December 2, 2013
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György László at L1GHTB1TES keeps finding gems to tantalise us with, this one is from his first post.
GL: Your pictures from Dakar are currently on display at the Somerset House in London. When I saw them I sensed a mixture of immediacy and formal discipline. How did you take these pictures?
MM: While working on En Route To Dakar, I was lucky enough to be mentored by Mr. Martin Parr, whom I like to call Mr. Martin. Once, as he was commenting on my photographs, Mr. Martin told me, to spend much more time on taking my photographs. “Mr. Martin, more than one hour per photograph?”, I asked. “One hour? Mimi, you must stay one day, one week, one month on a photograph… until it is good!”
So I went back to Dakar and applied the methodology suggested by him. This picture must have been taken in March 2008. There was this spot along the motorway, where a bridge was to be built, but at that moment people still had to just cross the highway to go from one part of Dakar to the other. Every day from early morning until the evening, commuters, school kids, vendors, women… Everyone was flowing from one side to the other and I thought this was pretty symbolic, important for my story, and mostly, it was visually compelling!
I waited in the middle of the carriageway and stayed there all morning and the day after all afternoon and the following day from morning until late afternoon and so on… I have a lot of photographs of people jumping across the highway. This is one I am quite happy about. I like the colors, and I like the posture of this lady imposing her elegant and eloquent figure on my frame.
GL: How do you get ready for such moments mentally? And how do you make sure that the image is going to be okay technically?
MM: Generally speaking, I believe in the photographer’s expertise to be able to catch volatile moments, to be able to render them universal in a photograph. This is what is exciting about reportage/documentary photography. Only by doing so can you maintain a good honest balance between you, the photographer, and the reality you are trying to capture.
It’s a bit like fishing. If you go out to the ocean, place a bomb into the sea, detonate it and then come and collect the dead fish, this is not what I call fishing, this is plain and simple mass murder! But when you go out and spend a day with your rod waiting for the good catch, not only you’ll feel more in balance with nature, but you’ll have thought a great deal during that day. That’s why fishermen and photographers are usually wise people, because they learn to observe and to listen. The means are as important as the end!
I am always aware of the moments I would want to catch with my camera, even if for some reason I do not have the camera with me. This is my natural attitude towards life. Yes, I do go to places where things are more likely to ‘happen’ but photographs are virtually everywhere!
As far as the technical aspect of capturing the right image, here you need some skills, you need to know your tools, you have to master your camera and be ready to capture the moment without hesitation. I must admit that I did loose a few photographs along the years, but this is also part of the game. If it is true that you learn from your mistakes, then I must be very clever by now!