Yesterday the Saatchi Gallery, London celebrated the opening of a photography exhibition in occasion of the 50th anniversary of The Sunday Times Magazine, which is UK’s first colour newspaper supplement. Two large rooms at the second floor have been filled up with several pictures by some of the world’s finest photographers. It’s an exhibition that brings in the flavour of history, culture and style throughout the past fifty years. We were there this morning for the opening and met photographers Chris Floyd and Stuart Franklin (Former Magnum Agency President).
Chris Floyd is a British photographer from Surrey, and has been a photographer for more than 20 years now. He works for The Sunday Times, The New Yorker, Esquire and GQ.
Last year you took part to a project called ‘What Is England?’ in which every county of England was represented by a single photographer. You did Surrey. How do you feel towards the place you grew up in? Surrey is quite a wealthy area. Very classically English. When you grow up in there is almost as you can’t even breath. I aspired to a more cosmopolitan life: strange people, strange clubs, a place where you can do something at 5am. In Surrey you can’t do anything at 5am without someone calling the police. I kind of hated and liked Surrey at the same time, because it made me more curious. I now live in London and I have two children and for them London is not different, but it was for me.
Is there a particular photographer you are inspired by? What are in general your sources of inspiration? All the classic ones, for sure, like Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton, William Egglestone, for instance. Among the contemporary ones, I appreciate David Sims and Peter Dench. David Bailey was my very first approach to photography when I was a teenager; I realised that photography didn’t have to be just weddings, that if you had talent you could do more than that.
Can you tell us more about picture of yours shown at this exhibition? There’s the one of Liam and Noel Gallagher. That was taken in 2000, twelve years ago. It was very obvious when they came into the studio that they weren’t talking to each other. They sat in different corners of the room, the only communication they had was to offer each other cups of tea. That was the only link they had. A part from that, they weren’t talking at all. I remember Liam was really annoyed, mumbling to himself. So I just photographed them back to back, not facing each other. I was trying to find something to demonstrate their relationship.
Do you prefer shooting in studio or doing reportage? I really like places that have been lived in. I don’t really like studios because it’s just a big empty space. You are supposed to bring a concept in the studio and then, when you leave, the concept is destroyed to make room for the next photographer. Studio has nothing to offer me. If I am to go to a studio, I am bringing nothing to a place that has nothing, which is terrifying. I don’t like this kind of thing, I am really instinctive, I interact with people so that the pictures are the outcome of my time spent with them.
Back in the days, how come you became a photographer? My father had a really nice camera, but he didn’t even allow me to touch it, thus I became quite obsessed with it. When I was fifteen, he started letting me use it, then I had a darkroom in my parents’ garage, and only when I started printing I realised how much I liked the magic of printing. Actually, I also realised that for me, being quite shy, it was great with girls, as with a camera you had a reason to talk with a girl.
Stuart Franklin is a British photographer. Or, better say, he’s a legend. He studied photography and film at West Surrey College of Art and Design and geography at University of Oxford. He worked for Sygma Agence Presse and then for Magnum Photos, of which he became president between 2006 and 2009. He’s best known for his celebrated photo of a man defying a tank in Tienanmen Square in 1989, which won him a World Press Photo Award.
How and when did your long and successful career start? Really a long time ago, maybe 14th century?[Laughs] I started 30 years ago, at the end of the 70s. I began in London with Sunday Times, the Observer, the Telegraph, and then I went to Sygma Agence Press in Paris for five years and only later I joined Magnum in 1985 of which I became then president.
How do you feel about your career in general? What has changed since you started? I would say that I have been really lucky because I joined photography almost at the end of reportage’s golden age. It was really exciting, as you had the chance to travel and to see a lot. Then it changed massively, and it is changing now as well, mostly because of television. I think Italy is one of the last country to have such a high value of photography.
What about your most famous picture, the Tienanmen one, which is also exhibited here at Saatchi today? It was 1989 and I was there for both Magnum and Time Magazine. I really loved the layout Sunday Times Magazine created for it. That was weird, because the picture was already all over the world but they managed to make their own thing with it.
Interviews by Emanuele D’Angelo and Gaia De Siena