The Big Picture: 2017 in Review
We look back at the stories that shaped our year and photographic highlights from the artists’ collective
In 2017, Magnum celebrated its 70th anniversary with new photographic projects — and by revisiting some of the stories that built its legacy. On magnumphotos.com, the storytelling site that launched in spring 2016 to showcase the work of Magnum photographers, classic and contemporary, we have covered a breadth of photographic approaches, from photojournalism to personal and experimental projects. Here are some of the themes we focused on in 2017 across Newsroom, Arts & Culture and Theory & Practice.
Looking back over Magnum’s 70 years, we revisited some of the classic stories that defined the early years of the agency. From the legendary story of Robert Capa’s photographs of D-Day and the Omaha Beach Landings to Josef Koudelka’s work capturing the lives of Roma communities across Europe, the Classic Magnum pieces told the story of the agency through the images and voices of the photographers who shaped our view of the events that defined the 20th century, and by extension, form a history of photography.
Abbas returned to his seminal photo essay on the final years of the Vietnam War, while we revisited W. Eugene Smith’s series The Country Doctor, shot for Life Magazine in 1948, documenting the life of a physician tasked with providing 24-hour medical care to more than 2,000 people in a small town in the Rocky Mountains. Readers were also moved by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photo essay on the death of Mahatma Gandhi — which captured the essence of India at a critical time in its history.
The France Project
In a project that began in 2016, Magnum photographers explored the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary France — setting the stage for the issues that influenced debate in the country in the run-up to May’s presidential elections.
One of our most popular stories from this project in 2017 was Jérôme Sessini‘s trip back to the small town in Eastern France where he grew up; he used the setting to explore the idea of “forgotten” rural areas around France that have been neglected while media attention and policies focus on the cities and suburbs.
Another highlight from the project was Paolo Pellegrin’s look inside a French prison that suffers from overcrowding and poor conditions for inmates. It’s a situation that has become all too common since the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks, which allowed for expanded incarceration policies to protect national security.
Expert Photographic Advice from Magnum
Magnum Photos continues to explore the history, theory, and practice of photography from the point of view of its photographers and friends. In 2017, some of our most popular pieces gave practical tips: our most-read piece was advice from David Alan Harvey, Christopher Anderson and Matt Stuart to emerging and professional photographers on how to embrace Instagram. Another popular piece offered lessons from Matt Black and several industry experts in developing and sustaining a long-term photographic project while Magnum staff and photographers also gave tips in preparing a portfolio for review.
Readers were also keen to engage with some of the broader debates affecting the photojournalism community, such as the role of empathy as both an objective and a tool in documentary photography and discussions on how the digital space has altered our ideas of privacy and ownership of the still image.
In 2017, Turkey continued its worrying slide into authoritarianism, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidated his grip on power after a failed coup in July 2016. New documentary work and stories from the Magnum archive looked at Turkey’s current political and social landscape, as well as its recent history. From Emin Özmen’s exploration of Turkey’s eerily empty tourist spots to Bruno Barbey’s depictions of the once-cosmopolitan Istanbul, now rocked by violence, Magnum Photos sought to put the rapid change into context.
Another story on Turkey’s response to the migrant crisis — Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world — brought together Özmen’s work with that of Moises Saman and Newsha Tavakolian, reminding us of how Turkey’s transformation continues to affect its relationships with diverse communities in the Middle East and Europe.
Migration and Refuge
Magnum’s documentation of the current migrant crisis belongs to a longstanding commitment to bear witness and report upon the events the shape human history. The global refugee crisis — which garnered international attention in 2015 — has not let up in 2017. The world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, with an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world forced from their homes.
This year, we spoke to Jim Goldberg about his expansive body of work, Open See, and the four years he spent documenting the stories of refugees in more than 18 countries, from Russia and the Middle East to Asia and Africa, and the movement of people to Europe through migration and trafficking.
This year also fueled a crisis with historic roots: that of the Rohingya community in Myanmar. Since late August, more than 650,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar, seeking shelter over the border in Bangladesh. Moises Saman spent eight days there in October, photographing the arrival of refugees across the Naf River.
A Portrait of America
Magnum photographers have a rich history of exploring America’s geography, society and politics. The enduring appeal of the American landscape creates the backdrop for a critical exploration of modern-day America.
In 2017, Magnum photographers captured the inauguration of Donald Trump as president, as well as those protesting it at the Women’s March in Washington D.C., and cities around the country. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
Mark Power wrote about being an Englishman in the Arizona desert while photographing the great American outdoors, while Carolyn Drake presented vignettes of LBGTQ residents in Wyoming, which has refused to adopt hate crimes protections for the LGBT community.
America’s open roads have also inspired countless artists and writers, and this summer on Magnum Photos, we explored the road trips made by Magnum photographers and why the freedom of the open road still captures the imagination of so many.
Behind the Image
In this series, Magnum photographers reveal the secrets and untold stories behind some of their most well-known images.
Alec Soth told us about the process behind one of his most famous photographs, of a pair of towels forming kissing swans at a hotel in Niagara Falls; and David Hurn discussed the sequence of events in 1964 that led to the surreal moment of photographing fans eyeing Ringo Starr on a moving train during the making of the film A Hard Day’s Night, starring The Beatles.
David Alan Harvey, meanwhile, described how his search for a morning coffee after an early dawn shoot yielded the iconic photograph of a white horse on a pink porch in Trinidad. And on the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death, we presented the story behind the making of René Burri’s iconic image of the revolutionary smoking a cigar.
In 2017, we also said goodbye to two influential figures in Magnum’s history.
John Morris, the photo editor responsible for the commissioning of some of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, died on July 28, 2017, at the age of 100. Morris called Magnum co-founder Robert Capa his Hungarian brother, and oversaw the publication of 11 of Capa’s images of the D-Day landings at LIFE magazine. The seasoned photo editor maintained an active interest in the world of photojournalism right up to his death.
Robert Delpire, the art publisher, editor and curator with a keen interest in documentary photography, passed away on September 26, 2017. During his life, he worked closely with Magnum photographers and contributed significantly to their visibility thanks to publications and exhibitions, distributing their images around the world.