The gold standard for photojournalism in the 20th century was set by Magnum, the international cooperative photo agency, founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger, and David “Chim” Seymour. It was conceived to give photojournalists artistic authority over their work and editorial control over the use of their pictures in the major publications of the era, such as Life magazine, Paris Match, and the Sunday Times of London.
Magnum photographers are an adventurous cabal. They have historically stood out for their intellectual curiosity, globe-trotting sophistication, commitment to social justice, and aesthetic brio. The picture essays they produced over the years are legendary in the history of photography, from Cartier-Bresson’s acutely observed portrait of 1950s England to Leonard Freed’s examination of race relations in America; Elliot Erwitt’s intimate chronicle of his family to Susan Meiselas’s “Carnival Strippers” series. Cornell Capa, Robert’s brother and the founder of New York’s International Center of Photography, summed up their ethos in a phrase: “the concerned photographer.”
It seems ordained (if a tad nepotistic) that ICP should mount “Magnum Manifesto,” celebrating the agency’s remarkable legacy on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. The show will bear witness to events of the past seven decades through notable photo essays exuding moral probity and visual gravitas—Magnum’s signature style. The recent work of 21st-century adherents Mikhael Subotzky and Alec Soth will be shown as well, continuing that legacy of concerned photography with a modern twist. May 26–September 3; icp.org.