Weaving narratives through the Magnum Photo archive

As part of this year’s Brighton Photo Biennial, three contemporary artists have been given access to the Magnum Photos print archive to curate a rather special show.

Leonard Freed

Source: c Leonard Freed, Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed


The exhibition – Magnum Photos: One Archive, Three Views – has seen visual anthropologist Elizabeth Edwards, artist Uriel Orlow and photographer Hannah Starkey face the daunting task of selecting 130 photographs from  68,000 resin prints, aiming to curate a show that “reinterprets how social, cultural and political inclinations have shaped the content of the archive”, according to organisers.

The show is a co-commission from Photoworks, Magnum Photos and De La Warr Pavilion; and the images were all selected according to intuition, rather than prior knowledge of the photographers who captured them.

Martin Parr

Source: c Martin Parr, Magnum Photo

Martin Parr

The final selection shows work from 25 photographers, including Abbas, Eve Arnold, Ian Berry, Rene Burri, Elliott Erwitt, Stuart Franklin, Leonard Freed, David Hurn, Peter Marlow, Inge Morath, Martin Parr, Chris Steele-Perkins and David “Chim” Seymour.

Each curator took a unique approach to making their selection. Edwards’ choices were guided by her anthropological interests, selected according to how each photo represents the experiences of people. Her choices include Carl de Keyzer’s Ladbroke’s Betting Shop, 1991 and Martin Parr’s Rusholme, Manchester, England, 1972.

Orlow, meanwhile, draws on her interdisciplinary art practice to create an installation piece to display her chosen photographs. The goal of the piece is to provide an exploration of how the images relate to each other , even when displaying wildy different subjects.

Rene Burri

Source: c Rene Burri, Magnum Photos

Rene Burri

Finally, Starkey’s contribution examines women’s perspectives; showing selected images spanning the decade to form a female-led narrative. No mean feat, considering that during the period from which she chose her image – 1950-1970 – only 5 per cent of the photographers represented by Magnum.

Magnum Photos: One Archive, Three Views runs from 4 October 2014 ­ 4 January 2015 at the De La Warr Pavilion, Marina, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex TN40 1DP

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