Close Enough: Magnum’s Women Star in Major New Exhibition in New York City
Subtitled 'New Perspectives from 12 Women Photographers of Magnum', a major new exhibition opens at ICP in New York this fall.
Opening tomorrow, September 29, at the International Center of Photography in New York City, Close Enough presents a group show of the work of a dozen contemporary photographers, giving space to a key project that has been pivotal to their recent careers.
Curated by Charlotte Cotton, and subtitled, ‘New Perspectives from 12 Women Photographers of Magnum’, the show explores the common ground shared by the photographers, beyond what the subtitle makes explicit — that they are all of the same gender. Because, although they each have their individual approaches, in terms of subject and aesthetic, there are shared concerns about their relationship to the people they photograph, and the imperative to find ways to collaborate with them.
“Close Enough features more than 150 works, each telling diverse, unexpected, and personal visual stories,” says ICP. “Taken together, the works encompass an array of highly relatable accounts of the artists’ individual perspectives, their relationships with their chosen subjects, and, in the context of this exhibition, their relationships with each other. Showcasing three generations of Magnum women, each revealing a point on her own creative journey, the exhibition includes the first showing of newly completed photographic projects; reflections on and re-animations of earlier projects drawn from the photographers’ own archives; and installations that reveal the working processes within long-term and ongoing personal projects.”
The title is also a playfully provocative nod to one of the agency’s founding fathers, Robert Capa, and his famous maxim, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”That advice came from a photographer famed for his front line war reporting, who eventually paid the ultimate price for his work, but Magnum photographers have long since taken a more expansive interpretation of the phrase, which is one of the key themes to the exhibition.
On view concurrently at ICP is Death in the Making: Reexamining the Iconic Spanish Civil War Photobook, telling the story of Robert Capa’s 1938 book, “a touchstone in the history of war photography that resonates today,” says ICP. “Both Close Enough and Death in the Making explore how photographers embed themselves in their subject matter to document people, places, daily life, and world events through compelling images that ask audiences to reflect on gender, war, and history.”
ICP’s executive director David E Little comments: “These two projects bring into focus the many foundational links between Magnum Photos, its founders, and ICP, including the significance of pioneering photojournalist Gerda Taro, who inspired generations of photographers, especially women making their way in the field,” says ICP’s executive director David E Little. “For Magnum member and ICP founder Cornell Capa, it was important to preserve the legacy of his brother Robert Capa as well as that of Taro, who worked alongside Robert and David ‘Chim’ Seymour during the Spanish Civil War, and whose contributions to the book Death in the Making are being recognized anew.”
Alessandra Sanguinetti’s 24-year collaboration with Guille and Belinda, cousins who live in a rural province near Buenos Aires, is an episodic and ongoing photographic project that crystallizes the cousins’ rich and unattended world as they move through childhood and youth toward womanhood. As Sanguinetti embarks on the next, potentially final, chapter of this incredible story, she reflects upon the creative work that she and her closest collaborators have yet to do.
A collaboration with Agata Kay, whom the artist met in a chance encounter in a strip bar in Paris, Bieke Depoorter’s multiyear, multiform project Agata (2017–2020) examines friendship and trust, biography and introspection, fact and fiction, and the complex relationship between photographer and subject, including the negotiation of creating public engagements and exhibitions. These intertwined narratives are threaded via a combination of images, letters, and notes, but what defines the dialogue is the ever-present reflex of self-awareness and self-reflection. The result is a project that never lands on any sort of conclusive truth, highlighting the slippery nature of truth in situations where power, responsibility, and control are in a constant state of flux.
Carolyn Drake’s Knit Club (2012–2020) is a meditation on the mythologies and evocative presence of Southern Gothic culture that emerged from Drake’s collaboration and friendships with an enigmatic group of women and girls, which the work represents as a cross between a gang, a cult of mysteries, and a group of friends bound by secrets only they share.
Newsha Tavakolian’s haunting film, For the Sake of Calmness (2020), centers on the experience of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), drawn from four years of research and interviews with over 100 women.
Myriam Boulos’s tender accounts of the private lives and lived experiences of friends and strangers are set within the context of the collective losses and traumas that emerge amid economic instability, violent revolution, and the devastating Port of Beirut explosion in 2020.
Susan Meiselas reflects upon her 2015–2017 project, A Room of Their Own, and its participatory process, which included working with an illustrator and a writer in collaboration with survivors of domestic abuse living in shelters in the Black Country. Set within the context of a postindustrial region in the United Kingdom, the stories create a resilient testimony of survival—a multilayered, visual narrative incorporating photographs, firsthand accounts, and original artworks.
Mirroring the extremes of hedonism and nihilism embodied in the emerging trap and drill music scene in Spain, Lua Ribeira’s ongoing series Agony in the Garden (2022) is a close encounter with young people involved in a global and diverse cultural wave as it unfolds uniquely at the local level.
When Cristina de Middel placed an ad in Rio de Janeiro newspapers offering to pay male clients of sex workers for an hour of their time, the response was overwhelming. She began photographing and interviewing clientele in local hotel rooms. She claimed the position of the “client” that the men traditionally occupied—booking a hotel room for an hour, then paying the men the same amount that they would pay a sex worker. Her ongoing project Gentlemen’s Club (2015–2022) moves between global locations and cultures, providing intimate encounters with the men who responded to de Middel’s invitation.
Hannah Price’s 2009 series City of Brotherly Love comprises portraits of men on the streets of Philadelphia who had catcalled her on her daily travels. By turning her camera on these men, Price reconfigured the act, creating a series specific to her everyday encounters as a woman newly arrived in the city.
In not one project but a selection of different works from recent years, Olivia Arthur brings human intimacy and bodily presences into close view. Starting with In Private (2016–2018), Arthur uses photographs drawn from her recent work as well as her archive to create a visual “mind map” about physicality and intimacy in both private and public spaces. Together, the works also invite discussion about technology and how it can be used to enhance our bodies or create physical connections over long distances.
Nanna Heitmann publicly presents her ongoing work made in Russia and Ukraine for the first time since the current conflict began. In an accordion “ribbon” of images, Heitmann begins to visually interweave the militating factors and consequences.
Revealing a world unknown to many, Sabiha Çimen’s Hafiz (2017–2020) explores the lives of young Islamic women in Turkey. The series weaves an emotional narrative that calls forth Çimen’s own personal experiences, through collected vignettes of the daydreams, quiet rebellions, and melodramas of students at all-girl Qur’an schools.
Close Enough: New Perspectives from 12 Women Photographers of Magnum runs until January 9, 2023. Visit ICP for full details.