Capa’s contact sheets she cried (disappointment) until someone pointed out that history was not so clear cut.

    Look at any book by Salgado, Jones-Griffiths, DAH etc. and what you are seeing are their successes: the wonderful light, the moment that it all falls into place – and this is not taking anything away from them – what you don’t see is the hours, days weeks and months of effort to get to that moment when it all falls into place. Photography looks easy; buy it’s not: it’s a labour of love.


  • Mike R; but that probably applies to every art endeavour. Take a classic music album for example; you’re only hearing the distilled best. You don’t hear the hours of practice, the different variations of a song that have been worked through, the songs that have been worked on for days and weeks, and then discarded etc. Mind you; I love listening to the demos that now come out; a bit like looking at a contact sheet!

  • John, it probably has to do with color profiling… you could still get acceptable results from blurb (or any other POD service) with a trial and error approach… throw a few more pounds in the trash and order another copy, only this time choose 5 pictures and print 5 variations (tonal wise) of each—making notes which is which… by the way, for my book (printed the “traditional” offset way—read expensive) I did 2 print tests with the first printer I chose and been unhappy with the results I changed printer (the first was using cheaper inks, it turned out, which was messing up my tonalities)… so, there is no magic bullet… think of printing in the darkroom… tests are needed… as for the work itself, no need to defend it really… it holds its own against anything presented here or anywhere else…

  • “I remember reading Eve Arnold saying that when she saw Robert Capa’s contact sheets she cried (disappointment) until someone pointed out that history was not so clear cut.”

    The someone was Janet Flanner.

    AKAKY IRL: Pedantic today, aren’t we?

    AKAKY: Give me a break; I’m stuck in this dump until 8.

    AKAKY IRL: That sucks.

    AKAKY: Yes it does. Big time.

  • In the mean time, here’s something you might find interesting…

    Now, you may find this a little hard to believe, but gentrification has had some fairly unusual effects here in our happy little burg. In the years since our economic turnaround began, we’ve had an influx of people from the metropolis to the south. Most of these folks are artists of one sort or another, the type of people who refer to well-known holes in the wall as spaces and who often wonder aloud why they can’t buy their favorite coffee here. Their favorite coffee often has a very long name, which causes no end of confusion hereabouts, as most of the indigenous population thinks of coffee as a beverage that either comes black or with cream and sugar. But what really sets the gentrifiers off from the gentrified is the worldview of the former. They are a well-traveled, cosmopolitan lot, on the whole, dropping the names of obscure Parisian restaurants in conversation in much the same way as our stout yeomanry drop dollar bills on the lottery and nodding knowingly at the mention of artists whose work is so obscure that their parents haven’t heard of it yet. With all of this sophistication, you may well wonder why these people would want to spend any amount of time with a provincial yutz like me. The answer, I’ve found, is that for all of their worldliness and sophistication, most of these people have never actually met a Republican.

    Yes, it is a good time to be a Republican here in our happy little burg; I know that my party registration has improved my social life immeasurably these past years and I am positive that being a Republican can do wonders for your social life as well. Rock-ribbed Republicanism will help you get girls and be the life of any party you attend. It won’t help you clear up your skin, of course, but in the main, you will be a more exciting, more fascinating person when you finally stop procrastinating and register in the GOP.

    You are probably asking yourself, but Akaky, how is this possible? I’ve tried everything from industrial strength Clearasil to online blind dating with Filipino transsexual lesbian dwarves to improve my social life, how will my being a Republican make me a more interesting person and help me score with chicks, which, as we all know, is the main purpose of any male’s social life, no matter what their party affiliation. Let me explain what happened to my social life.

    The vast majority of our gentrifying influx was, as mentioned, from the metropolis, a well-known one party state where Republican are few and far between, and when they do win elections, they have to compromise on vast swathes of the GOP agenda and pretend that they meant to register Democratic when they were filling out the voter registration form but that the form was confusing and the guy in front of them in line farted loudly and so they accidentally checked the wrong box. So most of our gentrifying influx has never actually met anyone who fundamentally disagrees with just about everything they hold near and dear to their hearts. Your average cosmopolitan knows that Republicans exist, of course, but they know that they will probably never meet one in the course of the day and so long as they remain ensconced in their island home they need never think about such people. So they ignore them, and by them I mean people like me, in much the same way that a Cairene ignores the Great Pyramid of Giza or a hungry dieter ignores the food pyramid with pepperoni pizza. But when the siren song of modern art calls to the cosmopolite, they must follow, even if it leads to our happy little burg, which hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential race since Zachary Taylor won handily here in 1848. This was an anomaly, of course, and one the local historical society usually attributes to Taylor’s enthusiastic support among local Mexican War veterans. Faced for the first time in their adult lives with the much dreaded Other, many a curious cosmopolite will seek to grasp just why it is that the natives believe in the odd things they believe in and so they often ask me to explain the hows and the whys of what is going on here.

    I don’t mind, of course; many of these people are quite sincere in their curiosity, although I am also quite sure that many others invite me along merely to shock their friends and add a bit of a political frisson to their dinner parties. It seems a strange fate for any Republican to be a suces de scandale, but it seems I have managed this difficult task on more than one occasion. I am not sure how I managed to get the job as token Republican in the first place; I suppose that some of my Democratic friends recommended me as someone who was reasonably intelligent, reasonably knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world these days, and could be trusted not to blow my nose in the tablecloth between the soup and the main course.

    In some ways, of course, I am a bit of a disappointment. I am not, for example, a member of the National Rifle Association. In fact, I do not own any firearms at all—I am, however, like a good many other civil servants, a dangerous man with a rubber band and a paper clip—and I have experienced my share of crestfallen looks from people who thought that I must, like the Republicans they’ve seen on television, have several years worth of canned goods next to the arsenal I have stashed in my own personal bomb shelter. I don’t actually have a bomb shelter, either, and this and the fact that I believe that if you wish to possess0 a 155mm howitzer of your very own, then the government ought to take a polite interest in what you intend to do with the thing (you might, for example, be planning to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of our happy little burg, or worse, plan to do a little target practice on Saturday mornings when I am trying to get some sleep), has led more than a few people to believe that I am not really a Republican at all. Nor am I an evangelical Christian and I am not completely sure I could identify with any degree of certainty the significant theological points of contention and agreement between Fundamentalists and Pentecostals, except for a somewhat unfortunate taste in hair styling. I suppose I am not atavistic enough.

    Still, I’ve learned over the years that one mustn’t completely dash people’s illusions, and I have managed to epater les avant-garde on more than one occasion. There’s nothing quite like the reaction one gets from pointing out to some cosmopolite with a home in Vermont who has just spent an hour expounding on the racial problem here in AmeriKKKa that the reason many white liberals love living in Vermont is that it gives them the opportunity to decry AmeriKKKa’s racist treatment of African-Americans for hours on end without having to live anywhere near actual African-Americans. The sound made on one of these occasions is a sort of a low moan, similar, I think, to the sound one makes when you step out of a car wearing brand new shoes and step right into a pile of fresh dog crap. Your average host or hostess loves this sort of political spat; it livens up the conversation in what, in other circumstances, would have been yet one more dull dinner party. They’ll denounce my obvious idiocy—this simply goes without saying, naturally; they have to keep their Vermont friend happy too, you know—and it almost certainly means another dinner invitation in the not so near future so that I can politely mock the shibboleths that they and their friends hold most dear. Hearing someone praise Karl Rove can be a mind-altering experience for some people, however common such praise may be in some GOP quarters. I guess everything sounds a bit shocking if you’ve never heard it before.

    My perplexing adherence to what these folks often refer to as the Repugnicans, the Rethuglicans, etc. causes no end of cognitive dissonance among the cosmopolitan population—they think, of course, that by all rights, I ought to be a Democrat, the same as them, and they will often ask, in their confusion, if there is anything I wouldn’t do for the GOP? To comfort them I say, yes, there is: I will not give money to a candidate for political office, even to a Republican candidate. You may not have noticed this, but campaign contributions only encourage politicians, a particularly noxious breed of peculating parasite, to run for political office in order to do whatever it is they do on the public payroll, and to continue to run for office long after the rest of the population has gotten tired of listening to them and wish that they would simply go away and leave the rest of us alone. Our Great Republic will only survive if and when vast numbers of American citizens treat running for public office in the same way that they treat jury duty: as an onerous task to be avoided whenever possible, and if political office becomes inevitable, to be gotten out of as soon as possible. I mean, really, would you want the leader of the Free World to be someone too dumb to get out of being President? I didn’t think so.

  • Paul, great set of quotes, and honored you included one of mine in that fine mix. One in particular resonated with me because I have always worked to do what I did not know how to do and, often, what people told me I could not or should not. But as soon as I “figure” it out, as soon as it is rote, when it becomes “easy,” I lose interest. One of the great things about photography is the infinite possibility; that, and the fact that it will never be easy.


    i think you may remember the entire Burn crew in your room in Paris and seeing some wonderful images from your Speakers Corner and all agreeing you had some beauties…we were all there…a missed moment to sit down and edit cleanly…choose the best, leave the rest…so so simple…amigo that was your moment to capture…it got lost…your pictures are just fine, we just needed a way to narrow them down…frankly, i do not think i have ever seen the same set of these images twice..there is no opposition at all to your that sentence again please…think very very carefully about why this work has not been seen here..please do not be a martyr without a cause…you of all people would not put up with that in someone else…many thanks John for thinking on this again…love you bro…

    cheers, david

  • DAVID,

    Thanks for your reply, mostly I was curious if you yourself were aware you had mixed Bangkok and Seoul pictures together. Apparently yes.

    “…if you see the Dream Hotel slide show, you will sort of see it is a sketch for a movie…”

    More and more I am seeing not just slide shows but individual images… photographs, paintings, whatever… all as “sketches for a movie…” Only, the movie is in my mind, it is my imagination spinning scenarios out of fragmentary visual suggestions. Probably always been true, but I am more conscious of this than ever. And while I love the cinema, it may be that in many cases the movies the imagination builds from still fragments are better than the ones that are actually made into finished films.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    MIKER…you are an “essay”…just by yourself!
    love you bro

    MICHAELK…”hopeful”…niah…I don’t want to hear “hopeful”…
    I am hopeful…the rain will come…
    from you I wanna hear :
    “civi, I am on it”…i am getting there!!!…
    love you bro

    now,I have to read AKAKY…as HERVE says…I am a slow reader…

    yes,I copy and paste…”love you bro”…LOVE YOU ALLLLL MY BURNIANS

  • Civi…

    Neil Gaiman’s link doesn’t work.

  • THODORIS. Yes ‘acceptable’. many of the images in the proof are ‘acceptable’ (which of course is unacceptable). But at least half have printed dull and flat and lifeless. a half stop darker than they should be. a half grade flatter. All were set up/changed to the same profile(from many different scan settings over the years though). Not something I could show to anyone.
    I think I will just do it the old fashioned way and print/cut/glue the thing together myself.

    …Coming to Cyprus in the next couple of months to make a little film. Brett coming along for the ride as well i think. probably there a couple of weeks. Was sorta hoping I had seen the last of limmasol…oh well. Be good to hang out.

    DAVID. Of course. I was just using that little snippet as an example of what goes through my mind.
    Its the quality of the Blurb book that got to me. Looked so sweet as a PDF on the computer screen :) Was looking forward to shopping it around to some people with a view to getting it published properly. Back to the drawing board I guess :) Goes hand in hand with that little poem I wrote ages ago.


  • JOHN


    Sweet.. would love to see/touch/feel!

  • Its the quality of the Blurb book that got to me.,,,,,,,,,that I can relate to

  • John…

    Yes “print/cut/glue”, handwritten cognac and red wine stained beautiful sort of A4 moleskin notebook.

  • “print/cut/glue”, handwritten………after pasting book five even the cognac will be ordinary

  • Yes by book five everything will be ordinary, except the handwritten dedications which will make an attack with Anthrax and Ebola appropriately mixed together look like a mild Sunday summer afternoon loafing about in Paris with the Burn crew drinking gallons of champagne besides the Eiffel Tower…

  • Gladdy, of course it looks better on a computer screen. Come on over to the dark side… Make an ebook. Put it in an app. Then you can kill some trees with the enormous profits from the app store.

  • John, well at least you’re not coming here in the middle of August with 40+ temperatures and regular power cutouts because some morons stacked a hundred containers with confiscated explosives next to the biggest power plant of the island… let me know when you’ll be in the neighborhood…

    As for the print/cut/glue thinking, I know you have a good inkjet printer… there are some interesting papers around that can be printed on both sides… maybe for your purposes (showing a sort of dummy to the right people) you could go that route… binding the signatures is a bit tricky though—I’m trying my hand on this myself at the moment… if you need any tips let me know…

  • mw some things just don’t work electronically and work better as a book blanketing all as another app is just a recipe for mediocrity…….. but that is the choice you have made so be it

  • ps not everyone reduces their work value for the sake of enormous profits

  • Imants, not everything in this world is grim and humorless and evidence of the grand failings of others.

    ps stop being so fucking literal.

  • what was my grim part ..the part that some things look better in books than on your treasured monitor that you rabbit on about? or is it just your two faces that come out in in those retrospective statements of yours….the olde when it doubt I was being funny again caper of yours……………thus is leaves me with no option but to treat you as one big joke

  • ps stop being so fucking literal…… see that good olde mediocrity as humour a speciality of yours , I forgot that all the stuff you write is supposed to be funny

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