Friday, November 02, 2007

It's Okay to be Impressed

Magnum Magnum

Edited by Brigitte Lardinois
Thames & Hudson, November 30, 2007
564 pages/hardcover/400+ photographs in color and duotone/$225.00

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

“Think Big and Kick Ass” is the title of Donald Trump's lastest tome. Those behind the planning of Magnum Magnum did just that as they moved beyond big and into the realm of colossal whipping in this new compilation. In fact, the book is the largest and most ambitious volume Thames & Hudson has ever published.

The 14-pound behemoth surpasses another huge book about the legendary agency of decorated photographers: the 512-page Magnum Stories published in 2004 by Phaidon Press. Magnum’s kingdom keeps growing even when traditional high-end photojournalistic channels seem to be disappearing.

There is an interesting and smart motivation in this anniversary undertaking (not that there needs to be a reason to assemble another gigantic book with powerful Magnum-quality imagery). The organization of materials is a salute to Magnum’s early days—now sixty years ago—when founders edited each other’s work.

Sixty-nine members in this new volume are critiqued by a fellow agency member. Eve Arnold’s images are selected by Elliott Erwitt; Erwitt’s images are chosen by Ferdinando Scianna whose images are selected by Martine Franck; and so on.

Each photographer included is represented by six works with reflections on those images being provided by another member. Examples of other pairings include Jim Goldberg selected by Susan Meiselas, Erich Lessing by Bruno Barbey and Constantine Manos by David Alan Harvey.

All of this great-on-greater banter makes for heady substance, possibly because, literally, the book is so heavy. Indeed, the weight of the Magnum aura descends upon the brain while flipping through hundreds of pages filled with spectacular photographs and insightful colleague appraisals. From promising star to master to legend, the peer reviews are compelling to read and contemplating the image selections is engaging.

With this release, the agency’s lasting philosophy of the cooperative spirit, coupled with the incomparable collective vision of its photographers, is fittingly preserved. The next sixty years of photography by Magnum members is probably unimaginable. Fortunately, most will happily wait to see what’s next.

Meanwhile, with its November 2007 release, Magnum Magnum is a complete collectable quickly moving to the top of many holiday gift lists.

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