The first image of this compelling series was selected as a Single Image Winner in the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all 44 of the winners, finalists, jurors’ picks and student spotlights.


To depict people and places is my way of fixing my eyes and understanding the world around me. I am drawn to nature, and to skin. Abandoned skin, wounded nature. Nature and skin that are exposed and the link between them. Where we belong.

I try to create a peaceful place in a chaotic world, creating order where there is disorder. I often use a series of images to create a sense of being trapped in a repetition of emotions. I search for marks that portray the presence of an absence. Tracks in the picture indicate a past event but leave a mystique about them. The story is left open, more like a silent trembling vacuum.

I want my pictures to leave the feeling of vacuum, timelessness and the people’s love for nature, all of which hit me during my time in St. Charles in the Appalachian Mountains. I do not focus on the area’s poverty, drugs or societal problems. The crack in the soul is more important than the one on the wall.

I see great importance in the small, subtle body movements of my subjects and the relationship between their body postures. I am interested in the language and the stories they tell. I work with dimmed, pale colors so as not to create too much drama. It looks beautiful, but if you go near, you sense the pain and that something is not right.

There is a language where things happen below the surface. Like tension ready to burst, feelings stuck in a bell jar. I wish to create a feeling of something bad being pressed back to keep a calm facade. Sometimes the feelings bubble up in small movements, searching for companionship and love.

I hope to develop a sensitivity among my viewers to get them to feel compassion for the person or the landscape pictured. To get another view of something that they might have had preconceptions about, even been afraid of. I see it as research, an allegory of life.

I have made an independent trilogy in USA, “Hillbilly heroin, honey,” ”Sunday mornin’ comin’ down” and ”Hurricane Season.”

—Hannah Modigh


Editors’ Note: One of Modigh’s other projects, ”Hurricane Season” was named a Juror’s Pick in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016. It was singled out for distinction by Anne Bourgeois-Vignon of Magnum Photos—learn why.