Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Constantine Manos | Leica & Magnum

Here's a Leica Camera documentary on Constantine ("Costa") Manos, the Magnum photographer known for his photographs of Boston and Greece.

Let me share a story about Costa Manos.

In 2000, I joined a street photography workshop in Old Havana with Costa Manos as instructor. It was one of the foreign destination workshops by the Maine Photographic Workshops, and probably the only workshop I ever attended. It was just after the Elian Gonzales custodial battle, which made authorized travel to the island more difficult than usual...but the workshop went ahead, and a small group of hard-core photographers made it (somewhat circuitously because of our US passports) to Havana.

It was still pre-digital world at the time, and for Costa to edit our photographs, we had to use color film and have it processed at local photo processing stores. Naturally, the quality left much to be desired, but the processing was fast and cheap. I had just returned from Nepal and India, and was quite full of myself...and super proud of the portraits of sadhus and Nepali women that I displayed to the group and for Costa's critique.

He took his time looking at my photographs, and probably seeing I was getting a little anxious, he told me something I have never forgotten:

"Your pictures are technically fine, but they're too simple...I want you to bring me complicated pictures; pictures that tell stories; pictures that I can look at for a long time..."

If there's only one piece of advice that guided my photographs since 2000, it was this. And it was then I began trying to complicate my photographs, to complicate my compositions. and to try to insert and build layers upon layers in them. Sometimes I succeed...and sometimes I fail. Most of the time, it falls somewhere in the middle....but I never forgot Costa's advice.

Photo © Constantine Manos-All Rights Reserved
The above photograph is hanging in my office, and I bought it from Costa during the Havana workshop.