“Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos into the Digital Age,” an exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center, explores the evolution of Magnum Photos from print journalism to the digital age and reveals a global cooperative that is continually in flux and exploring new relationships between photographers, their subjects and their viewers.
The exhibition runs from Sept. 10 to Jan. 5, 2014, at the Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Drawn from the vast collection of prints from the agency’s New York bureau, the exhibition highlights ways in which these photojournalists and artists have continually reinvented themselves. The exhibition features more than 300 items, including more than 400 photographic prints from the collection that was placed on deposit at the Harry Ransom Center in 2009.
“With its outstanding holdings in the history and literature of photography and photojournalism, the Ransom Center is uniquely suited to displaying the diversity of the Magnum Photos collection and encouraging further inquiry into the imagery of these important photographers and the ongoing influence of their works,” said Roy Flukinger, senior research curator of photography and co-curator of the exhibition.
Magnum photographers have produced some of the most memorable images of the past century, shaping history and revolutionizing photography’s influence on modern culture. Founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David “Chim” Seymour and George Rodger, Magnum Photos was the first cooperative agency to be established and operated by photographers. Membership in the collective gave photographers unprecedented creative, editorial and economic independence, empowering them to document conflict, liberation, revolution and reform while preserving their own points of view.
Magnum Photos was established during the postwar golden age of the picture magazine. As television began to take over as the dominant form of mass communication in the 1950s, Magnum photographers continued to explore motion picture and book formats. As photography’s status within the art world rose in the 1960s and 1970s, photographers found new audiences in museums and galleries.
During the past decade, new technologies have dramatically changed the way photographic imagery is captured, distributed and consumed, and Magnum photographers have kept pace by experimenting with a variety of multimedia platforms to publish their work, incorporating video, sound and text with their still images.
A selection of contact sheets, magazine tear sheets and books in the exhibition will trace the working habits and expanding vision of these photographers as they move from image capture to publication, and a sampling of Magnum Photos’ multimedia projects will examine new paths for the future of the agency.
“Going deep into the expansive Magnum Photos collection at the Ransom Center allows us to place iconic photographs in context, exploring the ways in which Magnum images have historically circulated in newspapers and magazines, in movie theaters and art galleries, and now through multimedia platforms,” said Jessica McDonald, Nancy Inman and Marlene Nathan Meyerson Curator of Photography and co-curator of the exhibition.
Complementing the exhibition is the symposium “Magnum Photos into the Digital Age” on Oct. 25-27, which brings together photographers, curators and historians to discuss the ways in which Magnum Photos has continually reinvented itself from the moment of its founding. Twelve Magnum photographersChris Anderson, Bruno Barbey, Thomas Dworzak, Jim Goldberg, Josef Koudelka, Alex Majoli, Susan Meiselas, Mark Power, Moises Saman, Alec Soth, Chris Steele-Perkins and Donovan Wyliewill participate in panel discussions with a focus on the cooperative’s evolution and future. The symposium keynote address will be delivered by Fred Ritchin, Professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and co-director of Pixel Press and the NYU/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights educational program.
Also complementing the exhibition is the book “Reading Magnum: A Visual Archive of the Modern World,” which will be published by University of Texas Press in September. Edited by Steven Hoelscher, academic curator of photography at the Ransom Center, the book is the first publication to examine the Magnum Photos collection itself. It explores prominent themes in the collectionwar and conflict, portraiture, geography, cultural life, social relations and globalizationand includes evocative portfolios of images.
“Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos into the Digital Age” will be on view in the Ransom Center Galleries on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours until 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.
High-resolution press images from the exhibition are available.