Magnum’s Books of 2017
Must-read photobooks published by Magnum photographers this year
Photobooks are very often the truest iteration of the photographer’s intention. Books allow bodies of work or focussed passion projects the space to expand into their fullest narrative, and afford photographers the authorship of how their work is presented. Earlier this year, we published an article in which Martin Parr and David Solo discussed the so-called “Golden Age”of the photobook. The pair extolled the ways in which the object of the photobook is so “much more than the sum of its parts or of the images it contains”. Also serving as a deep dive into the genre of photobook publishing, Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonné , published this year, looked back upon Magnum photographers’ most noteworthy books. The pages of this so-called “book of books” include unpublished behind-the-scenes material, together with ephemera from the photographers’ archives about the making of their books.
To mark Magnum’s 70th year, Magnum Manifesto demonstrates how Magnum Photos owes its preeminence to the ability of its photographers to encompass and navigate the points between photography as art object, and photography as documentary evidence.
Here, we round up books published by Magnum photographers this year, from bodies of work built over careers to specific projects.
Buzzing at the Sill
Peter van Agtmael
During the September 11th attacks and the invasion of Iraq, van Agtmael was a history student at Yale; his guarded life was thrown out of the way when he realized that he had to report on these wars. The work is a mixture of reflections on war, memory, militarism, identity, ethnicity, social class, surrealism, and landscape. It shows the limits of photography and is also a tribute to its strength.
The Last Testament
In his latest book The Last Testament, Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen chronicles seven men who all publicly claim to be the biblical Messiah returned. Some have thousands of followers; others only a handful of disciples. All are united in the faith that they themselves are the Chosen One and have come to save the world.
The fruits of five different trips to Bolivia between 1997 and 2015, the photographs in this book reveal a timeless Bolivia, where the rural and indigenous populations live primarily off the land. Raymond Depardon’s black-and-white photography highlights the harsh beauty of the landscape, the ravaged faces of the peasants, the omnipresent silhouettes of women, and the magic of ancestral traditions. From the desert plains of Salar d’Uyuni and the mountain village of Tarabuco to the serenity of Lake Titicaca, Raymond Depardon takes us on a journey filled with humanity; culminating in the discovery of Vallegrande and in the footsteps of Che Guevara, whose image has had a lasting and profound impact on collective memory.
As It May Be
Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter has traveled to Egypt regularly since the beginning of the revolution in 2011, trying to find trust in times of turmoil and suspicion, where private life is often shielded. She asked people she met by chance if she could spend the night at their homes. Women, their husbands and children shared their daily life, their food and even their bed with her. This engagement is truly important to Depoorter. Nevertheless, the consciousness of her status as an outsider, both culturally and as a photographer started to grow. In 2017, she revisited the country with the first draft of this book, inviting others, to write comments directly onto the photographs. Contrasting views on country, religion, society and photography arise between people who would otherwise never cross paths.
The included booklet features all of the handwritten notes in the original Arabic as well as the English translations. As it may be depicts a population in transition with integrity, commitment, and respect.
The English version publishes through Aperture in April 2018.
Carolyn Drake’s series Internat, was made at a Soviet-era orphanage designed to protect and provide shelter to girls marked as disabled. Drake actively collaborated with the residents, drawing ideas from fairy tales, and seeing where their joint aspirations led while passing time in the seclusion of the institution. Nature, real-life activities, and the thick walls surrounding the facility became vehicles for exploring questions about isolation, the imagination, and the construction of normal female behavior.
In 1964, while on an assignment for Newsweek magazine, photojournalist Elliott Erwitt spent a week in Cuba as a guest of Fidel Castro. There, he captured the now iconic photographs of the beloved Cuban president, along with the revolutionary leader Che Guevara.
Over fifty years later —coinciding with restored diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States— Erwitt returned to document both its urban and rural landscapes, and most prominently, the people of this fascinating nation. Presented in a book for the very first time, Erwitt’s captivating black-and-white photographs offer an intimate look into this intriguing Caribbean island. From candid glimpses of Fidel Castro and Havana’s breathtaking architectural details to scenes of rural life, Cuba reflects an in-depth visual exploration that unveils the heart and soul of the country.
In 1950, the 22-year-old Elliott Erwitt was commissioned by the legendary Roy Stryker to document Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, as it emerged from a notoriously polluted industrial city into a cleaner, more modern metropolis. “It was probably the most important thing that happened to me with regard to starting my career,” Erwitt has since said. Shooting for Stryker’s newly organized Pittsburgh Photographic Library, Erwitt’s photographs captured the humanity and spirit of the people of the city against the angular industrial architecture.
Drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Germany just four months after arriving in Pittsburgh, Erwitt was forced to abandon the project, leaving his negatives behind. For decades, the negatives were held at the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and as a result, a majority of the photographs in this book have neither been published nor exhibited before.
The Last Son
Raised by Wolves Bootleg
It’s been a busy year for Jim Goldberg who has seen three major publications. Using a Xerox copy machine he created a bootleg version of his iconic Raised by Wolves – an edition which soon sold out. The Last Son is the second in a trilogy published by Japanese cult publisher, Superlabo. A personal three part series weaving together an assemblage of visual memories, the first, 134 Ways to Forget, was published in 2011. The Last Son is a mixed media coming of age story, in which the photographer traces his dreams and remembers his father through ephemera, writing and photographs. A contemporary Bildungsroman.
Candy / A Good and Spacious Land
Candy / A Good and Spacious Land is a two volume set of books featuring works by both Jim Goldberg and Donovan Wylie. Born out of a joint residency at the Yale University Art Gallery, the project explores the concept of the “model city” through the lens of New Haven, Connecticut, from two different photographic perspectives.
At a time when the world was politically divided into East and West, Harry Gruyaert’s quest for light and sensuality led him to capture the colours of two very different worlds: the vibrant glitziness of Las Vegas and Los Angeles in 1982 and the austere restraint of Moscow in 1989, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. Although his intention was not to document current affairs, he nonetheless created a remarkable set of images that preserve a moment in history in glowing shades.
A Proposition for Departure
Using photography to wade through deeply personal stories, Magnum nominee Sohrab Hura has employed sound to delve further into the medium for his new book A Proposition for Departure. The book is a blueprint for his experiments in sound that have proven both a point of departure from the photographic medium (hence the name) and have served as a door back into the practice.
From cheerleading to wild horse wrangling, Dolly Parton look-alike competitions, fraternity dances, arm-wrestling contests and women-only clubs with nearly nude male dancers: Arizona Trips is the first book dedicated to David Hurn’s twenty-year love affair with Arizona.
Josef Koudelka first started using a camera in the panoramic format in 1986 while participating in the photographic mission of the DATAR, whose objective was to “represent the French landscape of the 1980s”. Koudelka crisscrossed France, then the entire world, to take stock of modern humanity’s influence on the landscape. Industries gathers together 40 panoramic photographs selected by the artist with the assistance of François Hébel. These images bear witness to major human works, including factories, quarries, enormous mining complexes and abandoned zones. They carry the reader into inaccessible and little-known areas, between the sublime and disarray, to witness the imposing reality of the industry.
Message to the Future
Message to the Future is the first comprehensive overview of the American photographer and filmmaker, Danny Lyon. Coming of age in the 1960s, Lyon distinguished himself with work that emphasized intimate social engagement. In 1962, Lyon traveled to the segregated South to photograph the civil rights movement. Subsequent projects on biker culture, the demolition and redevelopment of lower Manhattan, the Texas prison system, the Occupy movement, and the vanishing culture in China’s booming Shanxi Province, all share Lyon’s signature immersive approach and his commitment to social and political issues that concern those on the margins of society.
Burn Zone and The Story of Sam
Burn Zone and The Story of Sam, are both published by Danny Lyon’s Bleak Beauty and available from his blog here. Burn Zone documents the second largest fire in New Mexico history, the Conchas Fire, which he could watch from my studio. The Story of Sam takes the style of a family photo album, and features a fictional text from Sam, Lyon’s previous Aussie dog.
D.P.R. Korea Grand Tour
Carl De Keyzer
North Korea - officially the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea - is one of the hardest places in the world to photograph. Thousands of Westerners visit the DPRK on authorized tours each year but have to follow strict guidelines when taking pictures and often have to ask permission first. Professional photographers are simply not allowed on these trips. Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer is one of very few to have been given almost unlimited access to the DPRK. This unprecedented opportunity was made possible by the British-run Koryo Group, which has been taking people to the DPRK since 1993 and whose aim is to encourage people-to-people engagement through travel, culture, sport and humanitarian projects. In the course of three journeys totaling forty-two days, De Keyzer and his Korean guides travelled the length and breadth of the country, observing the place and its people. His is the first Western lens to be pointed at many of the 200 or more locations he visited. The result is a unique and often very surprising view of one of the worlds most complex, concealed and confusing countries.
Carl De Keyzer
In Moments Before the Flood, Carl De Keyzer portrayed a Europe on the cusp of drowning; flooded due to climate change. In Higher Ground, the flood has already passed. His images show people that have fled to the high mountains, depicting a fictional world of tomorrow. A large portion of the work is irony, but it bears an uncomfortably close semblance to scientific predictions of the future.
A Room of Their Own
A Room of Their Own, a new book from Multistory and Susan Meiselas, is a multilayered, visual story comprised of Susan’s photographs, first-hand testimonies, and original artworks from women in refuge in the Black Country. Through a series of collaborative workshops, the women worked with Susan, plus an illustrator and a writer, between 2015 and 2016, to explore their experiences of domestic abuse and resettlement.
Originally published in 1981, Susan Meiselas’s Nicaragua is a contemporary classic—a seminal contribution to the literature of concerned photojournalism. Nicaragua forms an extraordinary narrative of a nation in turmoil. Starting with a powerful and chilling evocation of the Somoza regime during its decline in the late 1970s, the images trace the evolution of the popular resistance that led to the insurrection and culminates in the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979. The book includes interviews with various participants of the revolution, along with letters, poems, and statistics. Excerpts from these interviews, gathered during Meiselas’s return to Nicaragua in early 1981, accompany the plates in the book.
On the Frontline
Meiselas guides us through her ideas, practices, and decision-making along her journey from Carnival Strippers (1976) and Nicaragua: June 1978–July 1979 (1981; reissued by Aperture (2008, 2016) to Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997) and Cova da Moura, Portugal (2004). This book includes over 100 photographs from her earliest work and most well-known images, along with previously unpublished photographs.
Martin Parr’s book Oxford is a collection of 118 full-color photographs, that document an academic year in the life of the University. The images capture the day-to-day life of the colleges and University at work and play, and the colorful and arcane rituals that make it so distinctive.
Think of Scotland
For more than 25 years, Martin Parr has been taking photographs in Scotland. From the streets of Glasgow to an island agricultural show in Orkney, Parr has built a huge archive of photographs. Think of Scotland—Parr’s largest previously unpublished archive—weaves together some of the expected visual iconography of Scotland, such as highland games and stunning landscapes, but all with the Parr twist that makes the expected look so unfamiliar.
Gueorgui Pinkhassov’s new book, Sophistication Simplification, takes the photographer’s Instagram work as a point of departure, in “an attempt to return images from the virtual world into the usual, material one.” In an article published on the occasion of its release, the Magnum photographer reflects on his practice and changes in the media and the role of photography; looking particularly at the role of the iPhone and the changing of cultural mores prompted by the digital revolution.
Sleeping by the Mississippi
Sleeping by the Mississippi is one of the defining publications in the photobook era. First published by Steidl in 2004, it was Alec Soth’s first book, sold through three editions, and established him as one of the leading lights of contemporary photographic practice. This MACK edition includes two new photographs that were not included in the previous versions of the book.
Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb
Speaking of his latest book, Slant Rhymes, created in partnership with his wife, Alex Webb describes, “Sometimes we find our photographic slant rhymes share a similar palette or tone or geometry. Other times, our paired photographs strike a similar note—often a penchant for surreal or surprising or enigmatic moments—although often in two different keys.”
In this publication, the artists’ photographs—many of which are published here for the first time—are interwoven with short text pieces by the Webbs. A deeply personal book that’s beautifully produced as an intimate clothbound edition with a tipped-on cover, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb: Slant Rhymes is an unfinished love poem, told at a slant.
Magnum Atlas: A Journey Around the World in 365 Photos with the Magnum Archive
Featuring new and iconic images, this follow-up to Prestel’s highly successful A Year in Photography: Magnum Archive includes some of the most striking photography ever collected in one volume. As readers flip the pages of Magnum Atlas, they will find themselves traveling from west to east across the globe. Each country is represented in three or four images captured by a single photographer.
Contact Sheets, Third Edition
Available for the first time in a compact edition, this groundbreaking book presents a remarkable selection of contact sheets and ancillary material, revealing how the most celebrated Magnum photographers capture and edit the very best shots. Addressing key questions of photographic practice, the book illuminates the creative methods, strategies, and editing processes behind some of the world’s most iconic images.
Browse more rare and signed books on the Magnum Shop.