Stuart Franklin is a British photographer. He is a member of Magnum Photos
and was its President from 2006 to 2009. Franklin was born on June 16 1956 at Guys Hospital in London. He studied drawing under Leonard McComb in Oxford and Whitechapel, London, and from 1976 to 1979 photography at West Surrey College of Art and Design, where he graduated with a BA. Moreover, between 1995 and 1997, he studied geography at the University of Oxford, first receiving a BA and the Gibbs Prize for geography. He received a doctorate in Geography from the University of Oxford in 2000. Stuart Franklin was awarded a professorship in documentary photography in 2016. He teaches photography and visual storytelling at Volda University College, Norway.
From 1980 until 1985, Franklin worked with Sygma in Paris. During that time he photographed the civil war in Lebanon, unemployment in Britain, famine in Sudan and the Heysel Stadium disaster.
Joining Magnum Photos in 1985, he became a full member in 1989. In the same year, Franklin photographed the uprising in Tiananmen Square and shot one of the Tank Man
photographs, first published in TIME Magazine
, as well as widely documenting the uprising in Beijing earning him a World Press Photo
In 1989 Franklin traveled with Greenpeace to Antarctica. He worked on about twenty stories for National Geographic
between 1991 and 2009, subjects including Inca conqueror Francisco Pizarro and the hydro-struggle in Quebec and places such as Buenos Aires and Malaysia. In addition, he worked on book and cultural projects. In October 2008, his book Footprint: Our Landscape in Flux
was published by Thames & Hudson. An ominous photographic document of Europe’s changing landscape, it highlights Franklin's ecological concern.
During 2009 Franklin curated an exhibition on Gaza - Point of No Return
for the Noorderlicht Photo Festival. Since 2009 he has focused on a long-term landscape project in Norway published as Narcissus
in 2013. More recently he has worked on documentary projects on doctors working in Syria, and immigration in Calais. Franklin's most recent book, The Documentary Impulse
was published by Phaidon in April 2016. It investigates the nature of truth in reporting and the drive towards self-representation beginning 50,000 years ago with cave art through to the various iterations and impulses that have guided documentary photography along its differing tracks for nearly 200 years. Franklin was the general chair of the World Press Photo jury 2017.
How Stuart Franklin took his Tank Man photograph
In our book, The Documentary Impulse
, the acclaimed photographer Stuart Franklin explores the human drive behind documentary photography, whether it's the passion to record the moments we experience, or the need to bear witness to forces that we want to change. The second of those two drives spurred Franklin in the summer of 1989, when he shot Tank Man
, the unnamed, and to-this-day still unknown pro-democracy protestor who stood in the way of the Chinese army’s tanks, as they tried to clear Tiananmen Square. Franklin's film was smuggled out of Beijing to Magnum's Paris office by a French student in a box of tea, and, following its development and distribution, his picture moved world leaders across the globe, including the then US president George H W Bush. Here’s how he got that photograph.
“I remember lying prone on a balcony on the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel with the Newsweek photographer Charlie Cole, photographing the event around noon on 4 June,”
Franklin recalls. “Earlier that day Tiananmen Square had been cleared by the Chinese Army. However, a group of civilians lined up to face a double row of soldiers who themselves stood in firing positions in front of a column of tanks. These civilians were shot at repeatedly, leaving at least twenty casualties. As the bodies were carried away the standoff died down and a column of tanks broke through, moving slowly eastwards. Waiting for them a few hundred metres down the road was a man in a white shirt and dark trousers, carrying two shopping bags. Alone he blocked the path of the tanks, watched by groups of nervous bystanders and perhaps fifty journalists, camera crews and photographers on balconies on almost every floor of the hotel."
Franklin captured the most widely distributed image of the event. Yet, after the taking the shot, he wasn’t convinced of the image’s power. “On the balcony after the event, which lasted less than three minutes, a conversation ensued with a writer for Vanity Fair, T.D. Allman. Allman insisted on the significance of the spectacle,”
Franklin writes. “I recalled images from 1968 in Prague and Bratislava where protesters stood up bare-chested against Russian tanks, and similar accounts from China during the Japanese invasion. Tank man felt very distant by comparison."
Thankfully, once his film was out of the country, the world looked favourably on the photograph.
“My rolls of film were smuggled out of China the following day packed in a small box of tea and carried to Paris by a French student,”
he recalls. “The transparencies were later processed, duplicated and distributed from Magnum’s office in Paris."
“Images and reports of the tank man incident emerged slowly. The first the world saw of the tank man was on television on 5 June. Television drew the world’s attention to the incident. George Bush Senior referenced it after watching CNN. ‘I was very moved today’, Bush said at a news conference on the morning of 5 June, ‘by the bravery of that one young individual that stood alone in front of the tanks, rolling down the avenue there.’”