A year through Magnum’s eyes … kinda

Magnum: A Year in Photography
My only word of caution is: don’t be fooled by the title. This isn’t a year in review and nor do the photos reflect a year passing by. But what you get are 365 photos at a rate of 1 per day of photographers who have been part of Magnum – the photographers’ photo agency that was set up in 1946 by pretty much everybody you’ve ever heard of.

So, Robert Capa is here (October 8, October 19) with a Moscow street cafe and two military bikes riding into the Vietnam sunset; Bresson has his guy jumping into or over the puddle and a couple more besides; Elliot Erwit gets four days with my favourite being a 1989 shot for Paris of a leaping dog next to its static owner’s legs. My birthday is represented by a 1943 image by Werner Bischof that, to my ignorant eye, is basically some rock. What can I say? I don’t much care for Ansel Adams either but then he was never Magnum and so isn’t here. But seeing Bischof has set me off looking at the rest of his work and I am mightily pleased it did.

My favourite image though – that is my favourite image as I look over the book today, I’m sure I’ll have a different favourite tomorrow – is by Bruce Davidson and you’ll find it on May 12. It’s of a circus dwarf in full make-up standing in the muddy field outside the tent having a fag. It’s perfect Magnum: easy to describe, virtually impossible to understand in one go. I do know a little bit more about it having read up previously on Bruce Davidson’s series Circus but even without that knowledge it’s an image that stops you turning the page and makes you consider what is in front of you. (See my earlier post for more of the same).

I mentioned one downside – that of misunderstanding what this book is going to show you. There is another – this book weights a metric ton. Buy it on the understanding that you may need to reinforce your coffee table and you’ll be laughing. Well, not laughing as such because even by the middle of January you’ll have come across enough enigmatic reflections of poverty, power and conflict from across the globe to stifle the chuckles.

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