June 21, 2013
by Magnum Photographers
From Henri Cartier-Bresson’s creative partnership with the publisher Robert Delpire, to Alec Soth’s experimental publishing house Little Brown Mushroom, the photobook as a means of expressing a body of work has been a critical preoccupation of Magnum’s membership since the agency’s inception in 1947.
At a time when Magnum Photos has completed the rebuilding of its own significant back catalogue of photography books under the direction of Martin Parr, a major book collector in his own right, and to coincide with the Magnum AGM in London, the Magnum Print Room are hosting an exhibition of selected photobooks by its photographer members.
Magnum Photobooks explores both the agency’s and individual photographers’ passion for book publishing over 60 years, exploring 30 titles. Early examples include Henri Cartier-Bresson’s influential photographic manifesto ‘The Decisive Moment’ (Verve, 1952), Philippe Halsman’s playful ‘Jump’ (Simon & Schuster, 1959) which sees the notion of celebrity in a refreshing and candid light, and Leonard Freed’s seminal documentation ‘Black in White America’ (Grossman Publishers, 1967) which captures the segregated and racially-entrenched society of 1960s black America.
A new generation of documentary photographers is represented by books such as Alec Soth’s acclaimed ‘Niagara’ (Steidl & Partners, 2006) and ‘Satellites’ by Jonas Bendiksen (Textuel, 2006). After completing an internship with Magnum Photos, young Norwegian photographer Bendiksen took an extended trip to the forgotten outer regions of ex Soviet Russia, completing this, his first major publication, in 2006.
Magnum Photobooks represents the agency’s own longstanding history with the photobook, and features a number of landmark group publications such as ‘In Our Time’, curated by Robert Delpire, and ‘Magnum Stories’, whose text offers a rare insight into the mind and working practice of Magnum’s photographers.
The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of contemporary and vintage prints, and contextual information about each publication. A number of internationally renowned publishers are represented, including Phaidon, Steidl and Thames & Hudson as well as bespoke photography publishers such as Aperture and Trolley, founded by the maverick Gigi Giannuzzi who sadly passed away in 2012.
In an age where the accessibility of self-publishing has widened the reach of photobook publishing, this exhibition provides a testimony and celebration of this much-loved creative process.