By Amelia Hennighausen
This year, Magnum Photos approaches their 70th anniversary as the renowned collaboration of the world’s most influential photographers. Their contribution to communication through the lens is undeniable—starting with the battlefields of World War II, and continuing to the present day. Throughout 2017, their website will feature iconic work from all seven decades—and public events will occur in New York, London, Paris, and Asia. These events allow us a closer look at their vital and groundbreaking contribution to understanding the past 70 years through the artists’ photography.
When photographers Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, and David “Chim” Seymour toasted the founding of their new artists’ collective back in 1947, they celebrated with an emblematic magnum of champagne. Known for its iconic documentation of history, Magnum’s collection contains many familiar images, such as Robert Capa’s photos of the Omaha Beach D-Day landings. Their collection is immense, and while their archive is an incredible resource that has captured world events over seven decades, the agency and their photographers remain at the forefront of global events and continue their dedicated work.
Since those first days of the collective over 70 years ago, more than a hundred affiliated photographers have contributed to the story of Magnum’s success. The co-operative is owned and run by its current 49 members, who continue to chronicle the world via with their photographic storytelling. Their work often echoes that of the past, with the current migration crisis proving to be the largest since post–World War II. Henri Cartier-Bresson and Capa both documented the earlier crisis, creating a theme that threads the co-operative’s initial work to Magnum’s most current photos.
In March of this year, Magnum photographer Lorenzo Meloni was on the front lines of the military operations against the Islamic State in Mosul, where he documented the chaos and destruction of war, and the refugees fleeing their homes.
Since its inception, Magnum has always had an eye towards politics, and most recently Alex Majoli photographed women in the current White House press corps for a revealing editorial report in Vogue. As political views intensify leading up to influential global elections, Magnum is there. Last month, Jerome Sessin photographed the French presidential candidates, up-close.
The culture of labor and work has also been thematic throughout Magnum’s coverage, and in April, Carolyn Drake photographed the changing face of online content programming at Netflix.
The work of the founders of Magnum still holds our attention, and serves as reminders of history—and as mirrors to current events. An exhibit entitled “Capturing History: The Photography of Chim,” open now through January 18, 2018, at the Museum of The Jewish People in Israel features the work of David “Chim” Seymour, and has an accompanying book.
The most definitive book on Magnum’s process and influence is Reading Magnum, a tome worthy of your time.
Magnum Photos continues to celebrate its legacy and contribution to photographic history with the exhibit “Magnum Manifesto,” which will open at the International Center of Photography in New York City on May 26, 2017, and a book of the same name to be published by Thames & Hudson on July 11.
“People say that the world of photography has been radically altered by the digital revolution. There are billions of images uploaded every year from millions of smart phones. Everyone can be a photographer,” writes David Kogan, the Executive Director at Magnum Photos. He continues, “But if you believe that in a world of mass production there is still room for quality and talent then you will always have the great artists, the great singers and the great photographers whose work is different. It speaks to a higher level.”