our favourite shots from this year’s magnum square print photo sale
For 2019, photographers were invited to respond to the theme ‘Obsessions’.
By now you probably know the deal with the Magnum Photos Square Print Sale. After all, we rave about it each and every time it rolls around. But, for good measure: museum-quality prints, from the world’s leading photographers, for $100.
Back in October, in partnership with Aperture, Magnum released a series responding to the theme Crossings. Taking in a cross-section of big names and rising stars (such as i-D contributors Tyler Mitchell, Ethan James Green and Paul Mpagi Sepuya) the images contemplate the literal and metaphorical boundaries in which humans live.
This year, the theme is Obsessions: from the enchanting black-and-white documentary photography of Ernest Cole in the 60s, to the vast landscapes of Carolyn Drake, to the charming street photography of Elliot Erwitt, Bruce Gilden and Richard Kalvar. Prints by legends like Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Alec Soth are also available to buy from Monday 10 June until Friday 14 June.
Below we’ve picked out a handful of our favourites, accompanied by words from the photographer on why they chose each particular image.
“At some point I became obsessed with stories about women and the way society sees and treats them. This journey started in Istanbul, with my friend Ozge. I was staying at her apartment near the Galata Tower and from there I would go out on long walks across the city exploring, meeting people and looking for stories. This image of the birds flying over the Bosporus has always felt like the first image in this journey that I continued making for several years after my stay with Ozge up there by the tower.”
- Olivia Arthur
“Obsession: A particular moment when you disconnect from everything else to meet yourself. Traveling alone with the real you.”
- Enri Canaj
“I am endlessly intrigued by the landscape of Buffalo, New York, where I grew up. As a kid, I picked up a camera in response to the look and feel of the place. The first thing I photographed there were the houses, which have remained a point of fascination for me.”
- Gregory Halpern
“A photograph for me is not a single image, it is a relationship that builds over time. I met Pura by chance. When I arrived to photograph her, I noticed crowds of people gathered outside her home, waiting for her to emerge. It was her 15th birthday, her quinceañera, a traditional celebration marking a girl’s transition into womanhood. This celebration had another meaning for Pura. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour as a child, and was not expected to live to see this day. Yet I didn’t meet a victim. I met a young woman who was determined to live. On the day of her party, I was overwhelmed by the tears of her neighbours, a community of people obsessed with celebrating the victory of her life. This feeling eventually took the form of a friendship, one that led me to create this image and left me feeling so fortunate to have been welcomed as a witness to this moment in her life.”
- Diana Markosian. [Diana Markosian’s profits from this sale will be donated to Pura’s medical expenses, as well as furthering her education].
“For over a decade I’ve been obsessed with propaganda, control and manipulation mechanisms, and how they are camouflaged in our daily surroundings: from architecture to small scale objects as well as social structures. I’m fascinated with how innocent and neutral spaces intersect with politically-defined backgrounds gaining new contexts. I found this still life in the Heydar Aliyev Center in Salyan, Azerbaijan, in 2016. In 2013, to mark the 10th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev’s death, his son and successor as president, Ilham Aliyev, issued an order that the country’s 70 subdivisions should all build a monumental centre named after his father, each intended to uphold the cult of the dead leader. Almost all of them house a museum devoted to the life and work of Aliyev senior, as well as a chess school and the local folk song and dance ensemble. The local communities are not stirred into action by the buildings, but use them only occasionally. In April of 2016, for instance, following the Four Day War, these buildings were used to stage ‘victory’ celebrations.”
- Rafal Milach
“This image is from a body of work entitled Subida al Cielo (Ascent to Heaven). While working, I constantly find myself on a patch of grass, in a park or a garden, or drawn toward photographing a climbing plant. It is a way of de-contextualising and removing information to bring a timeless and more universal quality to the photographs. The archetypal image of the garden as an idyllic place is a recurring motif within my work. I am interested in how symbolic these spaces become when inhabited by a figure, or how enigmatic they can be within a wider sequence of images. I am always trying to find paths, bushes and hidden groves. These help me to keep telling a story.”
- Lua Ribeira
“As rain and fog sweep in on Lushan, or Mount Lu, a pair of visitors in identical raincoats ascend toward one of its peaks, walking into the white mist. Shrouded in history’s grand narratives, this mountain was the site of the 1959 Chinese Communist Party leadership conference, which changed the course of Chinese history. I followed this couple as they strode up the man-made stairs to a peak. The persistence of always going forward, heading often into the unknown, is one that is familiar to many. The figures of people, backs toward my lens, pushing into an uncertain, precarious landscape, or standing still, reflecting on what lies before them, has unwittingly been a motif in my work over the years, as it has been in others’. I’m not naturally a confrontational photographer -- and am perhaps becoming less so with age -- but there is something about a human figure’s back, his/her posture, those uneven shoulders, that half step, that unseen gaze, that stepping into precarity, that speaks to me.”
- Sim Chi Yin
“My obsession with photography has made me penetrate places and spaces I thought I could never have access to. Daleside used to be a predominantly white area where my mother was employed as a domestic worker. On days when I used to go with her to work, I was not allowed to enter the house, and would sit outside and wait for my mother to finish working. The only time I was allowed to go inside was during school holidays, when I would work on the garden in the back. My mother recalls a time when I was just six months old. Her employer still did not want me in the house, so she would wrap me in so many blankets that I wouldn’t catch a cold, and would put me outside on the lawn where she would be able to see me from the house.”
- Lindokuhle Sobekwa
“I am obsessed with football. Full stop. If I was a better player, I certainly wouldn’t be a photographer or an artist. But I’m not, so I have to resort to taking photos like this one, at a refugee camp in Uganda, on assignment for Nike.”
- Mikhael Subotzky
‘Obsessions’ Magnum’s Square Print Sale runs from 9AM EST Monday10 June until midnight EST Friday 14 June 2019. Signed and estate stamped, museum quality, 6x6” prints from over 100 artists will exceptionally be available for $100, for 5 days only, from shop.magnumphotos.com’