1 July 2017 § Leave a comment
This post also appears on www.cellophaneland.com
Any history of photography would be incomplete without substantial mention of the famed photographic agency Magnum, now celebrating its 70th anniversary. Within its 1947 origins are both the reasons for its success and for its often rocky journey: the diverse founding group included both Robert Capa who represented the ultimate in involved photo-journalism and, at the opposite end of the spectrum Henri Cartier-Bresson whose imagery was detached and artistic. This stylistic inclusivity both made it important but at the same time ensured that members would rarely see eye to eye.
What they had in common however was a desire to break the traditional model of the photographic business – a system where the publishers had total control. Magnum Photos Inc sought to break this with a disruptive model worthy of Uber. The photographers would take control of their images, owning their rights, dictating editing and presentation and even creating content and photo-essays.
Despite the canny catch-all basis of the business – which included not only photographs but for example printing, cameras, moving images, design, studios, materials and equipment – image quality always remained high in the agenda. Magnum would always stand for intelligence in combining both reporter and artist in the photographer’s role.
The story to be told in the Magnum Manifesto therefore is formidably complex. It is one that includes the Magnum’s founding, its ever-changing membership, the business models, the personal relationships and the artistic and cultural events that shaped the whole. In an often uneasy amalgam, its constituent photographers were often in conflict and a steady intake of new members, carefully screened and slowly inducted, meant an organisation in continuous flux.
Over and above this are of course the photographs from a roll call of the best in the world in all fields – Capa, Cartier Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Alec Both, Alex Webb, Eve Arnold and so on. Their archive is represented by a steady stream iconic and event-defining images. These not only represented what was happening in the world but often shaped public opinion and by doing so could be argued to have moulded future events.
A deep look into the organisation is therefore so much more than a book of photographs and in fact the anniversary is being marked not just by this hugely impressive book, but by a global programme of events and exhibitions.
The title Magnum Manifesto makes it clear that this is not just a photo book featuring their ‘greatest hits’ but a deeper look in to everything that it represents. The book infact takes the opportunity to display plenty of lesser known, but still impressive, works. After some introductory essays, the preface looks at the four founders at the time that they created the organisation – all working busily around the globe in a rapidly changing post war world – before dividing Magnum’s story in to three key periods.
Human Rights and Wrongs represents the period from its founding until 1968. A time of widespread unrest it was also the time of the UN Declaration of Human Rights – a proclamation with the same values of liberty, equality and dignity espoused by the agency. We see representative images of hunger, postwar Soviet Union, black power, strikes and student riots before a series of longer photo essays that look at universality – a theme that at least partly inspired Edward Steichen’s landmark ‘Family of Man’ exhibition at MoMA in 1955, where nearly a fifth of the images were supplied by Magnum.
An Inventory of Differences describes the subsequent period, from 1969 to ’89, where the focus became more on differences and otherness. We find the unemployed, deformed, immigrant, minority and marginalised of the world and memorable images like Steve McCurry’s Afghan Refugee. Portfolios include Inge Morath’s Masquerade, Philip Jones Griffiths Immigrants and Josef Koudelka’s Gypsies.
Finally Stories About Endings shows the postmodern era up to the present day. Cultural expansion led to greater ‘artistic’ output and a flowering of methods of distribution of the imagery – books, exhibitions, gallery displays and the internet. Photographers looked at what was disappearing. We see Martin Parr’s Still Lives and Colonial lives, Thomas Dworzak’s Taliban and Donovan Wylie’s The Maze.
That the Magnum Manifesto succeeds in its task is great credit to the editor Clément Chéroux who must be commended in producing something that has combined all these aspects in to a cohesive whole. We get a compelling story that draws us through the ups and downs of the organisation even whilst great historic events unfold. We also get enough stunning imagery from the great photographers to realise why Magnum is something unique and special.
An absolutely essential book on the most important photographers collective the world has ever seen.
Magnum Photos’ 70th anniversary will be celebrated with a global programme of events throughout 2017. For more information visit www.magnumphotos.com
To purchase Magnum Manifesto (at a 20% discount) visit www.thamesandhudson.com
The first accompanying exhibition is at the International Center for Photography NY until 3 September 2017 and will then tour internationally.
21 December 2013 § 1 Comment
Photobooks are a strange art form unto themselves. Some photographers see individual images as the ultimate expression of their craft whilst for others the photo book is the essential form. The sum of many parts, they comprise individual photographic works, not necessarily of high individual quality, but when edited together they make a greater whole.
Something unique is created not only from the images and their editing but also from the feel and texture of the paper as well as the design, typography, size and layout and, often compared to plays or film, they may well also have a dramatic narrative. (Anyone with any further interest in the art of the photobook should certainly make efforts to see the definitive work: The Photobook – A History by Parr & Badger.)
The Portuguese photographer, Nuno Moreira has, with State of Mind, created a perfect example of such an artwork. This is a photobook comprising works from his personal archive constructed and captured over a period of several years of travelling covering such diverse locations as Japan, Portugal, Hungary, Malaysia, Spain, South Korea, Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Taiwan.
What is perhaps initially surprising however is that the images do not indicate the diversity of these locations, but rather the opposite. The book brings them together under a unifying umbrella where continents, countries and cities melt into a statement on the humanity of their populations.
The people here are shown as a series of individuals or small groups. Sometimes we just glimpse their shadows, backs or reflections, sometimes just traces of their existence. A foot steps in to a railway carriage, shadows pass each other on a busy (we assume) pavement, a woman struggles with an umbrella in a sea of snowy tyre tracks or passengers gaze blankly from train windows.
There is a lot of travelling going on. People walking the streets, in stations, cafes and trains. There are roads, pavements, walkways and waiting areas. Through constant change and movement Moreira has found a unity in these divergent peoples. Perhaps through his own experiences of travelling these represent stills within a continuous journey. We do however see the diversity of the individuals, each with their own thoughts and in these silent moments.
The title State of Mind could ultimately then refer to not only the individuals pictured, but also be an observation of the collective whole or indeed an ongoing picture of the mental state of Moreira himself during his travels. It is a photobook of the highest quality where the individual images are actually often compelling works of art in themselves but it is however as a photobook they indeed work best.
- State of Mind
- 287 x 200mm
- 112 pages with 79 photographs
- Limited to 500 copies
- ISBN 978-989-20-4151-3
- 35 Euro
Copies may be purchased directly from the artist at www.nmphotos.org or email email@example.com
A Q & A with the artist will follow soon in another blog.
- Interesting Photobooks for 2013 (thephotobook.wordpress.com)
- Mother Jones’ Photographers Pick the Best Photobooks of 2013 (motherjones.com)
- TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2013 (lightbox.time.com)
5 February 2012 § Leave a comment
The excellent Photographers Gallery, closed for a year or so now, has just announced that it is to reopen on the 19 May 2012. Put it in the diary right now! This is an important institution that I have greatly missed in recent times. It is still open by appointment and the excellent bookshop is also open but the three new exhibition spaces will bring a huge boost to photographic exhibitions in London. Furthermore it is widely involved in projects, talks and works with schools and education and its importance cannot be underestimated. Expect also for the new cafe to be a good place to drop in to an an arty place to hang out!
The Photographers Gallery is certainly the most relevant and important gallery of its kind in London, and the UK for that matter, founded 1971 in a converted Lyon’s Tea Bar. It was the first independent gallery in Britain devoted to photography and was the first public gallery in the country to exhibit many of the key international names in photography such as Juergen Teller (fashion), Robert Capa (photojournalism), Sebastião Salgado (documentary) and Andreas Gursky (contemporary art). It has also been instrumental in establishing many contemporary British photographers including Martin Parr and Julie Cockburn (illustrated below).
Additionally it has established the highly regarded annual £30k International (now Deutsche Borse) Photography Prize. Past prize winners include Andreas Gursky (1998), Juergen Teller (2003), Robert Adams (2006), Esko Männikkö (2008), Paul Graham (2009), Sophie Ristelhuber (2010) and Jim Goldberg (2011).
Opening hours Tue – Sat: 10.00 – 18.00 Contact 020 7087 9320
The new Gallery will open on 19 May 2012 at 16-18 Ramillies Street W1F 7LW