Magnus Wennman

A young Jordanian girl tries to sleep in a refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan. Photo by Canon Ambassador Magnus Wennman.
"This was one of the first images I took for my story Where the Children Sleep," says Magnus Wennman. "Two-year-old Fara loves soccer. Her dad tried to make footballs for her by crumpling up anything he could find, but they never lasted long. Every night, he said goodnight to Fara and her big sister Tisam, nine, in the hope that tomorrow would bring them a proper ball to play with. All other dreams seemed to be beyond his reach, but he wasn't giving up on this one." Taken in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, 2015, on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II) with a Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800. © Magnus Wennman

Canon Ambassador Magnus Wennman is one of Sweden's most successful photographers. He has worked in more than 80 countries but is best known for capturing the lives of those caught in conflict.

Born in 1979, the five-times Photojournalist of the Year in Sweden has won more than 70 awards, including six World Press Photo awards, all in different categories. He was named by the Red Cross as Journalist of the Year for 2017 and is the only person to have won World Press Photo awards in both still photo and multimedia categories in the same year.


Location: Sweden

Specialist areas: Reportage

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8

Since 2001, Magnus has worked as a staff photographer on one of Scandinavia's biggest daily newspapers, Aftonbladet, having started his career, aged 17, on the local paper Dala-Demokraten. He works mainly on news and features, covering many high-profile stories, including the US Presidential elections in 2008, the Red Shirt protests in Thailand and the plight of refugees in Africa.

In recent years, Magnus has been focusing on events in the Middle East – in particular the conflict in Syria. He has met and photographed countless refugees of the civil war, and one of his most poignant bodies of work from the region, Where the Children Sleep, has been presented as a touring exhibition that has been hosted by 17 countries. Magnus partnered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to raise awareness about refugee children when his project made its US debut at the Capitol Building, Washington DC, in 2016.

A young girl lies on a dirty mattress in the Debaga refugee camp in Iraq. Photo by Magnus Wennman.
"Maha, five, and her family had fled from Hawija in Iraq seven days before this photo was taken," says Magnus. "The fear of ISIS and the lack of food forced them to leave their home. Now Maha lies on a dirty mattress in the overcrowded transit centre in Debaga refugee camp. 'I do not dream and I'm not afraid of anything any more,' Maha said quietly, while her mother stroked her hair." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO160. © Magnus Wennman

The project started to take shape the previous year, when Magnus travelled to seven countries in the Middle East and Europe in order to photograph areas where refugee children slept at night – be that in a camp, in a field or at the side of the road. The resulting collection of powerful, compelling pictures highlights the devastating impact that conflict has on innocent young lives, long after the sounds of gunfire have faded.

Despite working in one of the traditional photographic disciplines, Magnus has earned a reputation for his innovative approach. Many of his pictures are deliberately underexposed to produce a rich, dark result, and on assignment he often carries a tilt-shift lens with him – not a typical photojournalist's tool of choice.

Two young girls asleep on the side of a road in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by Magnus Wennman.
"Ralia, seven, and Rahaf, 13, came from Damascus, where a grenade killed their mother and brother," says Magnus. "Together with their father, they slept on the sidewalk in central Beirut for a year. The father said every time a car stopped, he was afraid someone would take his children away from him. Every now and then, men in cars stopped and asked if they could buy the girls for a few hours. Rahaf said she is afraid of 'bad boys'. As she said this, Ralia started to cry." Taken in Beirut, February 2015, on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800. © Magnus Wennman

Magnus is a strong believer in the power of social media and has a substantial following on Instagram. He is now also being recognised as a filmmaker. His short film Fatima's Drawings, which tells the story of a young refugee's journey from Syria to Sweden through her hand-drawn pictures, won the Visa d'or de l'Information Numérique at Visa pour l'Image in Perpignan, France, in 2016.

The following year Magnus and journalist Erik Wiman produced What's on the Plate – What the Children Eat, a project that examined what starving people in Somalia and South Sudan eat when food runs out. The body of work included photographs, text, video and an exhibition in Stockholm that featured a 360-degree VR experience. It was an innovative way to raise awareness of the worst famine in five decades.

Two young boys, one crying inconsolably, stand with a group of men by the roadside in Mosul, Iraq. Photo by Magnus Wennman.
"This was taken just outside Mosul, Iraq, in October 2016," says Magnus. "It is sometimes possible to distance yourself emotionally when you see terrible scenes; the profession and the camera protect against those feelings. Mostly. Not this day, though. 11-year-old Lefaws started screaming inconsolably when an ambulance with the image of his dead father passed on the highway. A portrait of his father was on the front of the ambulance so everybody could see which soldier was in the car. His little brother, Shalews, cried silent tears of indescribable sadness." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 1/8000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO160. © Magnus Wennman

What skills does someone need to be a good photojournalist?

"For me, it's about being curious, respectful and open-minded, but above all having a love of telling stories. Being able to work in many different social settings is more important than being technically talented."

How do you deal with traumatic situations?

"I go in as a journalist and focus on what story is important to tell. For me, it's harder to sit at home and read about what's going on than to be there myself."

How do you balance the demand to 'get the shot' with being more experimental?

"Knowing when to turn the camera the other way and do something different comes with experience. I've had the privilege of working with a newspaper that has allowed me to fail sometimes, which is important."

You need to react quickly and instinctively in your work. How many cameras and lenses do you usually carry?

"Since I need to be mobile, I keep everything in one backpack. You will typically find one camera, such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, or an EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens, memory cards, food and drink, and maybe a small tripod and a sound recorder if I'm going to film."

How do you identify the pictures with most potential when you return from an assignment?

"I usually do all my selection myself. Most often, I already know when I take the picture if it's something I'm going to use. Sometimes when I do assignments, like for National Geographic, they want to see all RAW files and be part of the selection process."

Twitter: @MagnusWennman

One thing I know
Magnus Wennman

"The internet has made the possibilities of telling stories infinite. I don't see myself purely as a newspaper photographer now, as my work involves storytelling online using still images, video and sound. Today, my Instagram account has more followers than the first newspaper I worked for. That is an amazing development, but also a great responsibility. It's important to remember that photojournalism is about telling stories in a respectful and honest way, and trying to find ways to make the world more understandable."

Magnus Wennman's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Magnus Wennman's kitbag.


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Trusted by the pros, tough and yet relatively light, the EOS 5D Mark IV is ideal for stills or video – making it great for reportage. "My all-time favourite camera. It can do everything. I use it all the time, both for still and video stories," says Magnus.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon's flagship pro DSLR with a 20.2MP full-frame sensor, 61-point AF system, up to 14fps and ISO to 409,600. "It's fast and reliable," says Magnus. "I think it is the ultimate camera for spot news and sports."


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

The professional's standard zoom lens – sharp, quick and compact, it excels in low light. An extremely popular lens with pros. "If I could only choose one lens for the rest of my life it would be this. I use it for 90% of my work," says Magnus.

Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8

Incredible build quality is married with the ability to tilt and shift this lens, resulting in great control over perspective and depth of field. "My baby! Great for portraits," says Magnus.


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