A Unique Global Partnership with Magnum Foundation Brings Local Photographers to Document World Monuments Watch Sites
In 2022, World Monuments Fund (WMF) and Magnum Foundation announced a new grant program supporting local emerging photographers as they explore some of the sites and communities of the 2022 World Monuments Watch. In this blog post, Magnum Foundation president Susan Meiselas and executive director Kristen Lubben share the goals of this partnership and the kinds of storytelling they hope will emerge from the project.
Since 2007, Magnum Foundation has been mentoring and supporting a growing network of creative and socially engaged documentary photographers around the world.
Recently, a focus of our work has been supporting photographers who are investigating and reframing histories through a different lens. Through grants, fellowships, and workshops over the past five years, our Counter Histories program has worked with photographers who are experimenting with how photography can elevate these stories and bring them into dialogue with new audiences. When the WMF approached us about a collaboration, the idea of engaging with monuments and the stories they hold aligned with so much of what we had been working on in our Counter Histories programming.
The monuments that WMF identifies through the Watch List aren’t simply buildings. They are highly specific, irreplaceable sites that hold shared histories and facilitate interactions between people within the culture. It’s because of this crucially interconnected relationship between people and place over time that engaging local photographers were critical to our partnership to tell the broader community stories of twelve sites on the Watch List. Drawing on Magnum Foundation’s global network of photographers, these stories will highlight the significance of the sites within their own communities, while providing the photographers with continued training, support, and exposure.
Unlike a photographer who is coming in to document from the outside and may only have a matter of weeks or even days to cover the story, a local photographer has the opportunity to let a story evolve over time. As relationships develop and deepen, so does the story. This way of working also means reinvesting in the communities surrounding the sites. At the same time, we are able to offer editorial feedback and mentorship as the photographers develop their projects, meaning they’ll have a strong body of work that helps them as they establish their body of work. These projects will go on to find expression in many forms, and we will work with the photographers on the long tail of producing this work going forward–from publication to exhibition, both local and international.
Crucially, WMF isn’t simply documenting these sites. They are partnering with MF in a process of discovery and exploration to see what stories emerge from these pairings between local storytellers and Watch list sites, and how they might tell a different story.