Founded in 1947 as one of the first international photographic cooperatives owned by its members, Magnum Photos gained world-renowned status through the work of a cadre of photographers who excelled in artistic documentary work. In a unique economic model that allowed members to own their work, Magnum photographers created countless visual stories for the pages of widely circulated newspapers and magazines for decades, shaping global visual culture, pre-Internet.
An eye-opening survey of the cooperative’s work revealing the breadth and depth of their reach over time and space is on view in Magnum Manifesto at the International Center for Photography. Images as recent as the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice, France and a portrait series of Taliban members by Thomas Dworzak reach into the 21st century; while series like Paul Fusco’s, RFK Funeral Train, offer stunning reminders of the tumultuous history of 1960s America.
The exhibition is divided into three main sections: Part 1, 1947-1969: Human Rights and Wrongs; Part 2, 1969-1989: An Inventory of Differences; and, Part 3, 1990-2017: Stories about Endings. A final section, a video installation made in 2017 titled, “Magnum is…,” features voiceover, typed quotes, and images from Magnum members. It reads as a treatise on the value of both Magnum and its muse, photography.
Part 1 highlights a quest for universal human rights, such as documentation of anti-Vietnam protests by Marc Riboud. Part 2 takes a closer look at groups of people outside the mainstream; magical images of Catholicism and local ritual in rural Spain in Cristina Garcia Rodero’s photo book, Oculta, are standouts. Lastly, Part 3 looks at contemporary culture clashes, including a series on the collapse of the Berlin wall by Mark Power among others.
ICP’s survey of work by Magnum photographers over the course of 70 years includes approximately 250 prints, 130 documents and 300 projected photographs. It may take two visits and slow thoughtful walks through the exhibition to absorb the encyclopedic amount of history presented. However, it is well worth at least one trip to see the work of both legends and lesser known photographers, including Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Leonard Freed, Jerome Sessini and 70 more members of Magnum’s opus.
Magnum Manifesto is on view at the International Center for Photography through September 3, 2017.