Magnum Manifesto @ICP

JTF (just the facts): A wide ranging group show of black and white and color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung in a series of connected rooms on the ground floor and basement levels of the museum. The exhibit was curated by Clément Chéroux, with Clara Bouveresse and Pauline Vermare. A comprehensive catalog of the show has been published by Thames & Hudson (here).

The exhibit is chronologically divided into three main sections, each supported by selected solo projects and a frieze of single images. The following photographers have been included in each section, with the number of works on view and their dates as background:

Human Rights and Wrongs 1947-1968

(frieze)

  • Robert Capa: 2 prints, 1936, 1939
  • W. Eugene Smith: 1 print, 1948
  • Chim (David Seymour): 3 prints, 1947
  • Wayne Miller: 2 prints, 1945, 1950
  • Erich Lessing: 2 prints, 1956
  • Dennis Stock: 2 prints, 1950, 1951
  • Werner Bischof: 1 print, 1951
  • Ara Güler: 1 print, 1955
  • Marilyn Silverstone: 1 print, 1960
  • Hiroshi Hamaya: 1 print, 1955
  • Cornell Capa: 1 print, 1955
  • Marc Riboud: 2 prints, 1962, 1967
  • Nicolas Tikhomiroff: 1 print, 1960
  • René Burri: 2 prints, 1955, 1959
  • Bob Henriques: 1 print, 1961
  • Herbert List: 1 print, 1957
  • Burt Glinn: 1 print, 1957
  • Danny Lyon: 1 print, 1964
  • David Alan Harvey: 1 print, 1967
  • Constantine Manos: 1 print, 1968
  • Raymond Depardon: 1 print, 1968
  • Bruno Barbey: 1 print, 1968

(solo projects)

  • Erich Hartmann: 3 prints, 3 spreads, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1973
  • Eve Arnold: 4 prints, 1951
  • Elliott Erwitt: 3 prints, 2 spreads, 1953, 1957
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson: 2 prints, 1 spread, 1953
  • Werner Bischof: 1 print, 2 spreads, 1951, 1953
  • Sergio Larrain: 4 prints, 1 spread 1957, 1959
  • Paul Fusco: 5 prints, 1 spread, 1968
  • Leonard Freed: 3 prints, 2 spreads, 1963, 1964, 1986, 1990
  • Constantine Manos: 3 prints, 1952

Interlude: Charles Harbutt, 1 installation including slot machine and three-channel slide show, 1969

An Inventory of Differences 1969-1989

(frieze)

  • Abbas: 1 print, 1978
  • Martine Franck: 2 prints, 1975, 1978
  • Guy Le Querrec: 2 prints, 1977, 1990
  • Philip Jones Griffiths: 1 print, 1970
  • David Hurn: 1 print, 1983
  • Patrick Zachmann: 3 prints, 1981, 1982, 1988
  • Lu Nan: 1 print, 1990
  • Jean Gaumy: 1 print, 1985
  • Chris Steele-Perkins: 2 prints, 1976, 1982
  • Philippe Halsman: 1 print, 1968
  • Raghu Rai: 1 print, 1982
  • Hiroji Kubota: 2 prints, 1969, 1971
  • Harry Gruyaert: 2 prints, 1972, 1975
  • René Burri: 1 print, 1973
  • Eli Reed: 2 prints, 1984, 1987
  • Dennis Stock: 1 print, 1967
  • Marc Riboud: 1 print, 1979
  • Miguel Rio Branco: 1 print, 1974
  • Burt Glinn: 1 print, 1970
  • Leonard Freed: 3 prints, 1978, 1979, 1989

(solo projects)

  • Inge Morath: 3 prints, 4 spreads, 1961, 1966, 1988
  • Cristina Garcia Rodero: 2 prints, 3 spreads, 1978, 1980
  • Josef Koudelka: 3 prints, 4 spreads, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1973, 1975
  • Phillip Jones Griffiths: 6 prints, 1979
  • Susan Meiselas: 3 prints, 3 spreads, 1974, 1976, 1977
  • Richard Kalvar: 12 prints, 1976
  • Raymond Depardon: 3 prints, 4 spreads, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984
  • Jim Goldberg: 5 prints, 1977, 1978
  • Danny Lyon: 4 prints, 5 spreads, 1968, 1971, 1986

Corporate Commissions and Personal Authorship

Photobooks shown as flip videos/spreads

  • Cornell Capa, Margin of Life
  • Guy Le Querrec, Quelque Part
  • Raymond Depardon, Notes
  • Chris Steele-Perkins, The Teds
  • Abbas, Iran: La Revolution Confisquee
  • Leonard Freed, Police Work
  • Susan Meiselas, Nicaragua
  • Gilles Peress, Telex Iran
  • René Burri, One World
  • Harry Gruyaert, Lumières Blanches
  • Patrick Zachmann, Enquête d’Identité

Various spreads of corporate brochures, annual reports, and advertisements

Series About Endings 1990-2017

(frieze)

  • Jim Goldberg: 1 print, 2007
  • Jacob Aue Sobol: 2 prints, 2001, 2002
  • Alessandra Sanguinetti: 1 print, 1999
  • Thomas Hoepker: 2 prints, 1990, 1991
  • Peter van Agtmael: 1 print, 2015
  • Antoine D’Agata: 2 prints, 2000, 2002
  • Jerome Sessini: 1 print, 2014
  • Jean Gaumy: 2 prints, 1996, 1998
  • Larry Towell: 4 prints, 2001, 2002, 2004
  • Olivia Arthur: 2 prints, 2009, 2015
  • Jonas Bendicksen: 2 prints, 2000, 2004
  • Trent Parke: 1 print, 2007
  • Christopher Anderson: 2 prints, 2010, 2014
  • Raymond Depardon: 1 print, 1989
  • Moises Saman: 2 prints, 2011, 2012
  • Thomas Dworzak: 1 print, 2015
  • Michael Christopher Brown: 1 print, 2011
  • Gueorgui Pinkhassov: 1 print, 2006
  • Bieke Depoorter: 2 prints, 2010, 2012

(solo projects)

  • Mark Power: 4 spreads, 1 book cover, 1989
  • Martin Parr: 1 print, 2 books, 2003
  • Jerome Sessini: 5 prints, 2013
  • Thomas Dworzak: 18 prints, 1 book, 2002, 2003
  • Mikhael Subtozky: 1 print, 1 book, 2008, 2014
  • Donovan Wylie: 12 prints, 2 books, 2003, 2004
  • Alessandra Sanguinetti: 5 prints, 2016
  • Peter Marlow: 11 prints, 1 book, 2003, 2006
  • Olivia Arthur: 4 prints, 1 book, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Paolo Pellegrin: 12 prints, 2015
  • Alec Soth: 2 prints, 1 book, 2008, 2010
  • Rochester Project: 5 prints (Goldberg, Wylie, Sanguinetti, Towell, Pellegrin), 1 book, 2012, 2015

Magnum Is… (multi channel video, 7 minutes, 2017)

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: When we think about the broad cultural themes of the last century, one of the most powerful explainers of how our world has changed is the simple idea of speed. In a sense, nearly everything we do in our lives is “faster” now than it once was, from our communication and our global travel to our work productivity and our news cycle, and that increase in velocity has transformed how we process the world around us, to both our collective success and detriment.

As a vocation, photojournalism is inextricably twinned to this concept of rapid response – since the advent of the portable, hand-held camera (and the synergistic news outlets that could quickly communicate those images to the public at large), we as readers and consumers of imagery have increasingly demanded great pictures from the scene of the action, whether that was a house fire around the corner or a civil war across the globe, and now in the 21st century, we require them nearly instantly. Given the all-encompassing reach of this speed increase, we might reasonably think that contemporary photojournalism must be a “go fast or go home” situation, which in the case of breaking news, it most certainly is.

But if there is any durably important theme to be drawn out of this comprehensive survey of the 70-year history of Magnum Photos, it is that speed isn’t everything – in fact, it’s human empathy and incisive visual intelligence that are what separate great photojournalism from dross, and those qualities inherently require a dose of patience and thoughtful observation. While it was probably never thought of in exactly this way as the decades clicked by, this exhibit shows that the history of the famous collective has been, and continues to be, fundamentally rooted in a contrarian push to incrementally slow down, to get closer, and to spend the time to uncover not just the immediately consumable photographic information but the more elusive strands of knowledge and insight hiding underneath.

This survey is divided into three sections of roughly two decades each, starting with the founding of Magnum Photos in 1947 and continuing all the way to the present, and this chronological bucketing helps to clarify the step-wise evolution that has taken place in the agency’s approach. Each section is also split between a sweep of single images by various members, providing both historical context and stylistic commonalities, and a selection of projects that dive deeper, often taking the form of photo essays, books, or in-depth investigations. As the decades pass, the subject matter and the aesthetics both experience wholesale transformations.

The first section covers the period from 1947 to 1968, documenting the aftermath of World War II, the buildup of the Cold War, and civil rights protests of the 1960s, and regardless of the particular geography and the person behind the lens, the pictures pull toward a sense of common cause and universal humanity. For the most part, the images and stories have a political edge and a current events focus, tracking voters, immigrants, and refugees, and following protests, conflicts, and outright revolution, but the photographers never veer too far from finding a personal context in far off events. Eve Arnold shows us the lives of migrant potato pickers on Long Island, Sergio Larrain sees the poetry in Santiago’s beggar children, and Erich Hartmann settles into the humble routines of daily bread making, each project a reinforcement of our shared humanity, wherever we might be.

The middle period of the show covers the 1970s and 1980s, and it is here that we start to see the Magnum photographers moving away from the headlines more aggressively, searching out more overlooked stories and marginalized communities. There seems to be a conscious down-shifting taking place, where the photographers opted for in-depth engagements rather than quicker hits. The repeated patterns in the work from this time are found in the perspective of the outsider – prostitutes and neo-Nazis, police cadets and psychiatric ward patients, teddy boys and mudmen from Papua New Guinea – and in each, we find difference rather than commonality. In many ways, this is a more subtle photographic argument – we’re not all the same (like we used to think), but in our astonishing diversity, we can still find points of shared humanity. And from this commitment to attentive engagement with outsiders came some truly landmark photo projects – Susan Meiselas’ striptease dancers, Josef Koudelka’s gypsies, Jim Goldberg’s drug addled T.J., Danny Lyon’s Texas prisoners, and many more.

The final section of the show brings us into the 21st century, where the original seeds of diversity have now sprouted into endless tiny splinters and the sustainable path forward is less clear, especially if we aren’t willing engage with “others” with a sense of curiosity, trust, and openness. With more women and minorities represented on the Magnum squad, a new spread of interests have come forth, and the project-based approach is now firmly cemented in place. Ends and beginnings (both political and personal) form the underlying rhythm of the recent selections, from scenes taken from failed regimes and aspirational revolutions to quirkier, more individual studies of lives taking place (or disappearing) within this broader tumult. Stylistically, the pictures run the gamut from works that would feel most comfortable on the white cube walls of an art gallery to those that are destined for the pages of a methodically researched photobook, and everything else in between – each project must now find its own natural home. Mikhael Subotzky chronicles the social complexity of an abandoned skyscraper in South Africa, Paolo Pellegrin follows Libyan migrants making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, Olivia Arthur tracks Indian and Pakistani workers in the dreamlike confusion of Dubai, and Thomas Dworzak puts a face on the Taliban, each effort testing limits, and in its own way, going further than Magnum has gone before.

An anniversary survey like this is undeniably prone to a mood of smiles-all-around self-congratulation, but the smart editing of the selections here mutes that overt promotion and instead offers a more rounded and measured assessment of what Magnum Photos and its members have accomplished. A final newly-made video entitled Magnum Is … lays bare some of the contentious lack of agreement that plagues collectives like Magnum, but also revels in the constant stimulation of that inherent conflict. What seems to hold the opposing forces together is a deeply felt sense of shared responsibility (to the craft, to the medium, and to the viewer), and this “manifesto” enables a fractious community of rivals, rogues, and rabble-rousers to draw sustenance and inspiration from each other, even if their photographs (and careers) travel vastly different roads.

The clarity with which this Mangum odyssey unfolds is a testament to the high quality curatorial spade work done here – with 70 years of images at the ready, this summary could have gone off the tracks at any given moment. But the team of Clément Chéroux with Clara Bouveresse and Pauline Vermare has done an admirable job of synthesizing the mass down into something plausibly representative of the whole, digestible in one visit, and still entirely engrossing. With so many photographers to consider (and personalities to keep happy), the overall balancing act can’t have been easy, but the outcome (in both exhibit and accompanying catalog forms) is broadly robust and tightly persuasive, with an underlying structure that feels thoughtful and well-argued. The patterns we walk away with were there along, but the curators have made these conclusions and learnings much more easily identifiable.

At a time when the uninformed (or the delusional) think they are smartphone-toting photojournalists, it is important for actual professionals like those involved with Magnum Photos to step out into the bright lights and invest effort in educating the public at large about the complexities that moniker really carries with it. Superlative exhibits like this one, however self-serving, are critical steps in this process, as they help to provide a consistent foundation of context and intention that stands behind the famous pictures. The wide-ranging passion, intelligence, and overall photographic excellence on display here are undeniably impressive, and if these images are any guide, the strength and consistency of the collective’s world view are what will keep the tiller steady through the inevitable choppy water of the future.

Collector’s POV: Given this is a museum exhibition, there are, of course, no posted prices, and since the breadth of artists included makes individual discussion of gallery representations and secondary market histories unmanageable, we will forego the usual collector-centric analysis usually found here. That said, the Magnum Photos print room/store (here) offers both vintage and modern prints from many of the artists included in this exhibition.

Read more about: Abbas, Alec Soth, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Antoine D'Agata, Ara Güler, Bieke Depoorter, Bob Henriques, Bruno Barbey, Burt Glinn, Charles Harbutt, Chim (David Seymour), Chris Steele-Perkins, Christopher Anderson, Constantine Manos, Cornell Capa, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Danny Lyon, David Alan Harvey, David Hurn, Dennis Stock, Donovan Wylie, Eli Reed, Elliott Erwitt, Erich Hartmann, Erich Lessing, Eve Arnold, Gilles Peress, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Guy Le Querrec, Harry Gruyaert, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Herbert List, Hiroji Kubota, Hiroshi Hamaya, Inge Morath, Jacob Aue Sobol, Jean Gaumy, Jerome Sessini, Jim Goldberg, Jonas Bendiksen, Josef Koudelka, Larry Towell, Leonard Freed, Lu Nan, Marc Riboud, Marilyn Silverstone, Mark Power, Martin Parr, Martine Franck, Michael Christopher Brown, Miguel Rio Branco, Mikhael Subotzky, Moises Saman, Nicolas Tikhomiroff, Olivia Arthur, Paolo Pellegrin, Patrick Zachmann, Paul Fusco, Peter Marlow, Peter van Agtmael, Philip Jones Griffiths, Raghu Rai, Raymond Depardon, René Burri, Richard Kalvar, Robert Capa, Sergio Larrain, Susan Meiselas, Thomas Dworzak, Thomas Hoepker, Trent Parke, W. Eugene Smith, Wayne Miller, Werner Bischof, International Center of Photography (ICP Museum), Thames & Hudson

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