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  • CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: I'm still endlessly fascinated by

  • what is that magic dust that, sprinkled on a certain image,

  • makes it more powerful than another image?

  • It goes so far beyond composition and lighting all

  • those things.

  • But yet, it's kind of all those things mixed together.

  • And that's the essence of what is interesting about

  • photography to me.

  • Oh man, I love when the city looks like that.

  • My name is Christopher Anderson,

  • full member in Magnum.

  • There was a certain idea, the notion that this camera could

  • represent for me, especially growing up in a

  • small town in Texas.

  • This little machine represented a way out.

  • So there was that sense of having an idea of wanting to

  • do something with this.

  • But what that really meant of being a professional--

  • no.

  • When I got out of university, I was

  • planning to go into academia.

  • But a friend of my family got me a job in "The Dallas

  • Morning News" printing pictures and

  • developing film there.

  • I did that as a summer job, and I knew then I wanted to be

  • a photographer somehow.

  • And I was never going to go back to academia.

  • I got really lucky.

  • Someone gave me a job to take pictures before I even really

  • understood that there was a job description of

  • professional photographer.

  • I had no formal training.

  • I really didn't know how to work a camera.

  • I certainly had no journalism training.

  • I became this professional and learned on the job.

  • And I spent many years just trying to do my job as good as

  • I could do it before I ever start really thinking about

  • putting very basic questions to myself, like what is a

  • photograph?

  • And what do I want my photographs to represent?

  • Those sort of questions came to me much later.

  • Here's the Haiti boat story--

  • June 18, 2000.

  • In Haiti, this writer and I--

  • Michael Finkel--

  • met this guy in Haiti who told us an amazing story about

  • trying to get on a boat and sail to the United States.

  • We got on one of these boats--

  • 44 Haitians plus myself and the writer.

  • And we set sail.

  • And a few days later, we started sinking.

  • That moment in the boat when we realized

  • that we were sinking---

  • up until that point, I hadn't taken many photographs.

  • And the guy we were with, David, says, Chris, you'd

  • better start taking pictures now.

  • We're going to be dead in 45 minutes.

  • Without thinking too much about it, I begin making

  • photographs, as we were literally saying goodbye to

  • each other.

  • This is the guy, David.

  • That was the moment we realized we were sinking.

  • You can see the water coming in from the

  • inside of the boat there.

  • And later on, after that, I thought about that moment over

  • and over again, asking myself the question, why make

  • photographs that I assumed no one would see?

  • And the only answer that I could come up with was that

  • the actual act of making pictures, photography in and

  • of itself, it had as much to do for me about explaining the

  • world to myself as it did explaining it to someone else.

  • The very act of photography was part of how

  • I understood things.

  • It crystallized the notion, the idea of what it was I

  • thought about photography and what I

  • wanted to do with pictures.

  • It changed everything.

  • And from that point, I guess editors thought that I was

  • looking for danger and was willing to go through some

  • discomfort.

  • So I started getting offers to do the obvious thing, which is

  • go to wars.

  • And that set about-- the next several years was this kind of

  • blur from Israel, Palestine to Lebanon to Africa to Iraq,

  • Afghanistan.

  • But with a clear idea of what I wanted the

  • pictures to be about.

  • I wanted to find a way for someone to feel what it was

  • that I experienced--

  • an emotional quality that cut through all the ideas of facts

  • and journalism, but went straight to something else,

  • which is an emotional truth.

  • I don't know if I made a conscious decision to stop

  • doing wars or not.

  • Part of it's I had a child.

  • One skill set that I had in doing that kind of work was

  • that I was able to remain relatively calm in those

  • situations.

  • And now, I felt like I didn't trust how I would react.

  • But there's also the other side of me, which is that, for

  • me, there was never this oh, I used to be that and now I've

  • become this.

  • It's just we grow and we change as human beings.

  • So even from a creative standpoint, I'm taken in

  • different directions now--

  • portraits, for instance.

  • And really looking at why I like some portraits--

  • why some portraiture is compelling and others are not.

  • And me, not coming from any formal, technical training of

  • photography, forcing myself to learn some of those things in

  • order to pull off what it is that I want to photograph.

  • Yeah, I kind of like those challenges.

  • [INAUDIBLE].

  • [PRETEND MONSTER GROWL]

  • [LAUGHING]

  • What did you have?

  • What did I have?

  • Mmhm.

  • What do you mean, what did I have?

  • No, a present.

  • A present?

  • Mmhm.

  • If I have a present?

  • Mmhm.

  • The son project--

  • the photographs of my son and my father--

  • really happened quite organically in the sense that

  • I had a kid.

  • It started like any father taking pictures of their kid.

  • At about the same time, my father became ill.

  • And so I was thinking about very obvious themes of the

  • cycles of life and death.

  • And that's the weird thing about parenthood--

  • is completely universal and mundane.

  • And at the same time, it's completely unique and intimate

  • and special.

  • And so I began photographing my father and my son, and at

  • the beginning, just without thinking about it.

  • And it started to dawn on me that what I was seeing in the

  • pictures was that quality that I felt like I'd been on a

  • search for since I first started using a camera.

  • And that everything that I had photographed up until that

  • point was as if it were just some sort of preparation to

  • bring me to that point, to provide me with the tools or

  • the insight or whatever it was in order

  • to make those pictures.

  • And that that was my life's work.

  • It was very quick, also, because that particular set of

  • pictures loses its magic the moment that it becomes a

  • conscious work.

  • Flash card, camera, lenses, extra battery.

  • See, I always want to take a picture right here.

  • And I can't.

  • I'd have to park my car.

  • The work I'm doing now with "New York Magazine," it's a

  • big change for me, because I'm staying mostly at home to do

  • it after years of having worked mostly in strange

  • places around the world.

  • Check this out, this old Bronx courthouse that's just bricked

  • up and empty.

  • And also, for me, it is an extension of what

  • the son work was.

  • The son photographs are this first time where I look at my

  • own world, at this city in which I live, and the people

  • that I live with in this city.

  • And so in that sense, the work retains this personal edge to

  • it, this personal connection--

  • my world of New York and my friendships with other

  • photographers and artists and writers.

  • And it's part of this collective experience that

  • we're having now that I'm privileged enough to get to

  • photograph in a concentrated way.

  • Yeah, I don't know Spanish Harlem as well as

  • I would like to.

  • I would like to really explore it more.

  • Wow, there is a--

  • I'm going to try to stop here, because there's a great shot.

  • And these aren't really the projects that we're looking

  • at, but I see a great shot here.

  • I go out, and I think of it as I start turning over rocks and

  • see what I find underneath.

  • And sometimes, you find the most interesting

  • things under a rock.

  • And sometimes, you find nothing.

  • But a lot of it is just about going out and meeting people

  • and seeing where that leads to.

  • Hello.

  • Hi.

  • Are you Ms. [INAUDIBLE]?

  • No.

  • No?

  • Is she--

  • She's not here.

  • She's not here.

  • Oh.

  • I heard she takes care of the gardens.

  • Is that right?

  • Yeah.

  • What's that?

  • She went to the store.

  • They said she'd be back in a little bit.

  • There she is right there.

  • But that's my garden right there.

  • Oh, you have a garden here, too?

  • Yeah.

  • Oh, great.

  • We met a couple of women who have tended

  • gardens outside of projects.

  • They were a connection into this world.

  • You never know what that leads to.

  • You never know when you get invited in for tea or

  • whatever, and all of sudden, this other world opens up to

  • you that you would have never known just by walking by or

  • just by showing up.

  • There's no winners and there's no losers out here.

  • Everybody wins.

  • I want ya'll to understand that.

  • Nobody loses.

  • Everybody wins in this tournament.

  • If there's one word that I hope describes my pictures--

  • the gist of my pictures-- it's intimacy.

  • And that requires an interaction with people, to

  • some extent.

  • I want the pictures to feel more than just this shadow

  • that passes by and stops a scene.

  • I want it to feel engaged and connected.

  • New York is one of the strange places to photograph, because

  • first of all, it's terribly photogenic.

  • There are pictures-- there are cliches everywhere.

  • But there's this light bouncing around.

  • There's this, graphically, these big buildings and

  • canyons of the streets and these characters

  • all over the place.

  • And also, it's overwhelming.

  • It's daunting--

  • this idea of photographing New York, because it is a genre in

  • and of itself.

  • It's a photographic cliche.

  • You feel overwhelmed by this idea.

  • How can I ever attempt to do that?

  • It's all been done before.

  • At the same time, it hasn't been done, I feel, from my

  • point of view right now in this year, this week, today.

  • As I'm working, I'm thinking of these images that I make on

  • the street today, what that picture will mean

  • 10 years from now.

  • I think sometimes pictures age well in the sense that today,

  • it's a picture that doesn't look like much or it

  • doesn't mean much.

  • But can you imagine this thing 10 years from now, 20 years

  • from now, 50 years from now?

  • That's how photography, to me, is interesting.

  • It's not just that moment.

  • It's not just today.

  • It's something that's a longer thing.

  • So yeah, I'm aware of the assignment today, and I go out

  • and I do that, do my work, and do it correctly.

  • But really, as I'm doing an assignment, it's about the

  • longer view, the bigger picture, and how this thing