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“We don’t yet have enough distance from 2020 to know how the year will go down in history,” writes Olivia Arthur, president of Magnum Photos in her introduction to the book Magnum 2020 (Magnum Photos, 2021). It remains to be seen whether the chaotic, wide-ranging events of 2020 were a passing oddity or whether they signaled the start of a new global reality. Regardless, Arthur affirms that the year “felt different from other periods of change and crises that we have experienced in our lifetimes.”
That difference is what Magnum 2020 seeks to capture. The members of Magnum — an international photographic collaborative founded in Paris in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others — have documented some of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most momentous events. Magnum 2020 revisits the uncertainties and upheavals of last year through the photographs and writing of 60 of the organization’s photographers working around the world. Featuring pictures and writing by photographers on the front lines of conflicts as well as those confined within their homes, the book forms a disturbing, diverse account of a very turbulent year.
Peter van Agtmael’s photos record some of the most excruciating moments in the United States. One picture, taken in New York City at the peak of its first wave of COVID-19 deaths, shows an impromptu morgue where shrouded bodies are stacked on plywood shelves between plastic walls. Another captures Trump’s June 2020 Tulsa rally, the upper seating deck mostly empty and a middle-aged man in a MAGA hat sleeping in the bottom of the frame. About this image, van Agtmael notes, “I feel like this country is increasingly living in a parallel world.” A heightened sense of personal involvement pervades many of the images.
Last year presented high stakes not just for the photographers’ subjects, but for the photographers themselves. Emin Özmen’s moving photos of the refugee crisis at the Turkish-Greek border resulted in his arrest by Turkish security forces. Nanna Heitmann’s tender but piercing portraits of hospital workers in Moscow remind us of the many dangers photojournalists exposed themselves to last year in order to keep the public informed. And Eli Reed’s photographs of George Floyd’s funeral procession are accompanied by a candid reflection of the experience: “I too felt the pain,” he writes. “As his body arrived near the cemetary entrance, I found myself yelling along with the crowd, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!’ It was six words repeated over and over again and I was not conscious of saying the words even as I pushed the shutter on my camera until the funeral procession moved past.”
A lighter view of 2020 comes from Christopher Anderson, Jonas Bendiksen, and Alessandra Sanguinetti, who all photographed their children as they navigated their time together in confinement. Cristina de Middel’s lush pictures of plants, animals, and insects are a reminder of nature’s perpetual progress, and David Hurn’s introspective shots of comfy corners of his colorful apartment are a charming reminder of the augmented importance that home took on for many throughout the year. Between these small and larger moments, Magnum 2020 is testament to Hurn’s statement in the book: “Documentation is still one of photography’s most important functions.”
Magnum 2020 is available online.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…