Interview with Alex Majoli, Magnum Photos

IPA Craft & Tools, Invisible Interviews, Street Photography 11 Comments

We were invited to the Decisive Moment by Leica & Magnum event in Paris on 21st to 22nd June, but unfortunately could not attend. Edward Teo, a friend of ours did, and here is an interview he did with Magnum’s Alex Majoli, who shot the official Leica M9-P pictures previewed during the event.

Text & photograph: Edward Teo

The day after the Decisive Moment by Leica & Magnum event, Leica management as well as selected Magnum photographers were made available for interviews by journalist and bloggers. While the morning wet weather and Paris peak hour traffic did pose some problems for the schedule, I managed to have a couple of 1-on-1 interviews with Leica’s supervisory board chairman, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, and Alex Majoli from Magnum Photos.

Good afternoon, Alex.

Q: A question for the gear nuts. What camera equipment do you use in the field?
Alex: I used to use the Leica M6, then the Olympus pens, but now I use the Leica M9.

Q: Why the Leica M9?
Alex: I have always used Leica, but for digital, I have waited for the M9, and I’m happy to use Leica as the lenses are important for me. You don’t necessarily need a camera with lots of features, but at the end you don’t need them to take a good picture. The photographer makes it a good picture, not (all the features on) the camera. A camera like Leica has a good lens and a really nice body, that’s it… and that’s all you need.

Q: How did you start out in photography?
Alex: It started when I was really young, and it’s something I have developed over the years. I started when I was 12, so I didn’t really have any inspiration or mentor. But I just kept doing it everyday, and I ended up being a photographer.

Q: Were there days where you just said, “enough of photography”? And how did you subsequently re-centre back to photography?
Alex: Many times, at least 4-5 times in my life I remember I just wanted to give up everything. But really, at the end of the day, the best thing I know how to do is take pictures.

Q: What are some of your current projects?
Alex: “Hotel Marinum”, “Libera me”, and “Requiem in Samba”. But the one I’m really working on now is “Requiem in Samba”, which is a project about Brazil. I live there, so I start from when I left Brazil and try to continue to have a series of pictures about Brazil that make sense and can make a book about Brazil. This includes everything like landscapes, personal experience, events, crime, culture, everything – my personal view of Brazil.

Q: I also note that you done war-time photojournalism (Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan), and this can in stark contrast to your personal projects. How do you share your time between these?
Alex: They are like the same thing, although one is like you go out to photograph conflict, it’s more about what I am and what I want to do. It’s not about what kind of photography I do there or the other places, but what kind of experience I want to witness or experience. Naturally, I get more satisfaction out of the personal projects, but the assignments help to pay rent, pay electricity, give food, and help fund some of the personal projects – this is normal for photojournalist.

Q: What would you say to a young aspiring photojournalist?
Alex: Just work a lot everyday. Be yourself and work hard. At the end of day, it’s about that.

Q: Tongue-in-cheek following from the podium discussion yesterday regarding the use of the iPhone, would you take on an assignment with just an iPhone?
Alex: Why? When you always carry around your Leica?

Thank you, Alex.

Text & photograph: Edward Teo

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Comments 11

  1. Looking for a way to contact Alex Majoli to ask permission for use of a photo.
    Any help greatly appreciated.

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