Behind the Scenes
While I am on the other side of the ocean, in New York, Magnum London is planning a symposium to discuss the findings of the new book Magnum Contact Sheets. My copy arrived a few weeks ago. The book is a whopping 506 pages long and contains contact sheets from almost all of Magnum’s photographers. Each contact sheet is accompanied by a short story by the photographer. In the case of photographers who are no longer with us, the entry is taken from letters or written by someone who knew them well. This book, unlike many other publications, is an opportunity to get inside the mind of a photographer. We can finally flip their contact sheets upside down and test out the Cartier-Bresson technique of viewing images. He famously taught the younger Magnum photographers to look at the images upside down so they could analyze the geometry. Rene Burri shares an interesting story about his work at the Ministry of Health in Rio de Janeiro.
“At Magnum, we’d send in our rolls and, once the pictures got to the office, the editors would scribble a red mark: You often did not have time to do the selection yourself. Cartier-Bresson would also examine our contact sheets. He always turned them all around and upside down. It became like a sort of dance. Strangely he didn’t want to look at the picture!”
RENÉ BURRI (Ministry of Health, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 1960)
Magnum Contact Sheets (Thames & Hudson) page 109
November 26, 2011, London, United Kingdom
A landmark new book, Magnum Contact Sheets presents an unparalleled wealth of unpublished material, revealing the story behind many iconic and historical images of modern times taken by the world’s most celebrated photographers. The book shows their creative process and also acts, in the words of Martin Parr, as an ‘epitaph to the contact sheet’ as it marks the end of the analog era as we move to a digital generation.
Magnum Contact Sheets presents, for the first time, the very best contact sheets created by Magnum photographers. Contact sheets tell the truth behind a photograph. They unveil its process, and provide its back story. Was it the outcome of what a photographer had in mind from the outset? Did it emerge from a diligently worked sequence, or was the right shot down to pure serendipity a matter of being in the right place at the right time? This landmark publication provides the reader with a depth of understanding and a critical analysis of the story behind a photograph, the process of editing it, and the places and ways in which the selected photographs were used. For anyone with a deep appreciation of photography and a desire to understand what goes into creating iconic work, Magnum Contact Sheets will be regarded as the definitive volume.
Magnum Contact Sheets: The Symposium is held in conjunction with the Photography Department of London College of Communication. This one day event will discuss and address topics and issues raised by the book; in particular the foreword written by Kristen Lubben, Associate Curator of the International Center of Photography, New York. The Symposium will be introduced by Sophie Wright, Cultural Director at Magnum Photos.
Simon Baker, Photography Curator at Tate
Martin Barnes, Senior Curator, Photographs, V&A
David Campany, artist, writer & critic and Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster, London
Zelda Cheatle, partner of The Tosca Photography Fund
David Hurn, Magnum photographer and founder of the School of Documentary Photography in Newport
Francis Hodgson, writer & photography critic
Sean O’Hagan, photography writer, The Guardian
Colin Jacobson, author and former picture editor
Peter Marlow, Magnum photographer
Andrew Sanigar, Commissioning Editor at Thames & Hudson
Tickets are £45 and can be purchased online by visiting: http://magnumcontactsheets.eventbrite.com