When it comes to international photojournalism, one name has long reigned supreme. Since its inception at the end of World War II, Magnum Photos has been the world’s preeminent photo agency. From Robert Capa’s chilling and uncensored account of life behind the Soviet-era iron curtain to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s coverage of India at the time of Gandhi’s assassination, Magnum photographers have set a standard in both the coverage they have offered and in the perspective from which they have presented it.
Formed in 1947 by four photographers (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger, and David Seymour) the photographic cooperative created a charter whereby it was the photographers and the events that dictated the images-not the editors or publishing house for whom the photographs were destined. In so doing, Magnum presented a view that transcended the prescribed approached to news documentation that dominated the day. Through their images, Magnum’s founders sought to present what Cartier-Bresson later called the “poetry of life’s reality.”
The members-run photographic agency is celebrating its 60th year, and in honor of the milestone, a Santa Barbara company, Verso Limited Editions, has joined with Magnum to release a strictly limited edition book: Magnum Founders, In Celebration of Sixty Years. Specializing in fine, handcrafted photographic monographs, Verso is an imprint of Santa Babara publishers Serbin Communications-the company that brings us the annual Photographers Forum photo contest, which has highlighted the work of many fine regional photographers.
Published in consultation with the estates of all four founding Magnum members, Magnum Founders is a hand-bound publication featuring 14 platinum photographic prints by Cartier-Bresson, Capa, Rodger, and Seymour. For Verso’s president, Glen Serbin, the decision to present the work in platinum was an obvious one. “These are the iconic works of these four photographers, so it was important to present them without compromise,” explained Serbin. “Here, we offer the actual platinum print, rather than a reproduced lithograph. Platinum offers a much wider tonal range than a traditional silver black-and-white print and a great deal more than a lithograph.”
Over the years, Magnum has provided a creative haven for the world’s elite photojournalists-among its members have been Elliott Erwitt, Ernst Haas, and Sebasti£o Salgado-and the book is signed by the complete roster of current Magnum photographers. At $14,000, the publication comes with a hefty price tag. But considering it contains 12 bound platinum prints and two freestanding ones, each bearing the stamp of the photographer’s estate, and is limited to an edition of just 75 copies, it’s an offer too good for some to pass up; two-thirds of the edition has already sold out.
Each year, Pictures of the Year International-one of the most highly respected photojournalism contests-convenes to honor excellence in the field of photojournalism. As part of this year’s award, the advisory board created the “Distinguished Leadership in Photojournalism Award” specifically for Magnum Founders. The award honors not only Verso, but also Magnum Photos, and the four photographers whose work is encapsulated within the publication.
“They had apparently wanted to offer this type of award for a while, but they were unsure of whom or what it should cover,” said Serbin. “We sent in Magnum Founders in the normal book [category]-it’s a book after all-but when the judges looked at it, they felt it went beyond the category, so this was the inspiration for them to create that award. Magnum put a lot of faith in us as this is Verso’s first project, so it has been nice to receive this recognition.”
For more information on Magnum Founders, In Celebration of Sixty Years, call (800) 876-6425 or visit versoeditions.com.