The Body Observed • Magnum Photos

Magnum Pro

Editorial Cultural Creative Search Image Archive

Would you like to:

Explore Magnum's stories


Commission a photographer


Licence an image

Alessandra Sanguinetti Ophelias. Buenos Aires. Argentina. 2001. © Alessandra Sanguinetti | Magnum Photos
Herbert List Young man with laurel over the eyes. Athens. Greece. Circa 1936. © Herbert List | Magnum Photos
Werner Bischof "Zebra woman". Zurich. Switzerland. 1942. © Werner Bischof | Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold American actress Joan Crawford. Los Angeles. USA. 1959. © Eve Arnold | Magnum Photos
Bieke Depoorter Agata. Paris. France. November 2, 2017. © Bieke Depoorter | Magnum Photos
Philippe Halsman "Dali Atomicus." Spanish painter Salvador Dali. "Dali Atomicus." 1948. © Philippe Halsman | Magnum Photos
Cristina Garcia Rodero El boteiro. Vilariño de Conso. Galicia. Spain. 1992. © Cristina Garcia Rodero | Magnum Photos
Susan Meiselas New Girl. Turnbridge, Vermont. USA. 1975. © Susan Meiselas | Magnum Photos

Featuring around 130 works from the 1930s to the contemporary, The Body Observed explores how Magnum photographers have turned their lens to the body, presenting works that examine a range of subjects from identity, intimacy, sexuality and ritual, to voyeurism and performance, among others.

The exhibition explores the photographic representation of the human body (specifically in relation to the documentary photograph), considering how photographic representation both mimics and corrupts the tropes of figurative representation defined through the history of art, developing its own language through the medium’s unique position between utilitarian function and artistic application. The camera has been used to examine, gaze upon, categorise, scrutinise, and objectify the body. This exhibition proposes to look at how Magnum photographers have turned their lens to the body, presenting works that explore issues such as gaze, identity, intimacy, sexuality, voyeurism and performance, and drawing into focus the societal and cultural structures that affect the representation of the human form.

This group exhibition includes Eve Arnold’s portraits of Hollywood icon Joan Crawford and Philippe Halsman’s Dalí Atomicus, a work that was selected as one of the “100 Most Influential Images of All Time” by TIME magazine in 2016. Other highlights are Alec Soth’s series Niagara, an exploration of love and passion in one of America’s best known honeymoon destinations, and Alessandra Sanguinetti’s The Adventures of Guille and Belinda, including Ophelias – inspired by the enigmatic beauty of John Everett Millais’ classic painting.

The show also features work by Olivia Arthur, Werner Bischof, Antoine d’Agata, Bieke Depoorter, Cristina García Rodero, Bruce Gilden, Tim Hetherington, Herbert ListSusan Meiselas and Miguel Rio Branco.

The exhibition is curated by the Sainsbury Centre in collaboration with Magnum Photos in response to the Sainsbury Centre’s extraordinary collection of European modern art – focused on the figurative in 20th Century modern art, as well as their significant early ethnographic collection of figurative objects from non-Western nations. Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Francis Bacon, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and Amedeo Modigliani are all represented in the collection.