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VICE Loves Magnum: An Interview with Christopher Anderson

Magnum is probably the most famous photo agency in the world. Even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are you’re familiar with its images, be they Robert Capa’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War, Steve McCurry’sAfghan Girl or Martin Parr’s very British holiday-scapes. Unlike most agencies, Magnum’s members are selected by the other photographers in the agency, which, given they’re the greatest photo agency in the world, means that becoming a member is a pretty grueling process. As part of an ongoing partnership with Magnum, we will be profiling some of their photographers over the coming weeks.

First up is Christopher Anderson, who became a Magnum nominee in 2005 and was a full member by 2010. His early work on Haitian immigrants’ illegal journey to America—during which he and they sank in the Caribbean Sea in a handmade wooden boat named Believe in God—won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal. And last year, we produced an episode of Picture Perfect about him.

His subsequent book projects include Son, a series of photos capturing his wife and young child as his own father grew ill with cancer, and Capitolio, which documents unrest in Caracas during the time of Chavez.

I had a chat with him about how he sees himself and how that’s changed over his career.


Joe Biden descends from Air Force Two in Virginia, shot for New York Magazine.

VICE: You’ve vocally distanced yourself from photojournalism in the past. Why is that?
Christopher Anderson: 
There are photojournalists in Magnum, but I don’t see it as a photojournalist agency. It’s more founded in documentary photography. If I were to use a term for myself, I feel I’d fit more closely in the bracket of documentary photography than photojournalism. The term photojournalist tends to be loaded with meaning: specifically that one reports the news. I don’t see that as my function. Even when I was photographing things that were news topics, like conflicts, my function was not that of a news reporter, my function was to comment on what I saw happen that day and to offer a subjective point of view. In my role, I was commenting on what was happening, but also trying to communicate what it felt like to be there when it was happening.

So you wanted to capture images that were more emotional and personal?
Exactly. But I would go further and say that I not just wanted to do that, that is in fact what I did do. I had no pretence of objectivity. I was photographing, giving my opinion, and I wanted you to know that I was giving my opinion.

Did your unconventional approach make it initially more difficult to sell your photos, or was it beneficial from the start?
Well, I don’t think I was going ‘round articulating that to editors, saying, “No, I won’t work for you unless you understand that what I do is subjective.” With the agency I was with before, it didn’t make a difference, as I was already sort of working for “journalistic magazines,” and I worked a lot for the New York Times Magazine. The kind of stories that I would do, even ones from conflict zones, would be longer and more in depth in their approach to what was happening there, trying to put what was happening in a more human, intimate context rather than the headlines of the day. But to be honest, the marketable advantage never crossed my mind at the time. I was just intent on trying to do what I did in the way I wanted to with as much integrity as possible.

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GDL Presents: Make Web Magic | Part I

Using the latest open web technologies, the developers creating some of the most inspired Chrome Experiments showcase their latest web experiments and discuss how they are making the web faster, more fun, and more open in this 3-episode hangout. Happy experimenting. Host: Paul Irish, Developer Advocate, Chrome Guest: Michael Deal
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ALL SMILES
ALL SMILES: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron laughed as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden jokingly mentioned that his Irish grandfather wasn’t a fan of the British as Mr. Cameron visited the State Department in Washington Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

ALBINO FAMILY
ALBINO FAMILY: From left, sons Shankar, 24 years old, Ramkishan, 19 years old, mother Mani and father Rosetauri Pullan are set to enter the Guinness World Records for their albinism. The 10 members of the Indian family all have extremely pale skin and white hair. (Indian Photo Agency/Caters News/Zuma Press)

STADIUM SHOOTOUT
STADIUM SHOOTOUT: Saraperos de Saltillo baseball team players took cover during a shootout that broke out in a parking lot during a game in Saltillo, Mexico, Tuesday. According to a state police spokesman, three gunmen were killed and another was injured and captured. (Associated Press)

LEADER LOST
LEADER LOST: Ultra Orthodox Jewish people gathered around the body of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, leader of the Hasidic sect Vizhnitz, at a synagogue during his funeral procession in Bnei Brak, Israel, Wednesday. The rabbi was 95 years old. (Oded Balilty/Associated Press)

SHINY MAN
SHINY MAN: A man painted silver enjoyed the ‘Los Pintados,’ the Painted Ones, carnival in San Nicolás de los Ranchos, Mexico, Tuesday. (Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TUNNEL TRAGEDY
TUNNEL TRAGEDY: A helicopter took off from the entrance of a tunnel near Sierre, Switzerland, early Wednesday. At least 22 schoolchildren were among 28 people from Belgium killed returning from a ski holiday when their bus hit a wall inside the tunnel Tuesday night, police said. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

RAPT
RAPT: People watched ‘Kony 2012,’ a film created by U.S.-based group Invisible Children, in Lira district, north of Kampala, Uganda, Tuesday. The film aims to raise awareness about Joseph Kony, who is accused of leading jungle militias that turned children into child soldiers. (James Akena/Reuters)

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President Obama delivered his third State of the Union speech last night before a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)
A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

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The second collection of images from 2011 once again brought us nature at its full force with floods, drought, wild fires, tornadoes and spectacular images of volcanic eruptions. The death of Osama bin Laden, the attack on an island in Norway by a lone gunman, continued fighting in Libya, and protests around the globe were a few of the news events dominating the headlines. -- Lloyd Young Please see part 1 from Monday and watch for part 3 Friday. (45 photos total)
A cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno in southern Chile, 870 km south of Santiago, on June 5. Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in half a century on June 4, 2011, prompting evacuations for 3,500 people as it sent a cloud of ash that reached Argentina. The National Service of Geology and Mining said the explosion that sparked the eruption also produced a column of gas 10 kilometers (six miles) high, hours after warning of strong seismic activity in the area. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images) )

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