Spring 2005

The Fellowship of Magnum [extract]

Magnum Stories: 61 Magnum photographers

Edited and with an introduction by Chris Boot, Phaidon, £45.00

George Orwell once wrote that ‘Good prose is like a window-pane’. In the realm of photography, a seemingly unmediated insight into the world has come to us via the ‘photo-story’. Moving beyond the poetic flourish of the ‘decisive moment’, the photo-story’s sequential flow of images seeks to weave a narrative thread from a series of associated events. It allows the photographer to craft a ‘personal essay’, one that has traditionally elevated our awareness of major events or historical confrontations. As in literature, to speak of a ‘story’ is to use a word with numerous connotations. Whether as two images, or an ongoing series of monographs, a photo-story can take many forms. As Chris Boot notes in his introduction, it can either be ‘the narrative chain of things that happened [. . .]; the neutral report of events as well as the highly subjective interpretation; the joke, as well as the great ancestral myth that defines our cultural identity and beliefs.’

From origination to archive, the photo-story has remained the backbone of Magnum’s operations. It is a legacy that stretches from the Robert Capa’s iconic ‘Beachheads of Normandy’ for Life magazine in 1944, to Leonard Freed’s seven-year project on the New York Police force. In the pages of Magnum Stories, we are offered examples from this sub-genre of photojournalism by affiliates of the cooperative. Arranged alphabetically, each section consists of a detailed introductory essay on the work of a photographer, followed by an illustration of their approach to the form. The range of work featured in this anthology is staggering. [...]

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