Magnum Manifesto exhibition at Compton Verney

From 12 October to 15 December 2019, and for the first time ever in the UK, Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park plays host to Magnum Manifesto, an exhibition featuring some of the most significant and enduring images from The Magnum Photos agency, focusing on the history of the second half of the 20th century through the lenses of 75 leading photographers.

Sergio Larrain, Children sleeping over a grill which is heated from underneath, Santiago, 1957 © Sergio Larrain /Magnum Photos.

In 1947, following the aftermath of World War II, four pioneering photographers – Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and Chim (David Seymour) – founded a now legendary alliance, combining an extraordinary range of individual styles into one powerful collaboration: The Magnum Photos agency.

Magnum Photos represents some of the world’s most renowned photographers, sharing a vision to chronicle world events, people, places and culture with a powerful narrative that defies convention, redefines history and transforms lives.

Presenting group and individual projects, the exhibition includes more than 300 prints and photographs, as well as books, magazines, videos and rarely-seen archival documents, putting some of the world’s most recognisable images in a creative context. Among many others, Magnum Manifesto highlights the work of such renowned photojournalists, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Robert Capa, Martine Franck, Josef Koudelka, Susan Meiselas, Mark Power, Olivia Arthur and Martin Parr.

Displayed in three sections: Part I: 1947–1968: Human Rights and Wrongs; Part II: 1969–1989: An Inventory of Differences and Part III: 1990–2017: Stories about Endings, the exhibition charts the greatest events of the past 70 years and the people at their centre, while also looking at some of the more unusual occurrences in everyday life.

The opening section of the exhibition views the Magnum archive through a humanist lens, focusing on post-war ideals of commonality and utopianism. At its centre is Paul Fusco’s series, RFK Funeral Train. This poignant set of photos charts the transportation of American Presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy’s coffin by rail, from New York to the Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC. Fusco was given exclusive access to photograph from onboard the train carrying Kennedy’s body and his images bear testimony to a nation deep in mourning.

Danny Lyon, Cell block table. Huntsville, Texas, USA, 1968 © Danny Lyon /Magnum Photos

An Inventory of Differences shows a world fragmenting, with a focus on subcultures, minorities and outsiders. This section features images from a range of photographers, including Danny Lyon and Susan Meiselas. Lyon’s work will have a particular resonance with viewers of recent TV documentaries that have revealed the lives and stories of inmates in the many prisons of Huntsville, Texas. Meiselas’ work is a nuanced view on the dynamics of America’s travelling ‘girl shows’ in the early 1970s, portraying the dancers on stage and off, photographing their public performances as well as their private lives, in addition to capturing the audience and the men in charge. The work is about the women’s work, and how men were looking at women in this particular time and space.

The third part of the exhibition, Stories about Endings, explores the ways in which Magnum photographers have captured – and continue to document – a world in flux and under threat; from Thomas Dworzak’s remarkable images of the Taliban, taken in 2002, to Alessandra Sanguinetti’s images of people affected by the 2016 Nice terrorist attack.

Jonas Bendiksen, Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Altai Territory, Russia, 2000 © Jonas Bendiksen /Magnum Photos

Magnum Manifesto is from an original concept of Clément Chéroux (Senior Curator of Photography at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and is a co-production between the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York and Magnum Photos. Clément said: “The vast collection of images and information amassed over the seven decades since the creation of the cooperative – the great events of the day, together with the commonplace facts and deeds of everyday life, the laughter, the violence, moments of magic or of symbolic significance, and even representations of abstract thought – potentially it contains all the histories of the world.”

Compton Verney Director, Julie Finch, said: “Compton Verney is the only UK destination for this unmissable exhibition. It provides a snapshot of society, politics, cultures and the changing economies crossing time and continents, a reference point in our turbulent times, a discussion piece and a mirror to the world – all captured through photography. This exhibition is a newsreel of images bridging the 20th and the 21st century – with something for everyone.”

The accompanying catalogue, published by Thames & Hudson, showcases more than 510 photographs (230 in colour) and includes a timeline of Magnum Photos’ history.

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Photo caption of top feature image: Robert Capa, Exiled Republicans being transferred from one part of an internment camp for Spanish refugees to another, Le Barcarès, France, 1939 © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos.