1950s and Now
Within five years of its founding, Magnum had also added to its roster talented young photographers such as Eve Arnold, Burt Glinn, Erich Hartmann, Erich Lessing, Marc Riboud, Dennis Stock and Kryn Taconis. Riboud soon followed Cartier-Bresson with his own pioneering work in China, the first of many trips in what has become a lifelong interest. Arnold took a memorable series of pictures of the Black Muslims and of Marilyn Monroe. Taconis covered the Algerian war for independence. Soon others such as Rene Burri, Cornell Capa (Robert's younger brother), Elliott Erwitt and Inge Morath would join. The agency was growing. But there was a feeling that it was heading in some wrong directions. In a memorable 1962 memo addressed to "All Photographers" Cartier-Bresson, attempted to remind the photographers of their place in the world:
“I wish to remind everyone that Magnum was created to allow us, and in fact to oblige us, to bring testimony on our world and contemporaries according to our own abilities and interpretations. I won't go into details here of who, what, when, why and where, but I feel a hard touch of sclerosis descending upon us. It might be from the conditioning of the milieu in which we live but this is no excuse. When events of significance are taking place, when it doesn't involve a great deal of money and when one is nearby, one must stay photographically in contact with the realities taking place in front of our lenses and not hesitate to sacrifice material comfort and security. This return to our sources would keep our heads and our lenses above the artificial life, which so often surrounds us. I am shocked to see to what extent so many of us are conditioned - almost exclusively by the desires of the clients..."
Many Magnum photographers have succeeded brilliantly at transcending "the artificial life" and exploring life's realities subsequent to Cartier-Bresson's memo, as well as before. Bruce Davidson's "East 100th Street" is an extraordinary formal meditation on the lives of people living on an impoverished New York City block, and Philip Jones Griffiths's 1971 book, "Vietnam Inc.", is a brilliantly sardonic, even ferocious, look at the policy of the United States in Vietnam.