Portfolio: Stuart Franklin


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The Independent Culture

After three stressful years as president of Magnum Photos, Stuart Franklin needed a break. And so, in 2009, the London-born photographer, then 53, bought a lakeside cabin on the island of Otroya, on Norway's western fjordland, a 15-minute ferry ride to the nearest town, Molde.

Suddenly, he had space to reflect upon the nature of landscape photography. Though at first his was an objective gaze, seeing the snow and ice, metamorphic rock and surrounding woods as foreign and other, in time Franklin grew to see himself, and his life in the cabin, as intrinsic parts of the landscape. He engaged with the 15-mile-long island, and it no longer felt remote.

"When I first arrived," he writes in Narcissus, in which he documents his time in Otroya, "I wanted to explore the whole island. I ended up realising that everything I needed was within a few hundred metres… I came to know the landscape as a friend's face and this familiarity drew me ever closer. I became aware of an immanent significance, at least for me, in the character of the landscape. I saw trolls in the grass, faces in the trees, and serpents in the seas."

He saw, too, a human form staring back from across the lake – provided he turned his head to one side, that is. The mountain opposite, and its reflection in the fjord, became his reflection. "Stela", the name he gave to the series of images, describe the totem-like quality of the mountain – the way its rocky surfaces are metamorphosed by a transformation through 90° into a simulacrum of the human form. And thus, like Narcissus, did Franklin find himself turning his eye upon a very personal landscape.

'Narcissus' is published by Hatje Cantz, priced £35. A related exhibition of the work is at the Magnum Print Room, 63 Gee Street, London EC1, until 31 May