Summer 2007

Magnum Photos

Anne Burdick
Brendan Dawes
John O’Reilly
Overview / website design

‘A purposeful marriage of design and content’

Online archive and blog of the renowned co-operative, owned

by its photographer-members.

Design initiated by Group94, Belgium, in 2005.

John O’Reilly: Photography, portraits and portfolios from the photography collective. White on grey text, and grey background for the photographs, softens the images, especially the black and whites, cools them down. The background colour lends the images the veneer of ‘time’, taking them out of the harsher ‘news’ space and re-contextualises them as documentary images.

Adrian Shaughnessy: A masterclass in Web design that rivals good book or magazine design. The site is largely black and white – as befits the reportage ethos of Magnum – and the sheer quality of the images on display elevates the viewing experience above the norm of most photo-library sites. Even the site blog avoids the ‘clone’ look of most blogs.

Its success can be attributed to a purposeful marriage of design, Web engineering and content. The design is unobtrusive and disciplined; the navigation is effortless and logical; the text is properly edited, with articles actually worth reading.

Brendan Dawes: There is a gorgeous, intuitive slideshow viewer on the homepage that has some beautiful attention to detail. Click the little clock device and the slideshow pauses as you expect it might – and look, no need for words such as ‘stop slideshow’ – amazing! Though it’s what happens in the ‘in betweens’, the transitions between states, that really appeals. There’s a brightness effect, where the image goes to black before the next image, which then does the opposite. And little usability touches like the ‘arrow’ being greyed out if you’ve reached the end of the slideshow. These are things you don’t notice because they work so well and have been really thought through. Believe me, you’d find the experience wholly different if they weren’t there.

Erik Spiekermann: We use this site for photo research a lot. These are simply the best photographers in the world, and the site does them justice. It looks like the new apps from Apple and Adobe, which both use a dark background to show off the colours of the photographs. The search function works well and the database is responsive. An indispensable tool if you work in editorial design.

Anne Burdick: This portfolio is a welcome refuge from the banal abundance of the internet with its stock photo superstores and billions of personal photos gone public. Even a search for the generic term ‘corporate meeting’ in Magnum’s Advanced Search calls forth images that are rich with narrative detail, the specificity of a unique moment, and a photographer’s distinct point of view.

Magnumphotos.com makes me want to run screaming from the ‘democratic’ free-for-all of sites such as Flickr and return to a time when photography was a specialist’s domain. But it is precisely the ubiquity of digital photography that gives this work a second life, revealing that its strength has always been in the intelligent perspective of the photographers and not in their exclusive access to the tools.

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