Magnum. 50 Years of Photography

22 june - 30 august, 1993 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 3
Robert Capa. Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, 1936 copy 1998. Photography. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid
Robert Capa. Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, 1936 copy 1998. Photography. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

The exhibition Magnum. 50 años de fotografía celebrates fifty years of photographic production from this celebrated photo agency, known for its role in the history of visual culture from the second half of the twentieth century and whose work makes up the graphic memory of the modern world. Founded in 1947, Magnum begins to make itself known in the Thirties with its work and theoretical-aesthetic purposes defended by its founders -Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour "Chim"-, especially with the work they produce as reporters in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. With these photographs the foundations of modern photographic reporting are laid, based on two principles: the need for extreme closeness to what they were reporting, which Robert Capa demanded, and the theory of the "decisive moment" (images à la sauvette) developed by Cartier-Bresson and published in 1952, which is for many the programmatic text for photojournalism.

The disply of the two hundred fifty photographs, taken by more than fifty photographers, highlights Magnum’s hallmark, which preserves the objectivity of the document by making the tampering of the image and its eventual biased use difficult. Magnum photographers show a significant commitment in carrying out their work, which makes them privileged witnesses of history, gathering facts as decisive as: the liberation of Paris in 1944, the Prague Spring of 1968, Bloody Sunday in Belfast in 1971, the riots in Egypt in 1971 or the wars between Israel and Palestine throughout the Eighties. In addition, all of it is accompanied by the faces of their protagonists, be they politicians, artists, intellectuals or anonymous people.

The main axes for Magnum’s professionals are war and violence, through a black and white domain in such a way that Magnum has created the style that identifies documentary photography throughout history. This option is not incompatible with artistic intention, as did Cartier-Bresson, laying the foundations for a vision based on the instantaneous.

On the other hand and from the point of view of the configuration and reception of images, Magnum photographers understand that the use of colour photography introduces another language and another category of aesthetic that appeals to formal and sensual issues at the expense, in some cases, of the immediacy and factual references specific to the agency. Still, the exhibition shows how colour photography finally finds a parallel with television, coinciding demand and reception with the beginning of the culture of mass consumption of images and taking photojournalism to new areas of reception and production.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Centre National de la Photographie, Paris and The American Federation of Art
Exhibition Tour: 

Paris; Essen; Zürich; Budapest; Amsterdam; Denmark; Rome; Milan

Abbas (Abbas Attar'), Eve Arnold, Bruno Barbey, Ian Berry, Werner Bischof, Brian Brake, René Burry, Cornell Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Raymond Depardon, Elliott Erwitt, Martine Frank, Leonard Freed, Paul Fusco, Jean Gaumy, Burt Glinn, Mark Godfrey, Philip Jones Griffiths, Harry Gruyaert, Ernst Haas, Charles Harbutt, Erich Hartmann, David Hurn, Richard Kalvar, Josef Koudelka, Hiroji Kubota, Sergio Larrain, Erich Lessing, Constantine Manos, Mary Ellen Mark, Peter Marlow, Susan Meiselas, Wayne Miller, Inge Morath, Michael Nichols, Gilles Peress, Guy Le Querrec, Eli Reed, Marc Riboud, Eugene Richards, Robert Capa (André Ernö Friedmann), George Rodger, Sebastião Salgado, David Seymour (Chim), Marilyn Silverstone, Eugene Smith, Chris Steele-Perkins, Dennis Stock, Kryn Taconis, Burk Uzzle, William Vandivert, Alex Webb View more