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Magnum Photographer Mark Power Explains Why Prints Are Still Powerful

Magnum Photographer Mark Power Explains Why Prints Are Still Powerful

The Magnum Way For Escape print sale runs from Monday July 12th to Sunday July 18th. You can own a print from your favorite photographer for only $100!

“I do love the physical object,” says Magnum photographer Mark Power. In this instance, he’s referring to the physical photograph, something that seems to be left behind as we sink deeper into the digital world. Power is an advocate for taking images from the screen and turning them into prints. And for this week only, you can grab one of his own for just $100. In line with Magnum’s Way For Escape print sale, we caught up with Power to talk photography, pandemics, and his beloved Leicester City.

Phoblographer: Hey Mark! You’ve been in this game for some time. How would you describe the current state current of your relationship with photography? And in what way did the pandemic impact your ability to create photographs? How did you adapt to it all?

Mark Power: In short, I found it very difficult to make new work during the pandemic. For months I did very little at all, but I’ve started to come out of that rather dark place in the last two or three months. I now go on long walks around Brighton, where I live, camera and tripod slung over my shoulder. It’s nothing profound, but it’s helping me in a cathartic way—no doubt about that.

I used the so-called lockdown efficiently in other ways, however. I moved studios (no small undertaking) and edited and sequenced one book (‘Good Morning, America: Volume Three’), which was published towards the end of last year. I’ve also been working on two other books, the first of pictures I made in Guernsey between 2016 and 2018 (to be published very soon) and the second a more long-term project, putting together a new and much-expanded version of my first book, ‘The Shipping Forecast’, which was originally published in 1996.

I always knew that as I got older I would spend more time looking back at work made in the past. Re-visiting ‘The Shipping Forecast’ has been such a pleasurable experience, poring over 1200 contact sheets, pulling out pictures I don’t remember taking, and trying to make sense of this enormous mass of photographs.

Phoblographer: Now that the world is slowly getting back to some form of normality, what’s going to be your photographic focus in the near future?

Mark Power: Naturally, I’m desperate to return to America. I’m committed to making a series of five books, but to date, only three have been published. I returned from my last visit in February 2019 and obviously haven’t been back since. However, last week I booked a flight to Denver in October. I live in hope.

Phoblographer: NFTs are the complete opposite of a printed photograph. How do you feel about the new form of photographic consumption?

Mark Power: I’m afraid this is going to be a disappointing answer. I’m not particularly interested in the idea, and certainly not for my own work. Call me old-fashioned, but I do like a physical object, something I can hold in my hands. That’s why I continue to make prints, all the time.

“…it’s heart-warming to look at a well-made print that I made in my darkroom when in my 20s. And looking at everything together gives me a sense of continuum, which is really valuable and encourages me to do more.”

— Mark Power

Phoblographer: You’re well-traveled: How has the manner in which you approach an assignment evolved throughout your career in terms of planning and preparation?

Mark Power: I’m much more relaxed about assignments these days, as I am all about work I make for myself. I’ve simplified the equipment I use, and it lies in my studio permanently packed into a single large bag, ready to go at a moment’s notice. A simple thing like a ‘to take ‘list, which almost never changes, has helped me sleep at night – obvious as it is – and (usually) I no longer forget anything. These days I rarely, if ever, get assigned to do something I wouldn’t generally want to do anyway, for which I realize I’m extremely fortunate.

Sometimes I research very thoroughly the place I’m visiting, but other times I prefer to be taken by surprise. Since a lot of my work is about the clash between imagination and reality, it can be crucial to arrive having done no background reading whatsoever. This may seem strange, but I get a lot of energy from this kind of situation.

Phoblographer: You’ve sold a lot of prints. But if you were going to invest in a photographic print, who would be your go-to photographer and why?

Mark Power: I’m saving up to buy a Chris Killip print. Chris sadly left us last year – a great loss to our small photographic community. His book’ In Flagrante’ is still my favorite even after all these years (it was published in 1988).

Phoblographer: In 2021, where the world is deep in digital consumption, how would you convince the newer generation that a physical print is still an attractive option?

Mark Power: Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to make prints during, or immediately after, every project I’ve ever done. I have thousands of these stored away in archival boxes, all signed, dated, and captioned. I’m so glad I did this; it’s heart-warming to look at a well-made print that I made in my darkroom when in my 20s. And looking at everything together gives me a sense of continuum, which is really valuable and encourages me to do more. Somehow I can’t imagine getting the same feeling from looking at a career on a computer screen.

Phoblographer: Oh, and one final question: What’s more rewarding – printing one of your photographs or Leicester City winning the Premier League?

Mark Power: You’re joking, aren’t you? There’s no comparison! Of course, I’d take the Foxes winning the Premier League (again!) above pretty much anything. I grew up in Leicester, and used to go to every game, home and away, during my teens, but these days I don’t get to as many matches as I’d like. Maybe three or four a season. But that doesn’t make me any less of an obsessive fan.

I’m quite open about this on Instagram, often posting pictures about the team, all in the knowledge that I’ll lose at least 100 followers each time. Somehow or other, I manage to claw back the same number by the time I post the next football-based picture, and it happens all over again. So I have other interests besides photography, all of which help to keep me balanced; I think that’s important and certainly nothing to be embarrassed by.

Own a Mark Power Print

Kirishima National Park, Miyazaki, Japan. April 2000 © Mark Power / Magnum Photos

“Photography is in itself a means of escape. Whether we travel to distant lands, or simply step out from our own front door, to photograph is to enter another world — another way of thinking, another way of looking, another way of seeing.

Absolute concentration is required if one is to be present in mind as well as in body. Then, the very act of making a photograph creates a memory rarely forgotten. Beyond the print — the physical reminder of a fraction of a second that we can literally hold in our hands — are those moments recalled before and after pushing the shutter. These are often the most precious of all.

Conversely, we can also lose ourselves in a photograph made by someone else. In those cases, without knowledge of what might otherwise have happened, we are left with only the moment: with what we can see. The best photographs are, for me, open-ended. They suggest, rather than tell. They exercise our imagination and take us on a journey, usually to a place with a memory all of our own.”

To purchase this Mark Power print for only $100 visit the website here.