4 days in the life of a Magnum photographer by Sebastien Bey-Haut



4 days in the life of a Magnum photographer

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

I just came back from what has been one of the best photographic experience of my life and would like to share it with your readers.

I indeed had the privilege to attend a Magnum photography workshop mentored by Stuart Franklin in Panjim, a small town in Goa State, India.

It all started while browsing the Magnum website a couple of months ago: I saw a post calling for applications and having nothing to lose I sent a portfolio without too much hopes as they would accept only 12 participants worldwide… I received the good news a few weeks later: I was accepted! Living in Switzerland it meant a long trip (40h) for only 4 days of fun… But no way I would pass on it, so I booked my tickets, packed my gear and here we go !

The workshop was quite intense with mornings dedicated to discussions with Stuart and peer reviews, afternoon to shooting and evening / night to post processing. Our objective was to present a coherent 10 photographs story to be showcased at the Goa Photo festival… If possible without putting too much shame on our mentor’s name.

Of course having someone like Stuart reviewing your work is an incredible experience, his critics were always constructive but he would not miss the slightest default. Composition, tones, alignment of the different elements, everything has to be perfect or the photograph will be rejected without mercy.

The focus of the workshop was in building a coherent story and in editing our work so in order to give you a sense of what we went through I’ll first present the final 10 photographs we selected with Stuart:

10 selected photographs 











Then here are some other “Stuart approved” photographs which did not make it into the final cut










And to finish some of the images that I personally liked but were rejected by Stuart:









As you can see the “image quality” is not what really matters, Stuart was looking for images which would invite the viewer to imagine a story behind it, transmit emotions, and more generally have their own strengths. Anything looking more like a nice “tourist postcard” was discarded, which is what happened with most of my portraits…

As a conclusion the main outcome of this workshop was to teach me how to be more demanding with my own photography, which is highly inspiring and will for sure be very useful in the future.

The gear I used is quite irrelevant to describe this experience, so I’ll let you guess what it could have been. One hint: Stuart was using the same camera “hipster” camera…

You can find more of my work here https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien Bey-Haut

PS: I’d like to take this opportunity to send a big cheers to the Secret Magnum 12, keep the good images coming!


  1. Good shots. I can see why Stuart didn’t select the others, but thats only by comparing with the selected one.
    btw is there a website or photo gallery of the exhibition or photos from the other 11 participants? would love to see their work too!

  2. There are a couple of enjoyable images here but far too many that could have been left out. Perhaps 12 should be removed. I think the problem I have seen for so many years is a lack a specificity. Everything we see is not necessarily a great photo or necessarily a great photo at the moment we arrive on the seen. SOme artists would see the scene but accept all the elements weren’t in place yet. So they camped out and took their time. Maybe they returned hours later for better light. Years ago, the photographer’s mantra was wait for it, wait for it. Today, it’s shoot and post it, someone, somewhere will like it. The need for applause should not overshadow the need for developing photographic vision.

    I also had the pleasure of attending a Magnum workshop in Arles, France with Patrick Zachmann in 1987. I was of course a lot younger but the excitement and the immersion was not lost on me. We shouldn’t think an image is great simply because it’s exotic or because a viewer may not have been to that area of the world. I am well travelled as are many others. Images should be shared when we have something to say. And it’s a good image when the skill used to visually frame the conversation is creatively considered. Keep photographing but in this case, less is more.

    • I agree with everything that you say. The photographer is introducing the viewer to an area that he the photographer hasn’t been to. The area where the photographer lives may be no less exotic to the viewer.

  3. Sebastian’s set makes for a great photoessay. I enjoyed the ‘outtakes’ too, but clearly see the ‘masters’ reasoning behind the edits. My top tip to anyone learning photography is the importance of self-critique and a tight edit regime.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Good thoughts, thanks for sharing.
    Many years ago I took vacation in the Bahamas. I went for a run, eventually passing through what I perceived were not the neighborhoods of the rich. Stopped at a market for a drink. Walked outside and noticed a group of men sitting at a bench and started a conversation. That conversation went on for over an hour. They filled me in on all the local gossip about celebrities staying at the resorts, etc… It was great and it would have been nice to have had a camera and had my picture taken with my new friends. There would have been a heart felt reason as opposed to just walking up to someone and asking to take their picture. I think we found each other genuinely interesting.

  5. Well done getting accepted on the workshop-looking at your images here and on your site I can see why ! Pity the camera’s identity leaked out -as it really has little to do with the quality of the images ?

    I tend to agree with Rainer -but Martin Parr’s book “Luxury” gave the opposite perspective for a change !

    Best Wishes

  6. Dear all,

    Thanks for the kind word. I indeed exclusively used a Df (no Fuji, no Leica), apologies for the suspense but it was not to difficult to guess as I mentioned that both Stuart and I were using a hipster camera 🙂

    I coupled it with Zeiss 21, Nikkor 50 1.2 AI (absolutely wonderful sharpness and color rendition) and Nikon 85mm 1.8 ( bought it for the trip, did not really like the feeling of this big piece of plastic + had difficulties with the auto-focus not properly aligned).

    There is only one comment I strongly disagree with. @Rainer: they are not “very poor people” but very courageous men who strive to make a living out of their hard work.

    • No, I haven`t. But the hipster remark and the colors made it easy. I have the Df and find its sensor unique in terms of tonal transitions.

  7. O.K., no doubt, great images! But what is the special interest to show always the world of very poor people! Better show the decadent world of the very rich people!

    • Yes, why do so many well off people spend so much to go photograph poor people? But, it might be in this case that those photographed benefitted monetarily from this exposure. We don’t know the details. Recently near where I live I saw what looked to be possibly a homeless man with a sign around his neck, “Please do not take my picture”. Some are wondering what the wonderful camera is that was used for these pictures. These were a small number out of many pictures taken, with lots of good post processing. Any number of cameras would have produced equally good results, perhaps an Olympus epl1 with the Panasonic 20mm.

      • These are your own preconceptions about what denotes a “poor person”, when I look at the photos I see working people, people going about their everyday lives. Obviously there needs to be some common sense and empathy when taking photos of people.
        It also sounds like you have camera envy too!
        ( and for what it’s worth, I have an OMD EM10 small sensor, big attitude!)

        • Again, I don’t know the details; not assuming anything. But, again, seeing that man with the sign around his neck made me consider that he might have been photographed a few too many times. I once turned in a picture of someone that I knew and had given me permission to photograph him. The gallery rejected the photo because they thought others might “perceive” that I had taken advantage of the person in the photo, as per the man with the sign around his neck. This was clearly not this case. Even when I assured the gallery, they remained concerned about perception. Out of respect to my friend I was offended. That person in the picture had retired, and I had not seen him in awhile. I frequent the restaurant that he had worked in and brought the picture to the restaurant knowing that they would pass it along to him. I found that he had recently died, but the restaurant wanted to keep the picture and hung it on one of their walls. So, perhaps, it worked out as it was meant to be. This, also had me reconsider where my finished prints might belong. They belong with those that would appreciate them. I always worried that I didn’t have the right destination for my photography, now I know. I think I do good work, but those on the receiving end never ask about what camera I used, paper or printer, etc… They don’t know anything about post processing, nor do they care to hear about it. They appreciate the photos for their own reasons. So, now I look for an opportunity. I keep a stock of frames, matte paper, etc… It’s the closest I can get to utility. Not the same thing as building a piece of furniture, like the Shakers would; but a step in the right direction.

          “camera envy”? You must be meaning the DF. At the time I was thinking of what might be the least expensive competent digital camera and lens that I am familiar with. That combination would be my walk around camera, much like the Olympus XA or Stylus. Mostly because they are small, competent, unobtrusive and dirt simple to use. Fortunately I’ve never been in a position to envy over a camera or lens, that would be a low point. I’m sure the DF is a very nice camera, for someone that needs it. Would I take it if someone offered it to me, even for free? Probably not. It would be like having just eaten a big dinner, desert and all and then wanting what someone else was eating. If I were doing something similar to the Magnum Photographer I would have shot B&W film with a Hexar AF. That might not be someone else’s thing, but it would be my first thought. But, then that cuts out the PP sessions; leaving time for a few beers.

    • People with a honest or “true” charisma are mostly not part of our rich “first world” society. That is, of course, my personal observation which may differ from others. That may be the reason why many photographers prefer to shoot people who are at least not rich (compared to us Stevhuffphoto.com readers).

      I traveled Asia several times and I must say the people are way more interesting (photography wise) than the rich people at home.

  8. Very cool! I like the way you shared the experience of editing. I am going to go over my photos and ask the same questions. Is there a story? What emotions are present. Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • one more thing:
      You, and the magnum photographer, used a Nikon DF?!?!? but . . but. . some dude on petapixel says it’s a hipster camera that is destroying photography!!! How can this be?!?!? You should have used a d810 or leaf MF camera!! thanyou would have made some REAL images!!
      great job again

  9. Fantastic shots which you have totally mastered. I am not going to start going on about the beautiful exposure, composition or processing because you obviously know exactly what you are doing. Very well done. Awesome pictures of India.

  10. Hey there, thanks for sharing. There’s a definite vibe in those! I couldn’t help but wonder, since utmost attention to detail was given to these photos, why you’ve chosen to focus on the man’s sandals in photo 3, and in photo 5, on the red posterior? I guess the sandals were the sailor’s, which he took off before entering the trap door, in which case it’s a good job at telling a story! For photo number 5, maybe I’m missing something?
    In any case, well done! Thanks for giving us something to look at at the end of this long day!

  11. The EXIF file says NIKON Df..

    There certainly is a difference between the ones selected and the ones rejected: just look at that 1st photo, with the sun bang in the middle of the triangle of the boat’s rigging: perfect! ..Then compare it with the version which you liked, but which was rejected ..close, but no cigar. Less beauty, less punch, less involvement.

    Great report on a great experience, and a great lesson for us all! ..Thank you!

  12. Great images! Sounds like a worthwhile experience; spending money on this vs. the latest and greatest gear makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing!

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