Looking through the Magnum archive, we examine what makes images of resistance resonate so loudly

Burt Glinn USA. Chicago, Illinois. 1968. Two young protestors rest outside the convention hall during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention. © Burt Glinn | Magnum Photos

Of the most universally recognizable images in photography, many are photographs of protest, but there exists a myriad reasons why these images gained such a heightened place in public consciousness.

An exhibition by Magnum Photos, ‘Protest!’ at Milk Gallery in New York, explored the relationship of photography to protest, and featured many images that have taken on a totemic value in popular culture.

David Seymour Members of the group ‘Mars’ atop a small chapel in the Père Lachaise cemetery during a demonstration in memory of those who were killed in the 1871 Paris Commune. From left: Charles Dinerstein, Sim (...)
Bruce Davidson Arrest of a demonstrator. "Damn the Defiant!" Birmingham, Alabama, USA. 1963. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Ian Berry A protest demonstration by students from Witwatersand University. Witwatersand. South Africa. 1961. © Ian Berry | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey Students hurling projectiles against the police. 6th arrondissement. Boulevard Saint Germain. Paris, France. May 6th 1968. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos

The curation captures the different ways in which protests can manifest: from people on the streets exercising their objection, such as Ian Berry’s images of anti-apartheid demonstrations in South Africa, which amplified the voice of the movement globally, to portraits of individuals, both famous and unknown, whose acts of resistance, however small or epic, were immortalized in a photograph, and adopted by millions as representative of something meaningful to their cause.

Stuart Franklin 'The Tank Man' stopping the column of T59 tanks. Tien An Men Square, Beijing, China. 4th June 1989. © Stuart Franklin | Magnum Photos

Some photojournalistic images have become famous because of the dramatic, world-altering moments that they depict, where the photographers themselves were caught up in the action, such as Bruno Barbey’s documentation of the Paris riots in May 1968, or David Hurn’s shots of an anti-Vietnam protest that took a violent turn outside of the London flat he was living in, in that same year.

Wayne Miller Strike captain during protest by the packing house workers. Chicago, Illinois, USA. March 1948. © Wayne Miller | Magnum Photos

Captured on camera, individual acts of defiance, often part of larger protests, have gone on to become symbolic of the movement they represent. Raymond Depardon’s image of American athletes Larry James, Lee Evans and Ron Freeman, raising their fists in the air at the podium at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City in solidarity with the civil rights movement has become iconic, and has taken on a newly totemic quality in light of the ongoing racial tensions in America and the plight of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bob Henriques Martin Luther King speaking to the crowds. Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. Washington DC, USA. May 17, 1957. © Bob Henriques | Magnum Photos
Susan Meiselas Demonstrators carry a photograph of Arlen Siu, an FSLN guerrilla fighter killed in the mountains three years earlier. A funeral procession for assassinated student leaders. Jinotepe. Nicaragua. © Susan Meiselas | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Cesar Chavez, leader of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), picketing outside of a farm to urge workers to join in the fight for better wages and workers' rights. California, USA. 1966. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
David Hurn Anti-Vietnam War riots in front of the American Embassy. London, England. 1968 © David Hurn | Magnum Photos

Stuart Franklin’s ‘Tank Man’, showing a lone man stopping a row of tanks by standing in front of them in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is also frequently included amongst the most famous images of the 20th Century, and has become a symbol of standing up to power. And Marc Riboud’s image of a woman confronting a row of armed National Guards with a single flower outside the Pentagon during the 1967 anti-Vietnam march, has become similarly emblematic as a symbol of peaceful resistance.

Bruno Barbey Worker and student demonstration from Republique to Denfert-Rochereau. (about 1000000 demonstrators) May 13th. 11th arrondissement. Paris, France. 1968. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos

Dennis Stock’s portrait of a pacifist a man voicing his objection to the Vietnam war with his specially made newspaper with a headline that reads “WAR IS IN VERY BAD TASTE” highlights one man’s act of resistance, while images of Martin Luther King addressing crowds at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, 1957, and, later on in 1995, Eli Reed’s images of the Million Man March, show the power of people turning out in large numbers through the vast panning shots of the crowds.

Dennis Stock Pacifist demonstrating at Santa Monica. "Waste more land" alludes to the name of the US Commander-in-Chief in Vietnam, General Westmoreland. California. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Raymond Depardon © Raymond Depardon | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson Led by Martin Luther King Jr., a group of civil rights demonstrators march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for black suffrage. A young African American man with the word "VOTE" on his forehead. A (...)
Leonard Freed The March on Washington. Washington, D.C, USA. 1963. © Leonard Freed | Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold Malcolm X during his visit to enterprises owned by Black Muslims. Chicago, Illinois, USA. 1962. © Eve Arnold | Magnum Photos

Portraits of leaders are also presented at the Milk gallery show, highlighting the importance of figureheads to protest movements. And while the decades-spanning exhibition presents a history of protest photography, it is also brought up to date with photographs taken as recently as this year. Images such as Christopher Anderson’s of the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 are a testament to the ongoing work Magnum photographers are doing to document the current history movements of resistance are writing.

Shop the full collection of fine photographic prints available to buy from the Protest show via the Magnum shop, here.

Thomas Dworzak During the night after the "revolution" bands of thugs had looted the main shops. The new "government" calls for the formation of a civil defense to guard the buildings. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. March (...)
Christopher Anderson Women's March in Midtown the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President. Francine Vidal carries her sign in the march. NYC, USA. January 21st, 2017. © Christopher Anderson | Magnum Photos
Stuart Franklin Tiananmen Square. Beijing, China. 1989. © Stuart Franklin | Magnum Photos
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