“I’m sure there are hidden treasures in any analog archive one might never have the chance to discover,” writes Thomas Hoepker, in the text that accompanies his submission for the Autumn 2019 Magnum Square Print Sale in Partnership with Aperture. Hoepker is one of 129 photographers and estates who have delved into their respective archives over recent months in order to select images which convey the sale’s chosen theme: Hidden.
For the third time, a roster of 41 artists published by Aperture has been invited to participate in exploring this theme alongside Magnum’s 88 photographers, resulting in a vast and diverse curation that encompasses both classic and contemporary artistic practices.
For the first time, Square Print orders shipped to Europe will be posted from Magnum Paris.
The 129 prints, all signed or estate-stamped, are available for $100 each until 11.59 p.m. EST on Friday, November 1. You can see the full selection in the slideshow below, and on the Magnum Shop, here.
The Autumn 2019 theme explores the idea of what the photographer sees that might be otherwise hidden. Since its beginnings, photography has functioned in part as a vehicle for showing what is neither accessible nor visible to the majority of us, as well as shedding light on the things around us that might otherwise be overlooked. From remote societies to elite fraternities, isolated places to objects so common we don’t stop to look at them, photographs reveal hidden things, places and lives. Artists, too, often describe their own private spaces and inner lives as integral to their work.
Each participating photographer offers their own interpretation of this theme, opening up rich avenues of exploration, and a wide-spanning visual dialogue between the visual artists involved.
It is within the photographer’s hands to use light to hide or reveal their subject’s identity. In Bruce Davidson’s image from Subway the subject’s face is rendered obscure by shadow, yet his image remains brilliant: “His glowing skin tone seemed to match the chains around his neck …’” Meanwhile, the two boys in Gregory Crewdson’s picture are framed by a stream of light that leaves them “hidden among cinematic lights and haze, awaiting their moment on set.”
For Alex Webb, his image of a boy in Brooklyn, “half-hidden in the shadows”, reflects his discovery that “the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known may sometimes lie just around the corner in our home borough…”
Elsewhere, we see the purposeful concealment of identity by the subjects, such as the masked Nicaraguan rebel in Susan Meiselas’ image: “A mask, not to hide / but to disguise / to draw on a past / to create a future..”
Masks–perhaps the most pervasive token of anonymity–are to be seen elsewhere in the selection too: Micha bar-Am’s own family, clad in gas masks during an Iraqi Scud missile attack; the masquerades in images by Robert Capa and Phyllis Galembo; and Mikhael Subotzky’s image of masked horsemen at an agricultural show in an Afrikaner township.
Perspective also plays a role, as in Don McCullin’s 1962 image of an unknown demonstrator. “What slogan was he brandishing on that banner? Who was he? What happened to him? His statement may have made headlines, but he remains forever anonymous, caught up entirely in his own activism,” writes McCullin.
On the other hand there are the immediately recognizable faces of celebrities such as David Bowie, Audrey Hepburn and Patti Smith, some choosing to hide from the limelight. “One night, The Beatles were sitting around their hotel suite after a performance at the Olympia in Paris, as they would be mobbed by their fans if they tried to leave the hotel,” says Harry Benson. “They were as far from the fans as they could be, in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. To me, this is the ultimate hiding place.”
Yet, even the most recognizable of figures have hidden aspects of their characters. Eve Arnold’s portrait of Marlene Dietrich is–according to her grandson’s text–typical of her wider work on famous figures, “A lot of Eve’s work was about making the unseen, visible. Getting to the person behind the persona.” Paolo Pellegrin writes of his portrait of actress Kate Winslet that, “A good portrait is not only a testament to the photographer, but also to the person who sits… She permitted me to access something that was moving her, that would have otherwise perhaps remained hidden. There was something exquisite in this unspoken exchange…” This interaction between subject and photographer, which can reveal either party’s secretive motives or thoughts, is at the heart of portraiture’s allure.
Then there are those who are identifiable, yet often invisible or ignored. “I’ve spent most of my life looking for people and things hidden in plain sight–whether rifling through other people’s medicine cabinets or photographing a subset of a population or culture,” explains Jim Goldberg, alongside his portrait of self-pronounced ‘loner’ Ron. Mary Ellen Mark’s 1987 documentation of the Damm family, who were living out of their car in Los Angeles, shone a crucial light on a hidden crisis in America, that of the thousands of faceless families living with children below the poverty line.
“To be hidden is to be overlooked, betrayed, sold out. I’ve photographed hidden communities all over the United States, believing that this work can question injustice and confront the powerful,” writes Matt Black, whose ongoing documentation of poverty in contemporary America features in the selection.
Ernest Cole’s work revealed the brutal, hidden realities of Apartheid South Africa to the world at large. His selected image required him to “conceal a camera under his packed lunch” in order to expose the reality at the heart of a national industry at the time closed to curious eyes. Carl de Keyzer’s image, taken within a Siberian prison, allows the viewer insight to a similarly policed space, albeit one of an altogether different nature.
The subjects of Martin Parr’s photograph are captured in a secretive social space–a private men’s club–a place “where husbands could chat amongst themselves, without being interrupted by their wives.” Parr notes that this group, The Ancient Order of Henpecked Husbands, “only survived for a few more years after this photo was taken” before being lost to time. These sorts of secretive locations and spaces proliferate, on varying scales, in the curation.
For Todd Hido, the hidden world of a stranger’s garage is the focus of his interest: “Something calls out. Something that looks sort of off, or maybe an empty space. Sometimes it’s a sad scene. I like that kind of stuff. I remember this foggy night, wondering about the hidden world behind the frosted glass of the garage door. Did somebody just leave the light on? Or is there a whole world of activity going on in the middle of the night out in the garage under the veil of the fog?”
For others, whole towns, cities, or nations seem concealed. Sim Chi Yin’s image of the sprawling, secretive facilities at Nevada Air Force Base Complex had to be made from a great distance, such are the efforts of the U.S. Government in hiding its interior workings.
Christopher Anderson, Thomas Dworzak and Moises Saman select images made in Afghanistan, a nation where “much seems hidden,” according to Anderson. Moises Saman reflects on the invisible impact of conflict on life in the country: “Hidden are the psychological scars that afflict a new generation of Afghans living through war.”
Elsewhere the curation, people hide from one another. “Being hidden from one’s family or from the religious police might also mean being hidden from the rules, and subsequently enjoying the chance to be more liberal,” says Olivia Arthur. Harry Gruyaert’s caption nods to the age-old social protocols of hiding, “As soon as they saw me taking pictures, they started hiding, covering their faces with their hands, then uncovering them slightly to look at me… It was like a game of seduction… they already seemed to know that to hide and to show were the basic rules of the game.”
Other photographs are taken from within personal spaces. “All these years later, I still remember lying on the floor in the yellow-wallpapered room–the shaman, the resting patient, and me,” says Carolyn Drake of the intimate scene captured in her image.
Private relationships and the spaces they occupy are explored in Justine Kurland’s image, a result of her exploration of the personal relationships that young women and girls have with one another, “I wanted to make the invisible communion between girls visible, foregrounding their experience as primary and irrefutable.”
Sometimes it is the photographer’s viewpoint, or creative aproach that is obscured, rather than their subject matter that is hidden…
Peter van Agtmael’s image was made at a point of creative difficulty, “I wasn’t happy with my work at the time I took this photograph. I knew there was a path forward, but it was largely hidden from view. I bought a cheap camera, hoping its limitations could help challenge me to see things differently. It didn’t seem to be working, until I saw this scene in Washington Square Park that felt right and somehow different. The path was still largely hidden, but at least I knew I was on it.”
Alec Soth’s photograph of a sunlit bed causes the photographer reflection on memories of childhood, as well as upon his current working practice: “When I was a boy, I used to pretend my little bed was a one-man spaceship. It was a place to simultaneously explore my dreams and hide from the world. In some ways that’s how I now think of my camera.”
Jamel Shabbaz reflects on his image being the result of “one-sixtieth of a second, his camera being a tool for creating a view of “a period and space that no longer exists; a hidden mystery that has now become part of a visual history.”
There are many images in the sale that point toward the more playful associations that come with hiding. “This image is an outtake from Inge’s iconic story, “A Llama in Times Square” published in the December 2, 1957 issue of LIFE magazine,” says Sana Mazoor of the Inge Morath Estate of Morath’s image. “The story showcases the humorous yet insightful story of stage and television animal performers living in New York City. Linda, the llama is accompanied by one of her trainers and foster parent Mrs. Lorraine D’Essen, during a ride back home from a television show at ABC studios.”
The long-obscured motivation of Elliot Erwitt’s leaping figure in front of the Eiffel Tower, is revealed here, in his text: “Why is our mysterious jumper jumping? Well… Because I asked him to!” Sometimes a hidden reality is more straightforward than one expects.
“Photographers often hide behind their cameras, but rarely do they allow themselves to be photographed in their secretive mode of work,” says David ‘Chim’ Seymour’s nephew, Ben Schneiderman, of his uncle’s image. “Chim’s personal engagement with these two fabled stars enabled him to record this delightful encounter, which mocks the idea of hiding behind a camera.”
Rene Burri’s portrait of Pablo Picasso captures the artist revealing himself to the camera, in a both literal and surreal fashion–unveiling a close-up image of his own eyes pasted upon his sketchpad as Burri’s shutter is released.
Arthur Tress’s photo shows a hand–seemingly severed–resting on a bus seat. It skirts the edges of the worlds of comedy and abstraction. Abstract or elusive images are numerous in the sale selection, the means of image-making or the final product itself playing upon the theme. Daido Moriyama’s self-portrait shows him wraith-like, but it is not only his obscure form that hints at the hidden, his text explains that making this sort of image is now also kept distant from him, out of reach in his past, “I wouldn’t be able to take this kind of photo nowadays, because it is a photo that represents the feelings I had at that time.”
Nan Goldin also consigns the making of her image to the past, and attributes its creation to a time when the magic of the moment interacted with the tools she was using, “This picture was taken long before I ever held a digital camera. The intimacy between us allowed the camera the freedom to access the magic. My favorite photos of mine are the mistakes.”
The notion of the elusiveness of the moments in which great images can be made is at the fore of Joel Meyerowitz’s text, which accompanies his incongruous image of a little girl on horseback ordering food, “As soon as I saw the girl, the horse, and the ice cream sign, I saw the photograph…”
Chris Steele-Perkins’ image, made on a British beach in 1982, depicts what may seem a standard, if blustery holiday scene. But the photographer sees it as suggestive of another aspect of photography’s place in capturing time and moments: “In a quantum universe the photograph has always existed, waiting for the photographer to take it and reveal its form, though the meaning still lies hidden.”
As Marilyn Silverstone’s caption suggests, perhaps the one universality in terms of what is laid bare in photography is the view of the image’s creator, and their own feelings:
“A photograph is a subjective impression. It is what the photographer sees. No matter how hard we try to get into the skin, into the feeling of the subject or situation, however much we empathize, it is still what we see that comes out in the images, it is our reaction to the subject and in the end, the whole corpus of our work becomes a portrait of ourselves.”