The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world, covering 9.2 million square kilometres. In 1957, photojournalist and founder of Magnum Photos, George Rodger (b. 1908), embarked on a journey across its unique landscape, covering 4000 miles in 90 days. The resulting images record the topography and inhabitants of a remote and uncharted region. As contemporary practitioner Stuart Franklin (b. 1956) notes: “Rodger loved the desert, Africa, the open road, the unexplored and people untouched by modernity.”
A recent series by Franklin – who is known for an acclaimed series documenting Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – is inspired by Rodger’s trip. The collection forms part of Magnum Retold, an initiative in celebration of the agency’s 70th anniversary. Current artists are asked to respond to archival images, using the oeuvres of renowned photographers as a starting point for contemporary narratives.
Temples of Stone transports the viewer to Egypt and Morocco, offering a current vision of North Africa. The compositions highlight the monumental human, natural and sculptural forms that define the harsh terrain, revealing the changing yet strikingly static quality of the area. Providing a powerful tribute to the original work, Franklin’s contribution applies a geographer’s eye to the medium, examining both the raw and carved stone that punctuates the sublime surroundings.
The artist continues: “I’ve always been interested in landscape and especially the interface between nature and society. The joy is in the way everything overlaps: weathered statues and rock buttresses, human and natural forms, each chiselled out of the desert and stone outcrops in a union of dream world archaeology. This eventually became the focus.”
At Leica Studio Mayfair, London, from 17 January. Find out more: www.leicastore-mayfair.co.uk.
1. Egypt. Between Luxor and Aswan, part of the Western Desert Road © Stuart Franklin / Magnum Photos.