Magnum photographers on finding escape in image-making

Magnum photographers on finding escape in image-making

Available at $100 each until 18 July 2021, Magnum Photos square print sale captures different ways to find escapism, break free or make a getaway

There are many ways to escape: from danger, mundanity, discomfort, or our comfort zones. As Magnum Photos is proving in the theme of its latest square print sale, Way for Escape, on until 18 July, photography itself can be a tool for escapism.

As in Magnum’s previous square print sales, the curated series spans generations, subjects and all corners of the world. Way for Escape highlights subjects to find solace in, and those to break free from. 

Harry Gruyaert’s photograph of a man eating a meal alone. Part of Magnum Photo’s square print sale which focuses on Escapism
Harry Gruyaert 

For many Magnum photographers, a project offered a chance to break free from everyday banality: to drop everything to pursue a story. This theme, Way for Escape, takes the curious on a journey in search of an external subject or prompts them to probe for answers that lie within, at a time when many of us have yearned for escape from the ongoing pandemic. 

Some images capture the promise, anticipation and thrill of travel, or the liminal space between two places, such as in Christopher Anderson’s Onboard an airplane, 2017, Peter Marlow’s dynamic image of a Concorde plane on takeoff, a month before its final ever flight, or Sim Chi Yin’s striking aerial image, Flying over Bulgan province, Mongolia. March 2019.

Peter Marlow, Heathrow, London, UK. September 24, 2003, part of Magnum Photos square print sale which focuses on escapism
Peter Marlow, Heathrow, London, UK. September 24, 2003

Others find escape in their craft, such as in Stuart Franklin’s Runners preparing for the Olympic Games. Iten, Kenya. 2016 or Double Pop, a portrait of Roy Lichtenstein taken when photographer Thomas Hoepker visited the artist’s Long Island home in 1982. 

Elsewhere, we find escape to have more urgency, pertinence and poignancy. Chien-Chi Chang’s Elephant Hospital, Lampang, Thailand, 1997 sees an elephant who escaped a life of hard labour but remains in captivity. Hannah Price’s Brooklyn, New York. 2012, from Cursed By Night, a series that reflects society’s engrained racial profiling: ‘The blackness of the images represents the darkness projected onto Black men,’ says Price. 

Hannah Price, Brooklyn, New York. 2012. From the series, Cursed By Night, Magnum Square print sale, Escapism
Hannah Price, Brooklyn, New York. 2012. From the series, Cursed By Night

For many, freedom can arise from getting ‘out there,’ – in the rural landscape or amid the bustle of urban life. Ernest Cole’s snapshot of two women who walk down the street in New York City in 1971, convey the spontaneity and glee that can be present in simply existing. For others, it’s finding a moment of peace away from the scramble of the rat race, as in Harry Gruyaert’s image of a figure eating a solitary meal. 

Cristina De Middel questions the authenticity of planned escapes in Mata Atlántica forest, Brazil. 2020, and Bieke Depoorter sheds light on the power of night as a vehicle for truth.

Available at $100 each and signed or estate-stamped, the collection of more than 90 museum-quality 6x6” prints by Magnum Photos photographers is available for one week only in this format.

Magnum photographers on finding escape

Chien-Chi Chang

Elephant Hospital, Lampang, Thailand. 1997, Chien-Chi Chang, Magnum Photos square print sale escapism
Chien-Chi Chang, Elephant Hospital, Lampang, Thailand, 1997

‘This elephant toiled for years, carrying logs in the forests of the border between Thailand and Burma. It finally escaped a life of labour after it stepped on a landmine and was transported to an elephant hospital for treatment. There, it was able to wander the woods or slide down a riverbank, but only as far as was allowed by its new, longer chain. Does it dream of escaping? And for what, we might ask? Perhaps this elephant is capable of weighing the merits of freedom and safety.’

Thomas Hoepker 

Thomas Hoepker, Roy Lichtenstein, pop artist, with painting and dot template at his studio. Southampton, New York, USA. 1982
Thomas Hoepker, Roy Lichtenstein, pop artist, with painting and dot template at his studio. Southampton, New York, USA. 1982

‘Like many artists, Roy Lichtenstein saw Pop Art as a way to escape traditional art forms.’

Bieke Depoorter

Bieke Depoorter, Sete, France. 2014, Magnum Photos square print sale
Bieke Depoorter, Sete, France. 2014

‘Maybe we all experience night-time as the moments when it’s easier to hide. Yet, at the same time, I feel that night is when our masks begin to fall. The night can be more honest than the day. Sometimes it seems like the less light there is, the more we see.’ 

Cristina De Middel

Cristina De Middel, Mata Atlántica forest, Brazil. 2020. From the project ‘Boa Noite Povo’ . © Cristina De Middel and Bruno Morais
Cristina De Middel, Mata Atlántica forest, Brazil. 2020. From the project ‘Boa Noite Povo’ . © Cristina De Middel and Bruno Morais

‘Buy a map, get a car and run away. Throw away the map after you realise you can use the car navigator. Stop driving after you realise a satellite is sending your coordinates to a database that will predict your need to stop after 3 hours to fill the tank. Start receiving advertisements about nearby tourist attractions and sodas to calm your thirst. Get out of the car and start walking while you understand that your glorious breakaway is just a performance to fool yourself into believing that you still control your life.’

Sim Chi Yin

Sim Chi Yin, Flying over Bulgan province, Mongolia. March 2019
Sim Chi Yin, Flying over Bulgan province, Mongolia. March 2019

‘The liminal time and space of being on a flight can be a place for escape. This other reality, of being in-between places and above the clouds, often affords space for reflection and other-worldly emotions.’ §

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