As many of our readers will already know, I recently attended the opening of the new Leica Galerie in Milan, Italy, on behalf of Luxurious Magazine. Amongst the event’s distinguished guests was the great photographer, Bruno Barbey, who presented a selection of his best shots and attended the Talk organised by Leica called “The Right Moment”. During the evening, I had the privilege of speaking to Bruno Barbey, and, just few days later, I received a phone call from him. The result of this conversation was the amazing opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview for Luxurious Magazine.
Bruno Barbey is renowned as a “Master of Photography”, and one of the most well-known communicators of international photojournalism. He has travelled the world for almost half a century on behalf of some of the most important photographic agencies and magazines, creating fantastic features in the process.
Even if he doesn’t consider himself to be a war photographer, Bruno Barbey has covered battles in Vietnam, Cambodia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Iraq and Kuwait, reporting crucial moments with his camera and his own “vision”. Nevertheless, he also created wonderful spreads about Italy, Poland, Morocco, China, Turkey and many other beautiful countries that soon became a series of books and exhibitions worldwide.
LM: To start your career, you studied photography and graphic design in Switzerland. How much difference does academia make for a job like yours? In your shots, what is the value of feeling compared to technique?
BB: The value of feelings is the key element but, to get a great shot, technique is always extremely important. In any case, today with digital cameras any one can take photographs that are technically good…
LM: Bruno Barbey is one of the most renowned and recognised names in international photography and photojournalism. How do you think your career would have gone if at some stage you had entered a different field of photography? How would you see yourself if you were celebrated today as a pioneer of advertising photography?
BB: Each specific photography field can be interesting if carried on in the right way, so I think it would be the same for me.
LM: Often we are blown away by the scenes represented in the photographs of great photojournalists like yours. However, we don’t appreciate that in many situations, photographers encounter large risks in order to do their job. Is there a time where you felt in danger?…and what kept you from running for cover?
BB: Sometimes I say, “Risks are part of our job”. When I can, I drive a motorbike to avoid traffic jam. It is a great risk too!
LM: You have collaborated and have been part of the world’s most famous photographic agencies, most notably, Magnum where you were also President from 1992 to 1995. What has Bruno Barbey given to Magnum and what has Magnum given in return to Bruno Barbey?
BB: Magnum has given me many good things but, sometimes, bad things too. It is like an old couple after 50 years together…
LM: Your passion for photography has led you to spend almost 10 months a year traveling the world in search of memorable moments to capture. Have you ever thought of completely changing your lifestyle and dedicating yourself to something completely different away from photography?
BB: To be honest, usually 6 months traveling is enough for me…I have also a family in my life! I like to practice free diving and underwater spear fishing, but I do not know if it could be a job for me…
LM: During the course of your professional life you have received several international awards. Is there an accolade for which, years later, you are still deeply proud?
BB: Awards do not fascinate me and I do not submit my work to get awards. However, I am proud to have received the French “Order of Merit” from the Minister of Culture.
LM: We all know you as Bruno Barbey, the famous international photographer. Has there been a period in your life, perhaps related to some recognition that you received, where you have stopped for a moment and realised that you are famous?
BB: Sincerely no, because I have never been interested in becoming famous.
LM: In this profession, it is said that photographers of your calibre always carry a camera “in their pocket”, and it is probably true. Do you remember a particular moment that you missed? A situation where you thought, if only I had carried my camera that day?
BB: Yes, it happened…indeed I missed too many situations in my life. I would not be able to choose one in particular…
LM: As a photographer and fan of Bruno Barbey, I have seen many favorite photographs that I would like to ask you about. One of these that stands out is the one that you took in 1991 in Kuwait, during the Gulf War. In that photograph, we can see a US military patrol driving away from the battlefield probably ready for the next gunfight. Would you please tell to me and to all of our readers the story behind that shot?
BB: This photograph became an icon and I received letters from each of the marine soldiers that were present in that photograph. One day I hope to meet these marines and see what they are doing today, now that 25 years have passed since that war!
LM: You have travelled the world for about half a century, meeting different people and cultures. What is the country you loved more than any other and why?
BB: The island of Corsica because it reminds me different parts of the world I travelled during all these past years…including Morocco.
LM: After a being away from home for some time, what is the thing that you miss the most?
BB: My Family…without any doubt…
LM: In your free time, when you do not have to organise exhibitions or carry out assignments, do you have a hobby other than photography?
BB: As I mentioned previously, I love under-water free diving, I love fishing and skiing and I love having good meals. These are my passions.
LM: We recently met each other in Milan at the official opening of the new Leica Galerie where you were one of the special guests at the event. As a photographic tool, how has Leica helped you take great pictures? Moreover, what do you think about the more recent digital solutions available?
BB: The excellent Leica lenses has helped me to take great photographs and the new digital solutions, in my opinion, are great too. They give me the opportunity to work with a wide variety of light conditions that were not possible with films.
LM: I know you are working on new interesting projects including the publishing of new books, as well as the organization of exhibitions and assignments. Would you please tell us what is coming up and where your fans will be able to meet you and see your works of art?
BB: Currently I am now working on a new book about China that will be published very soon and then a new one about Morocco. In the meantime, I am also working on a new book called The Italians and a retrospective book that is going to include 55 year of photography that will include a wide exhibition worldwide.
LM: Mr. Barbey it is been a pleasure to talk to you and I would really like to thank you on behalf of Luxurious Magazine for accepting my interview. Is there something that you wish to add for our readers?
BB: I just want to say thank you to all the Luxurious Magazine readers…enjoy life despite all the problems you have.
Interview conducted by Simone Zeffiro