Spotlight: Alec Soth
Alec Soth’s work is rooted in the American photographic tradition that Walker Evans famously termed ‘documentary style.’ Concerned with the mythologies and oddities that proliferate America’s disconnected communities, Soth has an instinct for the relationship between narrative and metaphor. His clarity of voice has drawn many comparisons to literature, but he believes photography to be more fragmented; “It’s more like poetry than writing a novel.”
Describing himself as a “historian of the present”, Abbas dedicated himself to documenting the political and social life of societies in conflict. In a career that spanned six decades, he covered wars and revolutions in Biafra, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, the Middle East, Chile, Cuba, and South Africa during apartheid. The result of a process described by Abbas as “writing with light”, his images occupy a niche that spans both photojournalism and art
Alex Webb is best known for his complex and vibrant color photographs of serendipitous or enigmatic moments, often in places with socio-political tensions. Over the past 45 years, Webb has worked in places as varied as the U.S.-Mexico border, Haiti, Istanbul, and, most recently, a number of U.S. cities.
Born in Illinois, Bruce Davidson began taking pictures at the tender age of ten. As a teenager, he continued to develop his knowledge and passion for photography before being drafted into the US army and eventually stationed near Paris. There he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, who would become a close friend and facilitate Davidson's induction into Magnum Photos. Approaching the lives of his subjects with sensitivity and respect, his photographs express a desire to observe, understand, and celebrate the complexity of individuals and their communities.
Bruce Gilden is one of the most iconic street photographers of our time. Known for his graphic and often confrontational close-ups made using flash, his images have a degree of intimacy and directness that have become a signature in his work. Though he cut his teeth on the sidewalks of New York City where he grew up, he has since made significant bodies of work in Haiti, Japan, Moscow, France, Ireland and India. “I’m known for taking pictures very close,” says Gilden of his practice. “And the older I get, the closer I get.”
"I think that what you've got to do is discover the essential truth of the situation, and have a point of view about it"
Chris Steele-Perkins has produced some of the most iconic images of British society in the last half-century, exploring youth subcultures, poverty and community with artful sensitivity. His more than 45-year career has seen him travel widely, making significant bodies of work in his birth country of Myanmar, as well as Japan, Africa and Afghanistan, all of which have received critical acclaim. This collection of fine prints draws together some of his most popular images, spanning many different projects and time periods.
"I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference"
Cristina de Middel
Cristina de Middel investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes in order to build a more layered understanding of the subjects she approaches. Working from the premise that mass media is reducing our real understanding of the world we live in, De Middel responds to an urgency to re-imagine tired aesthetic tropes and insert opinion in place of facts.
Danny Lyon is one of the most significant American photographers of the last half century to renew the documentary tradition's concern with social justice. He was shaped by his experience covering the unrest of the 1960s as staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, where he met and forged a lifelong friendship with John Lewis.
David Hurn began his career as a self-taught freelance photographer and gained an early reputation with his reportage of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Hurn eventually turned away from coverage of current affairs, preferring to take a more personal approach to photography. Of his style, he has said: "Life, as it unfolds in front of the camera, is full of so much complexity, wonder, and surprise that I find it unnecessary to create new realities. There is more pleasure, for me, in things as they are."
Born in Warsaw, Dawid Szymin—later known as David ‘Chim’ Seymour—embarked upon a career of freelance photography that would eventually lead him to meet Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1947, along with several others, the pair founded Magnum Photos. Chim's education in the arts gave him a visual acuity that counterbalanced his empathetic eye, allowing him to capture striking images that were deeply human without being sentimental.
Dennis Stock evoked the spirit of America through his memorable and iconic portraits of Hollywood stars, most notably James Dean. Other notable projects include his work on the jazz scene and on the California free-loving counter-culture of the 1960s. In the 1990s he went back to his urban origins, exploring the modern architecture of large cities and his later work was mostly focused on the abstraction of flowers.
Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, Elliott Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan before emigrating to the US with his family via France. As a teenager living in Hollywood, he worked in a commercial darkroom where he developed a keen interest in photography. In 1948, he moved to New York and exchanged janitorial work for film classes at the New School for Social Research. Just five years later, Erwitt joined Magnum Photos and began work as a freelance photographer for Collier’s, Look, LIFE, Holiday and other luminaries of that golden period for illustrated magazines. He has made significant bodies of work in America, Cuba, the UK, France, Italy and beyond. Erwitt’s images have become known for benevolent irony and a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum.
Elliott Landy's images of Bob Dylan and The Band, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and many others offer a snapshot of the music scene during the period that culminated in the 1969 Woodstock Festival, for which he was the official photographer. A creative in every sense, he is also known for his work using kaleidoscopes and for his experimental still life of flowers.
Erich Hartmann was 16-years-old when he went with his family in 1938 to Albany, New York, as a refugee from Nazi Germany. Hartmann enlisted in the US Army, serving in England, France, Belgium and Germany. At the end of the war, he moved to New York City, where he worked as an assistant to a portrait photographer and then as a freelancer. Hartmann first became known to the wider public through his work for Fortune magazine in the 1950s. Throughout his career, he pursued many long-term personal projects, and photographic interpretations with literary echoes.
W. Eugene Smith
For the first time ever, the estate of W. Eugene Smith is offering modern prints of his most famous images. Born in 1918 in Wichita, Kansas, Smith became a pioneer of photojournalism and master of the photographic essay. Beginning with his powerful shots of the Pacific invasion during World War II, Smith forged an impressive career at LIFE magazine, which included classic photo essays like 'Country Doctor,' 'Nurse Midwife,' and 'Spanish Village.' After leaving LIFE, Smith pursued his acclaimed freelance work on projects such as 'Pittsburgh,' the 'Jazz Loft,' and ultimately 'Minamata,' the story of which is now in release as a major feature film.
Eve Arnold was a prolific photographer whose work spanned politics, social issues, and a bit of glamour. This collection celebrates Arnold’s influential body of work from celebrity portraiture to “the underdog”.
When Ferdinando Scianna first started shooting fashion – after a chance commission from Dolce and Gabanna – he approached it as a reporter, and this sensibility continued throughout his career. “In my fashion photography, the scenery, the city and its people are never only a background, they are co-protagonists of the picture and the story I am telling,” said Scianna. “I always try to tell a story. I believe it is the world that gives meaning to fashion, not the other way around.”
Born in Cheshire in 1908, George Rodger served in the British Merchant Navy. His pictures of the London blitz brought him to the attention of Life magazine, and he became a war correspondent. He photographed the German surrender at Lüneburg for Time and Life. Traumatized by the experience of looking for ‘nice compositions’ in front of the dead, Rodger embarked on a 28,000-mile journey all over Africa and the Middle East, focusing on ways of life that exist in a close relationship with nature.
For the last fifteen years, Gregory Halpern has been photographing in Omaha, Nebraska, steadily compiling a lyrical, if equivocal, response to the American Heartland. Omaha Sketchbook is ultimately a meditation on America, on the men and boys who inhabit it, and on the mechanics of aggression, inadequacy, and power.
Guy Le Querrec
Guy Le Querrec has been documenting the jazz scene for decades. Says Le Querrec: “Jazz – my ears, my heart, my emotions need it. Its cadences, its rhythms… And then there’s that crucial word: to practice a photography of improvisation.”
German photographer Herbert List was fascinated with the classical world, art and the human form. Under the dual influence of the surrealist movement and of Bauhaus artists, List pursued form and composition with a singular attention to detail, however he was equally gifted when faced with a sudden photo opportunity. "The pictures I took spontaneously - with a bliss-like sensation, as if they had long inhabited my unconscious - were often more powerful than those I had painstakingly composed. I grasped their magic as in passing."
Ian Berry was born in Lancashire, England. He made his reputation in South Africa, where he worked for the Daily Mail and later for Drum magazine. He was the only photographer to document the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims’ innocence. Henri Cartier-Bresson invited Ian Berry to join Magnum in 1962 when he was based in Paris. He moved to London in 1964 to become the first contract photographer for the Observer Magazine. Since then assignments have taken him around the world: he has documented Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia; conflicts in Israel, Ireland, Vietnam and the Congo; famine in Ethiopia; apartheid in South Africa.
Jacob Aue Sobol
"When I photograph, I try to use my instincts as much as possible. It is when pictures are unconsidered and irrational that they come to life; that they evolve from showing to being"
At 19 years old, Jonas Bendiksen worked as an intern at Magnum Photos' London office, where he made tea, answered phones and fell in love with the photographic archive. Today, he is a full member of the agency and produces work for some of the most esteemed publications in the world. Fascinated by liminal communities and the people they comprise, Bendiksen's work has taken him from scattered former Soviet republics to some of the world's fast-growing urban slums. His sharply evocative images explore themes of society, faith and identity with unsparing honesty.
Larry Towell's sensitivity towards the human subject has guided his work since he began developing black and white film at university. Fifty years later, he is one of Canada's foremost photographers and has produced work on conflicts taking place from Afghanistan to Nicaragua. In his own words, "If there's one theme that connects all my work, I think it's that of landlessness; how land makes people into who they are and what happens to them when they lose it."
Spanish photographer Lua Ribeira’s practice is characterized by its collaborative nature, extensive research and an immersive approach to her subject matter. She is interested in using the photographic medium as a means to create encounters that establish relationships and question structural separations between people. Her work has been exhibited internationally in both solo and group exhibitions including The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Impressions Gallery, Bradford, Ffotogallery Cardiff, Belfast Exposed gallery, Beijing International Photography Biennale, and many more.
Mark Power’s complex, meticulously crafted images, usually made with a large format camera, have earned him a reputation as one of the forerunners of British photography. Known for his seminal work exploring the far-flung locations esoterically described in the BBC’s iconic Shipping Forecast, Power has adeptly expressed the peculiarities of social culture in places as varied as Britain, Poland and America.
For six years Matt Black has been photographing communities and lands in the U.S where at least 20% of the population live in poverty. Travelling 100,000 miles through the U.S, Black has set out to explore whether the American dream is still viable, debunking the myth of America as a land of opportunity. “From a ground level, America looks very different from the stories we like to tell ourselves,” he says.
Moises Saman blends traditional conflict photography with a deeply personal point of view. For more than ten years, he has been concerned with the humanitarian impact of war in the Middle East, documenting both the front line of daily suffering and the ‘fleeting moments on the periphery of the more dramatic events’.
Nanna Heitmann is a German/ Russian documentary photographer, based in Moscow, Russia. Her works often deal with issues of isolation – physical, social and spiritual – as well as the very nature of how people react to and interact with their environs.
Olivia Arthur is known for her in-depth photography examining people and their personal and cultural identities. Much of her work has illuminated the daily lives of women living in countries as varied as Saudi Arabia, India and across Europe. A more recent focus on large format portraiture has brought her work back to the UK.
Peter Marlow was an internationally recognised photographer and a member Magnum Photos since 1980. Although gifted in the language of photojournalism, Peter’s work extended far beyond capturing world events. He was initially, however, one of the most enterprising and successful young British news photographers and in 1976 joined the Sygma agency in Paris.
In his lifetime Peter worked all over the world and his ever thoughtful photographs deal with close observation of the physical and personal landscape that is often overlooked. The color of incidental things became central to his pictures in the same way that the shape and mark of things had been central to his black-and-white work. Peter's lens was always on the human and social.
Born in Latvia in 1906, Philippe Halsman was as unusual a photographer as he was prolific. Over the course of his career, Halsman produced reportage and covers for most major American magazines, including a staggering 101 covers for Life magazine. His assignments brought him face-to-face with many of the century’s leading personalities. While technically gifted, Halsman’s true gift lay in encouraging his many subjects to pose naturally for the camera.
Rafal Milach grew up in Poland during the collapse of the Soviet Union and as a result his work often uses the transformation of the former Eastern Bloc as a lens through which to understand wider issues. His project Black Sea of Concrete, which takes as its subject the grey coastlines of Ukraine, documents a landscape that is struggling with the physical reminders of a difficult past.
Raymond Depardon, born in France in 1942, began taking photographs on his family farm in Garet at the age of 12. He joined the Dalmas agency in Paris in 1960 as a reporter, and in 1966 he co-founded the Gamma agency, reporting from all over the world. From 1974 to 1977, as a photographer and filmmaker, he covered the kidnap of a French ethnologist, François Claustre, in northern Chad. Alongside his photographic career, he began to make documentary films: 1974, Une Partie de Campagne and San Clemente. He has since made eighteen feature-length films and published forty-seven books. Depardon joined Magnum in 1978. He is based in Paris.
Most famous for his remarkable coverage of five wars, Robert Capa once said, ‘the war photographer’s most fervent wish is for unemployment’. Born to Jewish parents in Budapest in 1913, he studied political science at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in Berlin before being driven out of the country by the threat of a Nazi regime. His work on the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and the First Indochina War was published globally, bringing Capa much critical acclaim. His vocation would eventually bring about his death as he was killed on assignment by a landmine in 1954. His work stands today as some of the most influential war photography ever produced.
Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for over three decades, documenting international conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary society. Placing particular emphasis on individual frames, McCurry has produced some of the most recognizable photographs of the 20th century. His image of a young Afghan refugee with piercing eyes—the June 1985 cover of National Geographic—has become one of the most distinctive in photographic history. Speaking of his practice, McCurry has said: “What matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling.”
For over forty years, Stuart Franklin has combined a bold documentary style with strong personal vision. In 1989, he took his acclaimed, life-changing photograph of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where a demonstration for freedom ended in massacre. It was first published in Time Magazine, earning him a World Press Photo Award. Franklin has photographed some of the most significant news events of the 21st Century and explored landscapes around the world. In his words, his practice “repaints the boundaries of documentary to create a sense of freedom”.
With an unflinching eye and depth of vision, Thomas Dworzak has documented many of this century’s most important news stories since the 1990s. Dworzak started travelling aged 16 to photograph conflicts in Northern Ireland, Palestine and the disintegrating Yugoslavia. Since then, he has gone on to photograph wars in Afghanistan and Iraq post 9/11 as well as the revolutions in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. Dworzak became a Magnum nominee in 2000 and a full member in 2004.
Thomas Hoepker began his photographic career in the 1960s and made his reputation through impactful reportage and stylish color features, working on stories as varied as the culture of the Mayan people, the rise of Muhammad Ali and the politics and everyday life in East Berlin, before the wall fell.
Disliking the ‘superficiality and sensationalism’ of the magazine business, Werner Bischof devoted much of his working life to looking for order and tranquility in traditional culture. Despite this he worked on commission in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Indochina. In 1953, he traveled throughout Mexico and Panama, and then on to a remote part of Peru, where he was engaged in making a film. Tragically, Bischof died in a road accident in the Andes on 16 May 1954.
Based in Mexico, Martínez’s work addresses fractured communities in his native Mexico. He often works symbolically to evoke a sense of emptiness, absence, and pain suffered by those affected by organized crime in the region. He is the recipient of the Eugene Smith Award 2019 and was fellow of the Photography and Social Justice Program of The Magnum Foundation. He won the 2nd Prize of the World Press Photo contests 2019 in the category of long-term projects. Martínez was grantee of the Magnum Foundation in the grants: Emergency Fund and On Religion in 2016 - 2017. His work has been featured in group shows in America, Europe, Africa and Asia and published by: The Wall Street Journal, Blomberg news, Lens NY times, Time, Vogue Italy, Vrij Nederland, and Aperture.
Zied Ben Romdhane
Zied Ben Romdhane started his career as a commercial photographer. In 2011 he switched to documentary photography and photojournalism. Romdhane published his first book West of Life in 2018 & joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.