Study the Masters
— Thames & Hudson Press
Wouldn’t it be nice to explore the
Magnum Archives? I could spend
months, maybe even years pouring
over the contacts of my favorite
photographers. Contact sheets
contain the subtle lessons of
composition, design, and the
moment when everything comes
together into a magical image.
A Book Of Moment
For most of us the archival racks from our favorite photographers will remain in the dark. There is a better chance of getting our hands of classified government documents than thumbing through the millions of negatives hidden within Magnum Photo. But this Fall, Magnum Photo in collaboration with the British publishing house Thames & Hudson will release “Magnum Contact Sheets.” The four year effort to create this book culminates in over 435 images from Magnums archives. There were only two members who did not participate in the book. Who opted out? Its still a secret, but one we will certainly solve once the book is released in October. I already pre-ordered one from Amazon.
All Film, NO DIGITAL
The only requirement for the contents of “Magnum Contact Sheets” were that all images were made on film and the photographer were, at some point, Magnum member. A number of the agency’s most notable members have left over the years. Famed photographer Sebastiao Salgado eventually resigned from Magnum stating he did not like the way the organization was evolving. But I would expect to see some of his contact sheets included in the book. He was a major artistic and financial force at Magnum for a number of years before his departure, which was described by fellow member Abbas. (
The School of Henri
Everyone at Magnum who had the pleasure or terror of presenting their work to Henri Cartier-Bresson can describe every detail of Cartier-Bresson’s review process. He would offer critiques as he flipped and turned younger photographers contact sheets. It must have been a nerve racking experience to prepare a body of images for one of the greatest photographers in history. And it proves a useful lesson for future generations to understand that Cartier-Bresson put a tremendous emphasis on the contact sheets. The contact sheets explain every right and wrong action of a photographer. For the first time Thames & Hudson is mounting a massive block of contacts for photographers to study.
If the book comes off well, it will be one of the most useful guides to successful photography ever compiled. And one striking distinction is all the lessons will be in picture form. There will be some smaller interviews from some of the photographers, but the real gem will be those perforated cells of photographic genius. Like the sketch books of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, Magnum Contact Sheets should yield powerful lessons which we can apply to our image making. Pre order a copy here and try not to explode with excitement until October.