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Magnum Magnum

A renowned photo agency celebrates its 60th anniversary.

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(To see images from this and other photo books reviewed by the Monitor, click  here.) The world’s premier photo agency, Magnum, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 with a book. In Magnum Magnum (edited by Brigitte Lardinois, Thames and Hudson,  568 pp., $80), 69 acclaimed photo documentarians edit and comment on each other’s work.

The original edition of the book was enclosed in a “suitcase” with a carrying handle to ease its 15-lb heft. This year it has been reissued for the holidays – seven pounds lighter and almost a third less costly.

Cofounders Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour, and George Rodger envisioned Magnum as a place where dedicated photographers could follow their own consciences when pursuing stories and these works are powerful testaments to the conviction of bearing witness.

But Magnum’s members have always gone further. They report the human condition as artists – evocative, intimate, graceful – inspiring a deeply personal response in the viewer. Though Magnum photographers have always created artistic images, in following the chronology of this work, one can see over time the vision change from straight journalism to  the personal.

Eve Arnold took on the formidable task of editing the master himself, Cartier-Bresson. It is a joy that she found images that are wonderful examples without leaning on his most famous works.

In the photo “Near Trivandrum, Kerala, India 1966” (above), the movement is a backward arch with arms stretched above the woman’s head. She and a man in a sarong lift a basket of what appears to be soil above their heads. The arch reveals the exertion needed to lift this weight.

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