edited by Maria Antonella Pelizzari. Hirmer, December 2017. 128 p. ill. ISBN 9783777428888 (pbk), $29.95.
Reviewed March 2018
This volume documents an exhibition held at the Hunter College Art Galleries in the fall of 2017. The exhibition coincided with and celebrated the seventieth anniversary of Magnum photos, a photo cooperative formed in 1947 by a community of photographers including Chim (David Seymour), Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others. According to exhibition curator and catalog editor Pelizzari (a photo historian and faculty member at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center), while the history of Magnum has been well covered, less covered has been that “the history of Magnum as a community implies a larger and compelling history of photography and otherness” (11).
The catalog was organized thematically, across “seventeen paradigms in which Magnum photographers have framed communities … This book is about the questions of belonging and togetherness that Magnum photographers still provoke” (11-12). Apart from the well cited and illustrated opening essay by Pelizzari, the book contains short one to two-page essays on individual photographers accompanied by high quality black and white and color images. The seventeen sections/photographers are organized into four larger themes: Longing for Community, Shifting Community, Contested Territories, and, Displaced Community. The volume also contains a bibliography organized by artist.
Some of the photographers one might expect to see represented here are not, including Gilles Peress, Elliott Erwitt, and even Robert Capa (who is mentioned in the introductory essay). Of the seventeen photographers, only three are women. While the proportion basically mirrors that of the composition of Magnum in general, it is still a bit disappointing, especially since the “missing” include artists like Mary Ellen Mark, and Eve Arnold.
Notwithstanding these lacunae, the catalog presents an interesting arrangement of artists and themes, prompting the reader to consider the work of the artists beyond a merely chronological continuum. As noted, the text for each artist is accompanied by a selection of exemplary images, some well-known, others likely less so. Particularly because of this, and the well-researched bibliography, this volume would be a worthy addition for any library that collects in the area of photography, complimenting and amplifying the already sizeable collection of volumes documenting the work of Magnum and its photographers. While the writing is academic, it is certainly accessible to an undergraduate, and even a general audience. As noted in the foreword to the catalog, “Framing Community is a touching exhibition, and in its record of what has changed and has not, a timely one” (7).