Entering New Worlds Through Photography


CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: I’m still
endlessly fascinated by what is that magic dust that,
sprinkled on a certain image, makes it more powerful
than another image? It goes so far beyond
composition and lighting all those things. But yet, it’s kind of all those
things mixed together. And that’s the essence of what
is interesting about photography to me. Oh man, I love when the
city looks like that. My name is Christopher
Anderson, full member in Magnum. There was a certain idea, the
notion that this camera could represent for me, especially
growing up in a small town in Texas. This little machine represented
a way out. So there was that sense of
having an idea of wanting to do something with this. But what that really meant
of being a professional– no. When I got out of university,
I was planning to go into academia. But a friend of my family got
me a job in “The Dallas Morning News” printing
pictures and developing film there. I did that as a summer job, and
I knew then I wanted to be a photographer somehow. And I was never going to
go back to academia. I got really lucky. Someone gave me a job to take
pictures before I even really understood that there was
a job description of professional photographer. I had no formal training. I really didn’t know how
to work a camera. I certainly had no journalism
training. I became this professional
and learned on the job. And I spent many years just
trying to do my job as good as I could do it before I ever
start really thinking about putting very basic questions
to myself, like what is a photograph? And what do I want my
photographs to represent? Those sort of questions
came to me much later. Here’s the Haiti boat story– June 18, 2000. In Haiti, this writer and I– Michael Finkel– met this guy in Haiti who told
us an amazing story about trying to get on a boat and
sail to the United States. We got on one of these boats– 44 Haitians plus myself
and the writer. And we set sail. And a few days later,
we started sinking. That moment in the boat
when we realized that we were sinking— up until that point, I hadn’t
taken many photographs. And the guy we were with, David,
says, Chris, you’d better start taking
pictures now. We’re going to be dead
in 45 minutes. Without thinking too much
about it, I begin making photographs, as we were
literally saying goodbye to each other. This is the guy, David. That was the moment we realized
we were sinking. You can see the water
coming in from the inside of the boat there. And later on, after that, I
thought about that moment over and over again, asking myself
the question, why make photographs that I assumed
no one would see? And the only answer that I could
come up with was that the actual act of making
pictures, photography in and of itself, it had as much to do
for me about explaining the world to myself as it did
explaining it to someone else. The very act of photography
was part of how I understood things. It crystallized the notion,
the idea of what it was I thought about photography
and what I wanted to do with pictures. It changed everything. And from that point, I guess
editors thought that I was looking for danger and was
willing to go through some discomfort. So I started getting offers to
do the obvious thing, which is go to wars. And that set about– the next
several years was this kind of blur from Israel, Palestine to
Lebanon to Africa to Iraq, Afghanistan. But with a clear idea
of what I wanted the pictures to be about. I wanted to find a way for
someone to feel what it was that I experienced– an emotional quality that cut
through all the ideas of facts and journalism, but went
straight to something else, which is an emotional truth. I don’t know if I made a
conscious decision to stop doing wars or not. Part of it’s I had a child. One skill set that I had in
doing that kind of work was that I was able to remain
relatively calm in those situations. And now, I felt like I didn’t
trust how I would react. But there’s also the other side
of me, which is that, for me, there was never this oh, I
used to be that and now I’ve become this. It’s just we grow and we
change as human beings. So even from a creative
standpoint, I’m taken in different directions now– portraits, for instance. And really looking at why
I like some portraits– why some portraiture is
compelling and others are not. And me, not coming from any
formal, technical training of photography, forcing myself to
learn some of those things in order to pull off what it is
that I want to photograph. Yeah, I kind of like
those challenges. [INAUDIBLE]. [PRETEND MONSTER GROWL] [LAUGHING] What did you have? What did I have? Mmhm. What do you mean,
what did I have? No, a present. A present? Mmhm. If I have a present? Mmhm. The son project– the photographs of my
son and my father– really happened quite
organically in the sense that I had a kid. It started like any father
taking pictures of their kid. At about the same time,
my father became ill. And so I was thinking about
very obvious themes of the cycles of life and death. And that’s the weird thing
about parenthood– is completely universal
and mundane. And at the same time, it’s
completely unique and intimate and special. And so I began photographing my
father and my son, and at the beginning, just without
thinking about it. And it started to dawn on me
that what I was seeing in the pictures was that quality that
I felt like I’d been on a search for since I first
started using a camera. And that everything that I had
photographed up until that point was as if it were just
some sort of preparation to bring me to that point, to
provide me with the tools or the insight or whatever
it was in order to make those pictures. And that that was
my life’s work. It was very quick, also, because
that particular set of pictures loses its magic the
moment that it becomes a conscious work. Flash card, camera, lenses,
extra battery. See, I always want to take
a picture right here. And I can’t. I’d have to park my car. The work I’m doing now with “New
York Magazine,” it’s a big change for me, because I’m
staying mostly at home to do it after years of having worked
mostly in strange places around the world. Check this out, this old Bronx
courthouse that’s just bricked up and empty. And also, for me, it is
an extension of what the son work was. The son photographs are this
first time where I look at my own world, at this city in which
I live, and the people that I live with in this city. And so in that sense, the work
retains this personal edge to it, this personal connection– my world of New York and my
friendships with other photographers and artists
and writers. And it’s part of this collective
experience that we’re having now that I’m
privileged enough to get to photograph in a concentrated
way. Yeah, I don’t know Spanish
Harlem as well as I would like to. I would like to really
explore it more. Wow, there is a– I’m going to try to stop here,
because there’s a great shot. And these aren’t really the
projects that we’re looking at, but I see a great
shot here. I go out, and I think of it as I
start turning over rocks and see what I find underneath. And sometimes, you find
the most interesting things under a rock. And sometimes, you
find nothing. But a lot of it is just about
going out and meeting people and seeing where
that leads to. Hello. Hi. Are you Ms. [INAUDIBLE]? No. No? Is she– She’s not here. She’s not here. Oh. I heard she takes care
of the gardens. Is that right? Yeah. What’s that? She went to the store. They said she’d be back
in a little bit. There she is right there. But that’s my garden
right there. Oh, you have a garden
here, too? Yeah. Oh, great. We met a couple of women
who have tended gardens outside of projects. They were a connection
into this world. You never know what
that leads to. You never know when you get
invited in for tea or whatever, and all of sudden,
this other world opens up to you that you would have never
known just by walking by or just by showing up. There’s no winners and there’s
no losers out here. Everybody wins. I want ya’ll to understand
that. Nobody loses. Everybody wins in
this tournament. If there’s one word that I hope
describes my pictures– the gist of my pictures–
it’s intimacy. And that requires an interaction
with people, to some extent. I want the pictures to feel
more than just this shadow that passes by and
stops a scene. I want it to feel engaged
and connected. New York is one of the strange
places to photograph, because first of all, it’s terribly
photogenic. There are pictures– there
are cliches everywhere. But there’s this light
bouncing around. There’s this, graphically,
these big buildings and canyons of the streets
and these characters all over the place. And also, it’s overwhelming. It’s daunting– this idea of photographing New
York, because it is a genre in and of itself. It’s a photographic cliche. You feel overwhelmed
by this idea. How can I ever attempt
to do that? It’s all been done before. At the same time, it hasn’t
been done, I feel, from my point of view right now in this
year, this week, today. As I’m working, I’m thinking of
these images that I make on the street today, what that
picture will mean 10 years from now. I think sometimes pictures age
well in the sense that today, it’s a picture that doesn’t
look like much or it doesn’t mean much. But can you imagine this thing
10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now? That’s how photography,
to me, is interesting. It’s not just that moment. It’s not just today. It’s something that’s
a longer thing. So yeah, I’m aware of the
assignment today, and I go out and I do that, do my work,
and do it correctly. But really, as I’m doing an
assignment, it’s about the longer view, the bigger picture,
and how this thing becomes a piece of a
much larger puzzle.

100 Replies to “Entering New Worlds Through Photography”

  1. This is very inspiring to me. I have been in love with photography since I was a child. I just don't know what to do with all of my millions of photographs… framing them wouldn't be enough for me. I feel like I need to show the world how I see things.

  2. That part about a photo's meaning potentially becoming more impactful with age is awesome. I'm not sure I've ever really thought about it that way, but it's so true.

  3. Why does the larger boy in the bathtub picture have titties? Didn't care at all for this photographer or his work.

  4. "The difference is that now I work from my home, where I would formerly find myself working in strange places around the world". If N.Y.C. isn't a "strange place", I don't know what is!  Damn. I have been taking photographs since I was a child, when I was given my first "Kodak" "Instamatic" camera, as a birthday present, my uncle Richard Santuci was a semi- famous N.Y.C. photographer, who shared a studio with Ralph S. Hattersley. (Ralph- Santuci Studios), in Hell's Kitchen, in the '60's, and early '70's, Richard's son, Christopher, (my cousin) is now gaining fame as a D.P., making Indie films, and commercials, I was accepted at the Roy H. Park School at Ithaca College, for Film and Graphics, then had my application revoked, (Possibly, I have made several attempts to be reconsidered)  I envy all working photographers. I would like to do what Anderson has been doing, get myself attached to a publication, or production company, and travel around taking photographs, or making videos. I just eat up documentaries like this one. Great.

  5. He's a good photographer, no doubt. But he lives a life of comfort, not struggle. He mistakenly thinks he gives the world something by shooting a war, in fact, he shows us that he was there. Life is not about him, nor his photography. He is a nice guy, but too in love with himself. Magnum doesn't mean you are the pope

  6. well spoken dude but like someone below commented, "he's just proving that he was there" … like there's no sense of danger or 1st person perspective angle of emotion in his war or public housing pictures. I mean, compare it to street photographers who did the same thing. Boogie for instance shot bk bloods with the guns pointed at him. crack heads in the den, etc… When you look at his pictures, you can feel the adrenaline and know he just didn't go there for a day ~ This guy's photos just don't show any struggle or hunger. Kind of just looks like pictures from tourist who was on vacation at the wrong time. Hence there's no dynamic angle in a dangerous setting…. just a picture taken of a dangerous setting from a safe enough distance. However, his photos of his son are great. I really liked those.

  7. He says he was on the boat with a writer named Micheal Finkle. This happens to be the same Finkle played by Jonah Hill in the movie True Story

  8. Holy shit i resonate with this guy so much and yet he is so unique from me. It is that whole universal but individual thing.

  9. Very interesting documentary. This is exactly what I want to do with my photography. Freeze that moment in a frame, take in all the surrounding feelings which will be then kept in that picture forever.

  10. I really enjoyed this piece. I live in NY and work all around the NY metro area. I love photography but unfortunately that's not the line of work I'm in. I'm in lots of different areas for work that I might see something that I would love to photograph but worried people will find it intrusive. Hard to explain in a YouTube comment. How do you get that "in". Do you tell people you work for a magazine or do you just strike up conversations? Thanks.

  11. im a student in hopes to show the world to everyone through my work… i'd choose making a difference over money anyday. i love this man's work and his passion…

  12. You chat up all these people as if you're interesting in their lives but really it's just the pursue you own endeavor.

  13. So inspired! Everyone when they go into street/editorial photography, they focus too much on composition rather than just getting the shot. Chris Anderson has shown that perhaps what makes a photograph is just being a part of the moment, and simply focussing on capturing it and all the emotions that come along with it.

  14. How thoughtful and eloquent. Makes me consider things I hadn't before. I'm very inspired! Thank you Mr. Anderson.

  15. https://youtu.be/Yj32koPVwFs?t=237 "Why make photographs that I assumed no one would see? The only answer that I could come up with was that the actual act of making pictures, photography in and of itself, has much to do for me about explaining the world to myself as it did explaining it to some one else. The very act of photography was part of how I understood things."

  16. I enjoy these inspiring photography vids, but would it kill you to feature someone other than a bunch of white dudes? Now that we're in the 21st century there's actually a lot of photojournalists who aren't white bros

  17. White male artist… 1) exotify colored people 2) eroticize women 3) use children to show "sensitive" side 4) traveled to "strange" (his own word) places to build up on street creds 5) tell the world he's not cliché …. voila, a great "artist" is born!

  18. A reminder that you don't need to look far to make interesting photos. Here's Chris Anderson photographing my home and that's pretty cool.

  19. Everybody brings something different to photography. Everyone sees things different and has different equipment etc. There is no good reason to criticize another photographer. If you like what you shot, then that is a goal achieved. Be yourself. Capture life. The "best" photographers don't work for National Geographic etc. Every photographer brings something to the world of photography, so shoot on. Don't be discouraged by others.

  20. Exceptional video, thanks Vice you always have a great way of capturing a different perspective.

  21. I wonder, how the Magnum photographer make a living since the Photo Agency no longer serving the press world. Just concern the photographers.

  22. Dear Vice.. how does a no name photographer get the chance to shoot with Vice, and to be presented on program?.. www.streykatt.com

  23. Its a shame that you have not shown much of his photography. Work on my Pride series from 20 years of Pride. Europe. Great video otherwise.

  24. Yea, lost interest when he said "they gave me a job"…. How bout writing on someone who had to WORK for what was handed to him….

  25. I must attest to the fact that their is something special about Photographing NYC. It’s just a photogenic Model of a city like he said. Always something interesting and unexpected around the corner. Hard to take a bad photo of the city

  26. @3:47 BULLSHIT, he started/kept shooting because of the possibility of surviving and documenting the almost-death experience – should be a bit more honest with himself instead of going for the pseudo-spiritual pseudo-transcendent explaining the world to himself delusion

  27. His passion for photography is very infectious. I sometimes have the privilege of traveling for my job and I always take my camera with me. The last trip was to a small town north of Branson, Missouri where I spent the better part of a chilly Saturday afternoon wandering the streets and taking photographs. I'm sure I looked out of place to the local townspeople, but I found it exciting to experience and document a new place.

  28. I am a street photographer by hobby and passion too. What is he says in the end is exactly what fascinates me. The pictures i take, how well are they going to age? Maybe 7-8 years from now, when we will see physical changes in fashion, streets, shops, cars. When there will be a reference for comparison. I am in love with this idea.

  29. I can't agree more about how lucky you were to get your first job to take photos. I am stuck in my health care profession that provides me a stable income. I think about photography day and night but have to work in different field because… you know …bills etc…

  30. It's such a gift and delight to see the world through the eyes of a great photographer. They have the power to 'freeze' time

  31. Great this far .. I am a Canadian documentary photographer the Dominican Republic and I plan on taking some time in Hati

  32. Hey at least he's not only taking pictures of the typical safe touristy spots. Dude is in the hood. 😲👍

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