Arts & Culture

A New Edition of the Best-Selling Book “Magnum Magnum”

25 Magnum photographers are added to the latest edition of “Magnum Magnum,” bringing together the agency’s past and present

Republican soldiers inside the Governor's Palace, the last bastion of the Fascist resistance. Battle of Teruel, Spain, January 3, 1938. © Robert Capa / International Center of Photography / Magnum (...)

In 2007, as part of Magnum’s 60th-anniversary celebrations, Thames & Hudson published Magnum Magnum, a blockbuster book edited by the cooperative’s former cultural director, Brigitte Lardinois. The book, featuring over 400 photographs from Magnum photographers in just under 600 pages, sold over 200,000 copies worldwide in nine languages and three different formats.

The concept behind the book was unique, inspired by collaboration — a founding principle of the cooperative, which was formed in 1947. Rather than asking each photographer to select a series of images from their own archive, they were asked to curate a short selection from one of their colleagues. The selections were then published alongside a short text explaining their choices and a short biography of the photographer.

Salvador Dali's "Dali Atomicus." 1948. © Philippe Halsman / Magnum Photos

The idea to let each photographer select and write about each other’s pictures came from Martin Parr during one of Magnum’s annual general meetings. Stuart Franklin, Magnum’s president at the time of the book’s publication, would refer to in the preface as a “gamble” worthy of Robert Capa, one of Magnum’s founders, who allegedly raised money to pay staff members by betting on horses. 

Magnum has often been referred to as a family, embracing all the connotations that may arise from that concept, and a genuine sense of camaraderie still seeps through the pages of the book. “Little did I know that this man would truly enrich my life and become, in feel, the brother I had never had,” wrote David Hurn of his Czech colleague Josef Koudelka.

East 100th Street. New York City, USA, 1966. © Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos

It was also an opportunity to bring together the various generations of Magnum photographers — an exercise in reflection on the cooperative’s legacy and in a sense, the passing on of a baton. A selection of Robert Capa’s lesser-known images of the Spanish Civil War was chosen by Susan Meiselas, and six images from George Rodger’s first picture story, “The Blitz,” by Peter Marlow. “We became friends, with a mutual respect across the generations, one of the enduring qualities of Magnum,” Marlow wrote in his accompanying text on Rodger.

Pool designed by Alain Capeilleres. Le Brusc, France, 1976. © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

Fifteen years later, following the success of the original, a newly updated and expanded edition has been edited by Brigitte Lardinois and published by Thames & Hudson in November 2023, with a new introduction written by Fred Ritchin. 

The new edition includes the 25 photographers who have become members of Magnum since the book was first released, from Cristina García Rodero who became a member in 2008, to Gregory Halpern, Lúa Ribeira, Nanna Heitmann and Rafał Milach, the four photographers elected as members at the Magnum Annual General Meeting in June 2023. In total, the book now spans the work of 88 photographers, adding a further 150 photographs across over 700 pages.

“Magnum Magnum” is available to order here.

Olivia Arthur and Cristina de Middel, former and current president of the cooperative, contribute a poignant foreword to the book. For this edition, they were presented with the opportunity to reflect on evolutions within Magnum, the industry, and the world since 2007 — and what the cooperative and its history means to us today. “The world now is very different from the one in which the first edition of the book was created,” they write. “Neither of us were Magnum members at the time, and it is remarkable for the two of us to look back and consider all that has changed within the agency and in the world since 2007.” 

Tanners of Sidi Moussa. Guerniz district, Fez, Morocco, 1984. © Bruno Barbey / Magnum Photos

"Magnum can keep on evolving only if it keeps two doors open: the one that leads to our archive and legacy, and allows for its protection and care; and the one that welcomes the next generation."

- Olivia Arthur and Cristina de Middel
Kai Tak Airport was said to be the most difficult in the world for taking off and landing. With the new airport at Chek Lap Kok now open, Kai Tak has been closed. Hong Kong, 1996. © Hiroji Kubota / (...)

“Magnum photographers don’t all agree on what good photography is — for some of us, even the idea of ‘good photography’ can feel outdated. But what is important is that we have something to say, and we believe that photography is the best way to say it.

An Orthodox priest blesses the protesters on a barricade. Kyiv, Ukraine, 2014. © Jérôme Sessini / Magnum Photos

“We also agree that Magnum can keep on evolving only if it keeps two doors open: the one that leads to our archive and legacy, and allows for its protection and care; and the one that welcomes the next generation. The air flowing between these two doors will keep on refreshing that constant questioning that keeps Magnum relevant.”

Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Altai Republic, Russia, 2000. © Jonas Bendiksen / Magnum Photos

Magnum Magnum in its new, expanded form shows the cooperative for what it is today — a now 77-year-old community of individual photographers. Magnum has become an entity in itself, greater than the sum of its parts.

Burning tree, close to the settlement Kürelyakh. Siberia, Russia, July 2021. © Nanna Heitmann / Magnum Photos

Magnum’s three central offices each hosted an event in February to celebrate the publication of the book. Starting in Magnum’s New York office on the evening of February 1, Susan Meiselas and Carolyn Drake gave a talk followed by a book signing. On February 6, Raymond Depardon and Jérôme Sessini gave a  presentation in French at the Magnum Gallery in Paris. And on February 7, Martin Parr and Olivia Arthur were joined by the book’s editor Brigitte Lardinois and Andrew Sanigar of Thames & Hudson for a discussion about the making of the book. 

The new edition of Magnum Magnum is now available to order here.

Brigitte Lardinois, editor of “Magnum Magnum”, worked extensively with Magnum as Photography Curator at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. In 1996 they invited her to set up the Cultural Department in Magnum London and she worked for ten years as their Cultural Director. In 2006 she moved to the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London where she is currently Reader in Understanding of Public Photography. 

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