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| interview by ignacio aronovich / lost art
G. Morris is the world's most experienced PHOTO
EDITOR. In his distinguished career he has been
Hollywood correspondent for LIFE, picture editor for LIFE
during World War II, the first picture editor for MAGNUM
Photos, picture editor for the Washington
Post and The
New York Times, and a correspondent editor for National
1) What is the question you are most asked when interviewed?
I'm most frequently asked to tell the story
of Robert Capa's D-day pictures.
2) Your career is part of the history of photojournalism,
not only as a witness but also as a key participant in defining
the visual memory of the last century. How does it feel to have
individually chosen the published images that will forever stand
as the icons of our time?
Frustrated, as I feel that the world did not learn as much from
those publications as I had hoped-we still have conflict today.
3) At a time before television, as photo editor at LIFE
you were responsible for the visual content of "America's
Most Powerful Editorial Force". As an editor, do you feel
you were able to manipulate public perception of events through
your selection? How conscious were you of this during the process?
I was quite conscious that we were part of the war effort.
4) You spent time with Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Chim, Werner Bischof,
Erwitt, Sebastião Salgado, W. Eugene Smith, just to list
a few of the greatest photographers you edited. Do you have
a personal favorite photographer?
I have often said that I learned most from Capa in personal
brought me Paris, for example); he was a superb photojournalist;
taught me to judge photos as art and to think about them. Gene
infected me with his passion. I loved them all, and you could
Haas, a truly great photographer who has been neglected.
5) You edited iconic images which had great impact worldwide.
Images such as Eddie Adams' (*)
just to cite one example. Which photo you edited do you think
caused the most change in an issue?
Perhaps the Eddie Adams, which shocked Americans into a realization
of how brutal that war was.
6) You photographed
a captured German soldier at the siege of the Port of Saint-Malo.
A few minutes before this soldier was shooting at you. When
you took his picture you thought, "you poor kid".
Do you have any information about the soldier in the picture
after this fact?
No. I don't know for sure that HE was the one who shot at me;
he was one of a group and one of them had probably shot at me.
7) The time after the liberation of Paris was unique.
You met Cartier-Bresson and he introduced you to Doisneau
(among others). You also met Marlene Dietrich at this time.
How did you feel when you discovered/met these amazing photographers
at this time?
8) You have stated "being depressed about the
failure of the public to respond to what we have done so far".
After a century of strong images, humans are still at war, torture
still occurs, and atrocities continue. We are bombarded daily
with an endless amount of images from all over the world. Have
humans become desensitized? Can images still create change even
if "the child of the future can become a picture editor
by simply choosing from a daily menu"?
Those are good questions and I don't know the answers.
9) Most media has shifted from news coverage to entertainment.
Celebrities sell more magazines than world issues. Medicins
Sans Frontieres just released a report titled "The
Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006".
"Untruth lies in the things unphotographed".
Do you think documenting these stories can bring change?
That has always been my hope. One thing I find encouraging is
that we are now more likely to see BOTH,or ALL sides of a conflict.
10) In France (and in Brazil) droit d'auteur (*)
and an increased perception of personal rights have made it
increasingly difficult for photographers to operate. Brazilian
photographers have been sued for publishing photos of people
in public. As a result, some are going to the extreme of photographing
people from behind their back so they may not be identified
and subsequently sue. Candid photography is threatened and documentation
projects are subject to legal action. More and more places restrict
photography and limit its use. Even the nocturnal illumination
of the Eiffel Tower has been copyrighted. Is there an end to
this or will all photographers just have to ignore/work around
these restrictions (and pay the consequences)?
This is a terrible problem, especially if it inhibits photojournalists
taking pictures of REAL life instead of setup situations.
11) Digital photography and the internet have changed
the world. We now have instant coverage of worldwide issues
not only by professional media but with the popularization of
digital cameras also by amateurs. Individuals are now able to
report as they wish without foreign intervention. However, digital
manipulation and recent cases of altered photos have cast a
shadow of doubt on the trustworthiness of some of this information.
Everyone can be their own editor, what now?
Professional picture editors are more needed than ever. A huge
percentage of the huge number of pictures now taken are junk
and don't deserve publication. Alteration is a problem but photos
have always been retouched.
12) In 1991 you and seventeen american expatriates formed
Americans for Peace in an attempt to stop the Gulf War and find
other ways of punishing Saddam Hussein. He is now dead. Bush
is sending more troops to Iraq. Are you still able to remain
optimistic about the future?
I am more concerned about my country's actions around the world-foremost
in Iraq-than ever in my 90 years. I am for withdrawing from
Iraq and for disarmament-starting with the U.S.
13) After all these years, do you have any regrets?
I regret not having been able to convince people that "People
Are People, the World Over." There should be no hatred
based on religion, race and nationality.
What is the best venue/magazine(s) today to publish/view photography
In my view newspapers have eclipsed magazines. I think today's
New York Times does a superb job with photos. I give World
Press Photo some credit; press agencies now do a far better
job than they once did.
Favorite photographic exhibition space?
Hard to say. I love the big outdoor exhibitions that have been
pioneered by Yann
16) Do you photograph? Do you take any photos for yourself?
No, very seldom. I don't regard myself as a photographer.
17) Favorite restaurant in Paris?
I'm not a gourmet. I eat just across the street in a very popular
called Chez Janou.
Is the John G. Morris collection in the University of Chicago
Library available to the public?
will be available to scholars, but probably not until late 2007
or early 2008. It takes time for them to put it in order,and
the papers have not even arrived there yet.
Any comment on Magnum today?
miracle is that Magnum survives, while many of its best clients
have fallen (e.g.Life and yesterday Time fired
20) With digital transmissions from the field, photjournalists
have become their own editors. As the most experienced photo
editor in history, what would be your advice for their editing?
very good photographers are poor editors, which I have never
understood. They fail to analyze the MESSAGE conveyed by the
photo. Others ignore FORM-I learned most about editing from
that standpoint by working with Cartier-Bresson. He learned
from going to museums and studying art.