Photography | Miklas Njor
Bjarke Myrthu

Interview with Bjarke Myrthu about Magnum in Motion

How did the idea for Magnum In Motion emerge?
I met Susan Meiselas of Magnum in 2002, when I was in New York to receive an award for my thesis assignment of a web documentary that I did together with Peter Hove Olesen and Johannes Bøggild. She absolutely loved our project and offered back then, that I could start at Magnum. But back then the CEO of Magnum was totally uninterested in the web. Furthermore, I didn’t move fast enough. I was tired after the thesis project, was broke after four years at studying, and had just met a new girlfriend. So I could not quite grasp how I’d move to New York (where cool that could be).

But then in the summer of 2004 I changed my mind. To work for Magnum would be very cool, so I decided to try again. I sat down and wrote two concepts. One which I called “Magnum In Motion” which was an experience based photo magazine. And one that I called “Magnum Academy” which was a community for photographers (the two concepts were later merged). It took one afternoon, I had gone and pondered the idea for several years. I emailed concepts to Magnum and hoped for the best.

It happened that they gotten a new CEO, since I first spoke with them. He believes that the web is the great future. Susan remembered me and supported me. Mark Lubell (the new CEO) rang an hour after I sent the mail, and asked if I could come to the annual photographer meet-up. I ran out into the street in front of my apartment in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, and screamed to high heaven.

Bjarke Myrthu car

Bjarke Myrthu – Photo: Joi Ito

Four days later I was at a party in New York, with photographers like Nachtway and Cornell Capa. Fairly surreal. Then came some months of wrangling. Originally, Magnum In Motion was just my concept of a community and a web magazine. But as things have evolved it has actually become both the name of the website and the name of Magnum’s “development department” where we currently are two employees and a trainee. What we’re doing is not only a website, but a re-development of Magnum on a range of levels, which will lead to more new products and new ways to showcase our work (the last is sounds a bit vague, but that’s because I can’t reveal much right now).

What is your ambition with the project?
My big pet peeve is that too much web content is static and looks poorly visually. You are not using the web properly.

When radio journalism was born it was almost spoken newspapers, when television came to, it was the radio with pictures. The web is largely lacking in still finding it’s own standpoint. A self-narrative form. I think a lot of it is tied up in photojournalism and visual narratives.

The problem is probably that the media has always been in a sender -> receiver relationship that only goes in one direction. There is never a dialogue. You talk about “an independent narrative form” and “very visual narratives,” “too much web content is static and poor visual screwed together.” Isn’t it just old HTML in new bottles?
To through a lot of photos up on some HTML pages does not necessarily something dynamic and different narrative. But what if stills and moving images (video) flows freely in and out between each other, with, text items, interactive graphics and a soundtrack that binds it all together. Then we are approaching something more than “old HTML in new bottles.”

If you then also get interactivity into the project, it’s really interesting. It is precisely the confrontation with the principle of the story and the information always goes from the receiver to the sender which is one of the interesting aspects of digital stories. Interactivity can take place on many levels. It can be a way to break the structure of a story up, so that the receiver will get different inputs. It may be the recipient provides ongoing input to the narrator, who then uses his knowledge to change the story. Some of the American newspapers, for example, started to use web statistics from the grid in the editing of the newspaper. If there are many who click onto a particular story, you go deeper into the story.

Can you provide examples?
Currently I am working with an idea which is to create some small picture stories, where you follow certain people from a common starting point (in this case, a nightclub in New York). It is a 100 percent documentary project, and all the people are real. Nothing is arranged, the photographer follows them. The people all know each other and their paths crossed both at the nightclub and later during the night. The recipient can choose who to follow and take different paths as the story progresses. It is an example of a story that you can only do on a digital medium.

The big problem is that many of the mainstream media can not afford this kind of content because it is quite expensive to do, and because they have created a web culture where people expect to get everything for free. So I have long been pondered how to make some form of web media for visual multimedia stories that is sound economically.

How do you change people’s attitude from web content should be free. Can’t you just run google ads, because who wants to pay to look at archival images?
In principle, I would very much like to avoid that our site is plastered with banner ads. It’s not really Magnums style, although it may sound a bit snobbish. However, we are about to close a contract with a major sponsor, who puts a decent amount of money in the project in return for a discrete exposure.

But to return to the core of the issue, it is always very difficult to make people pay for something that used to come for free. It is much easier to go the other way. But I see a clear trend that more and more media start taking money for content. Look at El Pais you can not get anywhere other than the front page without paying. So it’s about to happen.

Elliott Erwitt

Eliott Erwitt – Photo: Alessio Jacona

At Magnum we will actually make it free for everyone to look at archive images (if you want to download and use them it is of course an entirely different matter). What people have to pay for are the things that are unique to us. For example, a virtual workshop with three of the best Magnum photographs, an online chat with Thomas Dworzak’s on his experiences in Iraq, or the story of how Elliott Erwitt was allowed to take the most intimate photos of John F. Kennedy.

Additionally, you will want to take money for some of our feature stories. Take for example the idea with the interactive club history. If it is bold enough, why should they not pay a few dollars to see it? People also go to the movies and pay, or pay to read a good book or a delicious magazine. We’re not talking about Omnibus news which is impersonal, and that anyone can deliver. One can see in the newspaper world, that this kind of content is being given away for free.

How much of the material will be new features and how much is from the archive?
As it looks now, it is around 80 percent from the archives. But interviews and other stuff is new. In the long run it will probably only be 50 percent of the images coming from the archives.

How have they accepted the project?
I met with some of the photographers, which of course ultimately are the ones who must give the green light. But all are quite fond of the idea. It was mostly a matter of economics. But they succeeded in getting into the deal that can give me shelter and little food and still be economically sound for Magnum.

Is this Danish modesty. Your idea has a market value, which you should be well rewarded for?
In the US, Magnum has actually been financially on the ass for several years. Paradoxically it was rescued by the September 11 attacks and actually got the office out of a larger debt, but there is still not very much money. It is going poorly with many of our traditional customers in the newspaper world. So Magnum In Motion is an attempt to make a “turn around” as it’s called in the business world. We will try to find new revenue opportunities for the kind of photography Magnum stands for. So a lot is at stake, as Mark Lubell (Head of Magnum USA) has to implement this (not economic, but more prestige wise). For me the stake is that I go for a very low salary, but I have a prospect of getting a substantial bonus if we start to make money on the project. But as it looks now, I could earn much more by taking a job in Denmark. So it’s not what drives me. I have not much to lose. If the project does not go, I will obviously be upset for a while. But then I could take everything I’ve learned and use it somewhere else.

Which title / status do you have?
My title is Executive Editor for Magnum In Motion. But the job includes more than editing. I am also a kind of development guy. I actually got my card last week. It’s a bit childish, but it’s damn cool to see it in print. So it feels a little like I’m an established part of the community.

I have currently only one employee and a trainee in my department. And as I said I receive no great salary. So in that way, I have no great status. But I am very close to Magnums top management, and we hold longer meetings almost daily. So in that sense, I feel that I have a great influence on Magnums renewal process, and I’m an important piece in the “turnaround” that I have mentioned.

The photographers are quite fond of what I do on the web. But I’ll definitely have to prove my self in the future to keep the high status among photographers. And that’s fair enough. They are people who have had all sorts of accolades and made fantastic projects. So a web documentary here and there, and a small prize here and there, doesn’t counts much in the long run. Denmark has suffered from a trend where there is too much focus on who now has won the World Press and so on. Such things are they are completely oblivious to here. They also do not care whether you are young or old, or who you know. It is the work and projects that counts. I think that’s pretty cool.

To eJour you say: “Maybe Magnum is a leader in terms of images, but they want to move more towards the Web and to a greater extent make use of all the various instruments: photo, sound, text, etc. -which characterizes the digital media. “Do you think the press photo is on it’s way to the grave, or will it takes a different twist?

Bjarke Myrthu lecture

Bjarke Myrthu – Photo: Joi Ito

I think it is with the press photography or photojournalism, as with everything else that is journalism. There are trends that come and go, and it is an area in constant development. What you see happening now is that all mainstream media moves away from telling coherent visual stories. Instead, the individual images are of a more illustrative character.

Why do you think that they are “moving away from telling coherent visual stories.”?
It’s a really good question, which I often ask myself. It’s probably ultimately a financial decision. They are afraid to use a lot of resources on the photograph, at a time when they are financially challenged. I think one could prosper as a traditional newspaper, if you bet more on the visual and feature substance. And then let the news run by the same concept as the Metro and the other free newspapers. But you gotta be careful. Those who are sitting and dealing with the day to day at the newspapers are talented people, so they have their reasons. It’s a bit like when we all criticize Morten Olsen (Danish Soccer Coach) for his tactics if the national team loses. But basically he is probably still a better coach than the man in the street.

But I have not the imagination to imagine that press photography will disappear. Some (especially here at Magnum) believe that the kind of photojournalism as Magnum stands for, is forever disappearing from the mainstream media. I am not so pessimistic. But in any case, I think that it’s good we have the web to maintain picture journalism.

Why keep photojournalism? There is probably a reason that people stop taking an interest in something?
I do not think people have stopped taking an interest in the narrative image journalism. I think it’s the editors and other gatekeepers who make the selections. But you’re right. Let fall what can not stand. But the novel was in crisis at a time, and today it does excellently. Movies have also occasionally problems. Therefore I think it is a trend of the times, more than a farewell to an entire genre.

Eyetrack studies show that “the reader focused on text and designs, rarely the visual elements, on a website” ( ) What is your comment on that?
Overall, I think that you have to pair this kind of studies with a good dose of common sense and practical knowledge. Otherwise it becomes a bit Erasmus Montanus like. If one concludes from such an eyetrack study, that visual elements on the web are not important, it’s like saying “a stone can not fly, mother can not fly, ergo mother is a stone.” The study shows just how people look at a particular website. But if you prioritized the visual content differently, the result may be very different. There is also a study (from Jacob Nielsen) showing that people only have the patience to wait a few seconds to download things. So it excludes the use of large images, video and other “heavy” content. But one forgets completely practical reason. What if the images is of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, wouldn’t people want to wait a few minutes to download that video.

What I am saying is, well, I still believe very much that the web is great for visual stories. There are just very few that really have created visual stories of equally high quality as a well-written magazine article or a documentary. Our thesis The Enemy Within had over 100,000 visitors in 2003 without any marketing. And it’s purely journalistic and narrative, I think it can be done much better than we did back in 2002. If such stories are being produced, and people are turning their backs on them, well then I’ll have to reconsider. But until then, I stand by the fact, that visual stories are amazing.

Why should Magnum have its own media platform? Shouldn’t photographers not just shut up and drive journalist to interview?
The reason why Magnum must have its own media platform is above all, that we can. It’s a great opportunity and we must not let any stone go unturned. We have an archive of half a million amazing pictures. Every day when I walk in the door and over to my desk, I go past meters of shelves with boxes where it says things like “The Spanish Civil War” “D-day landing” and “Kennedy, Berlin”. Historical images that most of the time just sit there. We want to enable them. Make them current by putting them into a contemporary context.

I see photographers as storytellers in line with journalists (many calls themselves photojournalists). A good story contains both concrete and abstract elements, and traditional photography and journalism complement each other well.

How can they complement each other well?

Bjarke Myrthu

Bjarke Myrthu – Photo: Joi Ito

If you see a photograph of as small child’s body that appears while workers uncovers a mass grave, it is a very concrete evidence. If the picture is good, it can also spark a lot of emotion. But if people then ask themselves where the mass grave was, how many were killed, how it happened also so on, so, most images fall short. There the traditional journalism takes over and you conduct interviews with experts, other sources and so on.

Journalism can also supplement the photograph, if, for example, they let people from the village tell about life before people were murdered and thrown into mass graves. It is something that has happened in the past, and therefore for good reasons can not be photographed. It always sounds a little trite with such an example. There’s thousands of combinations, when you think about how the two can complement each other.

Moreover, all stories get better by being created in the tension zone between several parties. If the photographer just keeps his mouth shut, he is an illustrator rather than a narrator. So I’d then invite the photographer to talk freely while he drives the reporter to interview. But also before, when the idea for the interview is set up. Otherwise, there is a tendency that the journalist does not think in abstracts and images. In practice, of course it is difficult sometimes, because it breaks with a long tradition of photographer and journalist as two autonomous sizes. A culture that both photographers and journalists have fed. I know that it is breaking up in the multimedia world, and I hope that is the case in the more established part of the media.

Will we see more collaboration between journalists and photographers?
I think so. But it is up to the photographers and journalists and not least their editors. Personally, I work very well with photographers, and I will continue to do so. As an editor, I try to create employees who see themselves as storytellers more than photographers or journalists. They are part of a team, and their specialty is a piece of a larger project that can not be something, if not everyone is working together.

Are you planning task sparring? Can you get photographers started with projects?
I can give them ideas, and if they are turned on by it, they go with the project. This has happened twice so far and it was a success both times. The ambition for the future is that In Motion must make money, so we have a budget to “hire” the photographers.

Do photographers at Magnum need to change habits and think multi-media?
Yes, you could say that. Maybe not all. It’s fine if you, for example, will produce books and exhibitions. If you are a great writer and sitting on a newspaper, an editor should not set this person to create multimedia stories. But that requires one is good at his specialty.

Right now, the photographers are very unsure about what can be done online. Apart from some of the young people who are already running with the the field. But they are almost all very creative and visionary. Otherwise, they would not be where they are in their careers. So I think that it comes all by itself when I have produced some examples that they can relate to.

Do photographers at Magnum work alone or with journalists?
It’s very different. But many of them like to work alone. Which I think can be very well in many situations. When I speak of a close collaboration between photographer and journalist I do not think that you necessarily have to go up and down on each other all the time. It’s more that we share research, concept development, storyboarding and so on. But in the field work, it is sometimes necessary to be alone, to achieve the proper intimacy and connection.

How many reader will the site have within a year and how many in three years?

Screengrab from Magnum in Motion

We are looking at the whole “market analysis” at the moment. But it’s a little guesswork. Magnums current site, which is not targeted at the general public, has 6,000 visitors a day so it may give some an indication. Personally, I hope 7-10.000 regular users within and around 20.000 in three years. But it is my personal goal right now, I do not really base it on facts and analysis.

How many users does it take for it to turn a profit and how many for you to call it a success?
We have yet to settle on a price for membership. But if you plan with twenty dollars for a year’s membership. We need 7-8.000 members to break even. But twice the number will probably be where I begin to proclaim it a solid success.

My feeling is that the site will be able to make a profit in half a year, but you will find it difficult to syndicate material to other media, where photographers and specially AP sits heavily on ” image slides “. What is your thought on that?
Initially, I was very focused on the syndication mostly because I like to see that the mainstream media moves goes past the “picture slides”. It will offer them real “features” that move much further than just to throw some images into a slideshow. But I think you’re right. It may be difficult to sell at a reasonable price. Right now, the first priority is to build a functioning community and our own media platform.

I still believe in syndication, but it doesn’t have such a high priority right now. We should not compete on current affairs. First, we do not have the resources, and secondly it would cannibalize our business, as we are still delivering news images to print. The syndicated content comes largely from archive material and more feature-related projects that would not find their way into newspaper columns normally. There we can deliver a unique product.

Around the presidential election, I made a small pilot project. We have great photos of most US presidents since World War II. Those where gathered into a feature entitled “How to become President?” I interviewed a number of experts, such as Kennedy’s spin doctor, on the qualities that created the former presidents. Then you could compare with Kerry and Bush. It is a kind of story that most media simply will not be able to make yourself. And we can provide this fairly cheap because it is material we have in the archives.

Wouldn’t that cannibalize on book sales?
No, the books provide a completely different experience than seeing something on the web. It’s another way to see the story. But if you look at news photo online or in a newspaper, it does not have the same difference.

Do you have a link to “How to become President”?
No, it’s just a dummy. In the beginning we had the ambition to make it complete, and put it online right around the election. But there were other things that made a higher priority. So right now there a few chapters and various other “details” missing. So therefore I would rather not have it open to public scrutiny.

You mention several times, that the cost as a factor. How big a factor is the quality of the product?
The quality of the product is crucial for an agency like Magnum. Our core business is to make the best documentary photography. I consider quality as inherent in our products, so that’s probably why I mostly mention the price.

Can we see the site anywhere? Originally the goal was to launch the first edition around now (2004). But the project has grown in scope (how I can’t quite reveal now). So it will probably not be up until February or March (2005).

But actually, I have not spent much time as I’d like on producing stories. I have more been buried in research to find the right technical platform, create a logical structure on the site, establish an overall design and so on. It is a fairly long process, because there are many who want to their say.

Are Magnum photographers to start blogging?

Paul Fusco E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Paul Fusco – Foto: E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Yes, that’s going to happen in the future. I also made a small weblog Paul Fusco, available at (Dead link: . It’s mostly an experiment to show the photographers what you can do with blogs.

How did you come in contact with Stephan Knuesel who designed flash site Magnum In Motion?
I heard about Stephan through a Danish acquaintance who has worked with him. Stephan is a little unique because he actually works half the time as cinematographer (he has just completed some new American ninja movies in best Tarantino style). The other half of the time he doing hardcore programming (actually it is far me who is responsible for designing and Stefan have got things moving, etc.).

Why does it have to be programmed in Flash?
We would like to create a site that is very dynamic, and integrates all existing forms of media (photos, audio, video and text) in a multimedia narrative form. Flash is the only tool that can really handle this job. But we are considering if everything should be built in Flash, or whether it should be only items on the site. It is a major technical analysis, we spend a lot of time and energy on at the moment.

It sounds like that is very technical and very little journalism?
In the start up phase I use about 90 percent of my time on technique. It is to establish a platform where technique is just a tool that works and makes it easy to create journalism. The plan is that when the technical platform is in place, we can use 90 percent of the time on journalism.

Can you say something about the narrative of the productions?
It is a longer elucidation. Buy my book The Digital Storyteller , and make my bank manager happy… Very simplified you can say that it starts with the fact that we develop ideas and take a look in the archives. Then we make a thorough archival search. So we spend a lot of time storyboarding, including how the story should be put together technically and graphically. Then we make interviews with sources, find music and other audio. Finally, we gather it all in flash. During the entire process we adjust the story.

When images are displayed side by side, the viewer makes a direct connection between the two images, there is a characteristic of comic books and photo books. But when pictures appear one after another (typically for websites / TV) noise is a void. Is this not a problem?
I have never really thought about it. But it is in fact an interesting consideration. I will now describe it as a problem but as an alternative. It’s two different ways to tell a story. Noise can be interesting and very telling. Like, for example, silence can be a strong effect in a radio program. There also arises a form of noise when you put many photos next to each other (as, incidentally, you also can do on a computer screen). One of the interesting things about putting individual stills into a linear story like video images is that still photos still appears as a frozen moment. Thus you let the receiver fantasize about what happened before and after.

I have made this small project with Ilkka Uimonen that might illustrate it a little (dead link: It is not linear in the classic sense, but there is still a linearly course built into it. Yes, I think we will see much more of this, and we’re definitely moving towards changing the popular perception of a story with a linear trajectory. It is closely linked to the whole idea of ​​defining a new digital story telling.

Could you imagine that Magnum is going to make advertising photo features for / about business?
Easily. Even today, a large part of our survival based on advertising photos and other work for the companies. So it is natural to extend this to the internet. It is becoming an important marketing channel. But it will always be very distinct from our other work.

Who are your competitors?
Magnum’s biggest competitor as I see it is VII. But others may have other views. Regarding Magnum In Motion, we do not have any obvious competitors right now.

What stops the other large archive bureaus (Corbis / Getty) from doing the same as you?
They make more illustrative images. They do not come out of the same tradition of telling stories with their photos and make projects. In addition, I do not feel they have the same aura and personality about their photos. Now I speak generally, of course there are exceptions. Casper Dalhoff’s example by Corbis. They earn really good money on what they do, which is not the case for Magnum. So they probably do not have the same incentives to do so. But I think that they will try something similar to what we do along the way.

How would you describe the project to someone who is blind?
Oh my God, it’s not easy to be interviewed by a photographer…. I would probably say that it’s like when you hear a particular sound, or some music or smell something specific. So set time in emotions, create moods and form images in their head. This is also what our project is trying to do. But we also show our own pictures, and we adjust the pictures that the receiver forms inside their head.

Can you tell if there is an American style vs. European / Danish, and if there are, can they learn from each other?
Most of the photographers I work with over here are actually Europeans. Conversely, many lived for years in New York. So things are melting together a bit. It is not my impression that there really much difference. Mentality they strongly resemble the photographers and people I know in Denmark.

It’s not really what I think is the difference between Danish and American documentary photography, to but it bluntly! US Photography is much more about the history and indignation, but not necessarily great photography. Danish photography is nicer, but focus is more on form than content.
I agree. At least it has been in Denmark. But people like Henrik Saxgreen and Stig Stasig should be start to get more attention again. They stood for the more indignant, proselytizing form of photography (there are probably many others, but it is just them I recall). I would not want to scold the new generation of Danish photographers, and I feel myself as a part of the milieu on the journalistic side. Theses are good people. But I must say that I sometimes miss some more indignation and more thoughtful stories, and a bit less hype and chic sunglasses. Perhaps what I miss in is a little more recognition to those who do good and indignant photojournalism. For they are there after all. But we mostly hear of those who take beautiful photos.

What is a good picture and what is a good image according to Magnum?
I get total panic attacks every time someone asks me about something like that. I don’t know much about images and photography. I just like what they set off in my head and the way they can be used to tell stories. So it is in that direction. A documentary photo must have a mission. A message will convince the reader. It can be anything from “War destroys people” to “Consumption hysteria in the Western world has gone off the rails”. When you look at a picture it sets of some associations and imagination, which makes one wonder about photography’s message and mission. But really I do not care so much about talking about frames. I believe that documentary photography is most interesting when it creates a coherent story in a series of images. I look at this year’s photo from World Press, and think it’s just nice and emotional. But when the first impression settles, I am often a little unsure about what mission photographer the photographer is on. What does he want to tell? What injustice or justice, will he prove to the world? So, I would rather have an image that is badly composed and has exposure error, but with a mission and message. However, a very good image, of course, has both.

Martin Parr John E. Ramspott

Martin Parr. Photo: John E. Ramspott

I do not think there is a clear answer to what a good picture is according Magnum. There are about 50 active Magnum photographers, and it’s all very different personalities who have their own views on photography. You can also see this from the images coming from Magnum. They are actually very different. For example, try to compare Martin Parr and Larry Towell. To be quite honest, it’s not always the photographer who takes the best pictures that are with an agency as Magnum. It’s about being dedicated and again to have a mission. A few days ago I shared a pizza with Thomas Dworzak before he went back to Iraq. He said he was a little nervous because it’s so damn dangerous at the moment. Part of him would rather just stay in New York. But with such thinking important things in Iraq are not being documented. Thomas felt it is his obligation to document those events. That’s why he lives and breathes. So it may be that there are other photographers who take better pictures, but not in the same way.

Personally, I am surprised that a guy like Ladefoged is not in Magnum. I think he was the obvious choice, and there are probably many others in Magnum who feel the same way. Also among the photographers. Ultimately, however, there was apparently more than fifty percent of the photographers, who have not have shared this view.

Ladefoged became part of VII. I do not know what kind of pictures he presented to Magnum, but if it has been the fashion week in Paris and bodybuilder pictures, then I think that many have thought what the f @ * k, it’s a completely different style from what he had in the past. The subject (vanity) is the exciting enough and the man knows how to shoot.
Yes, as I said, I can only guess what happened. It should not be the choice of topic. Many of Magnum photographers are doing a lot of different things, from fashion and sports to war and misery.

How are the photographers?
As mentioned, they are all unique personalities. But I have been received extremely well by everyone. There is nobody who feels superior to others. This does not mean that you can not have some intense academic discussions. But there is mutual respect. Everyone fights for the same cause, and everyone wants to inspire and help each other.

Can they divided them up into groups?

Alex Webb

Alex Webb. Photo: John Ramspott

There are three groups. The old pioneers who have worked with Capa and Cartier-Bresson. People like Elliott Erwitt and Philip Jones Griffiths. They are older but very energetic people who have nothing to prove, and takes it quite easy. They can give some great advice because they have tried everything. Then there is the group of people like Susan Meiselas, Alex Webb and Larry Towell. They have made great projects but still have time for a lot and create stability in Magnum. Then there are the new and young. People like Thomas Dworzak, Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli. They still need to prove them selves, and are in constant pursuit of new projects and stories. They are super inspiring enthusiasts that can create a lot of ideas and amazing thoughts.

Do you even like photography?
Photography is fantastic. I love it. It makes my brain thinks visually, and love what images can do. But it is only part of the spectrum. Right now, my job is very centered around photography. However, I published a book in the spring (The Digital Storyteller), and I could well imagine that at one point I dedicate time to write again. But I have also thought about making a documentary. So for me it’s mostly about telling stories.

Who is your favorite photographer?

Eugene Richards

Eugene Richards. Photo: Burn Away

Panic attack again. I would love to get a week’s time to go real deep in Magnum’s archives. But I have not had the time yet. So it’s a bit patchy for me. Bresson is probably still the champion. I really like Larry Towell and Eugene Richards. But their work, I also know better than others, because I’m about to do projects with them. I made my thesis with Peter Hove Olesen, and if I look at it a little more holistically, he must be my favorite. I think he takes some great pictures (though I think he ought to dedicate some time to a longer project) and he’s a damn good friend and a fine fellow.

But I’ve never been the type of person who choses a favorite one-or-other. I can listen to Radiohead intensely for three weeks and then switch to Miles Davis and go crazy with him for a month. I feel the same with photography.

Since Magnum in Motion is not something that you plan to retire from. How long do you expect to stay?
I like to come up with ideas and concepts and develop them. That is what I am really good at. But when things are up and running, then I’m not the best man anymore. As long as there are new development at Magnum and I have fair working conditions, I would like to stay here. As mentioned the spirit of Magnum fits perfect for my mentality. But I can not really put a number of years on. I think at least it’s going to take a few years before Magnum In Motion is up and running. So unless something happens drastically before then, it is probably where you will find my for years to come.

How many Danish photographers called you to get a foothold in Magnum since you were hired?
I think around fifty. No, joking aside. Actually no-one has contacted me. Maybe they have too much polish, maybe they are too modest, or maybe they just do not bother with Magnum. Anyway, I have nothing great to say in this context. The photographers determine autocratically who should be included. But of course I can direct their attention to the interesting Danish photographers, which I have done in one case. It is, after all, easier than getting hired off the street. But one is not “nominee” without taking great pictures and without burning for a cause.

What is your attitude towards journalists also photographing?
Just as I think photographers should think of stories, I also think journalists need to think visually. Optimally, I believe that one should see oneself as a storyteller, than as a photographer or journalist. If you as a journalist can take pictures that are just as good as the photographers, I do not see major problems with it. But having said that, I think that one is forced to choose one of the roles in the day to day work. You can not be a photographing journalist and deliver the same quality. I do not believe that. There is a reason that the good photographers have spent years dedicating themselves one hundred percent to photography. Just like the good writers dedicate themselves to writing.

The work in the field can not be conducted in a double role. Few people can grasp both to interview well and take good pictures (unless you are using twice as long, and so one can just as well be two to the task).

But I’m talking about now, if you want to make documentaries of high quality. There are of course exceptions where photographer journalists or journalistic photographers can be an excellent idea. In a news situation where you accidentally find themselves in the right place. Or in a situation where you can only get access as one person.
Or the small local media where the alternative would be to completely drop using photos.

What is your affiliation with USA / New York.
From when I was about 13 until I was about 20 years old I was into the hip hip culture intensively. Today it’s become mainstream, but back then, I was considered an outsider when was a hip hopper in North Zealand. I was most interested in the New York tradition of bands like RUN DMC, Public Enemy, Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. So that was probably when my love for New York started. When I was 15 I was with my family in New York and I loved it, although I was a little scared. I got my dad to stop our rented car in a total bad-ass-hood in the South Bronx, because I saw a big thick necklace in imitation gold. I had to have it. I jumped out of the car, paid for the chain, and jumped in again. My parents were about to shit his pants. But I was happy because I had been wanting one of those gold chains since all the rappers on my records wore one. When I came home after the vacation, all my school friends thought that it was a bit strange that I ran round with a thick gold chain. I have been to New York about once a year since I was 16.