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Please note: RPS House is closed for our exhibition install. We will be open again from 10am on Friday 9th August 2024.

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Seven images to celebrate the legacy of Magnum Photos

The latest edition of Magnum Magnum, published by the historic agency, offers a portrait of global history

The cream of the Magnum Photos crop has been featured in an updated edition of the book Magnum Magnum, which celebrates the achievements of the co-operative.

Since it was founded in 1947, the agency has documented some of the world’s most influential events, cultures and people.

Magnum Magnum is an updated and expanded version of the original edition, which sold more than 200,000 copies after publication in 2007.

Taking inspiration from the earliest days of Magnum Photos, when founders Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson HonFRPS, George Rodger and David ‘Chim’ Seymour edited each other’s work, the book involves members selecting and commenting on six works by another of the agency’s 87 photographers.

Including the 25 photographers who have joined Magnum in the last 15 years, and additional 150 photographs, the book takes an engrossing look at the world across the last last seven decades. Here are seven of its highlights.

Abuelo-Estrella, an elder from the Cerro de la Garza, Guerrero, México, 2020’ by Yael Martinez/Magnum (main image, above)

The starry effect of this image was created by making a print of the photograph, pinpricking it, and rephotographing the whole thing while shining light through the holes. It’s a dazzling example of creativity from Mexican photographer Yael Martinez, awarded a regional prize at the 2022 World Press Photo Contest for his efforts. The man in the photograph is an elder of the Na Savi people, and the image was taken on 31 December – a day that commemorates the end and beginning of a cycle within that culture.


‘People gather in a stadium during a large rally before the independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq, September 2017’ by Emin Özmen/Magnum

Turkish photographer and filmmaker Emin Özmen’s collection of press imagery largely relates to the refugee crisis and its impact on Turkey, as well as stories from across Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. He became a full member of Magnum in 2022, some five years after he took this image of a rally in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. At the time, the region was holding a vote on independence, its legal standing questioned by the federal government of Iraq. Despite an overwhelming vote in favour of separation – 93% – the results ultimately led to conflict with Iraqi forces and the loss of disputed territories.  

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‘Retired woman, China, 1979’ by Eve Arnold FRPS/Magnum

A full member of Magnum Photos since 1957, US photographer Eve Arnold FRPS enjoyed a lengthy career in photography. Visits to China in 1979, which spanned some five months in total, led to her first major solo exhibition in 1980 at the Brooklyn Museum. This image, which forms part of that collection, has become one of her most iconic. By racking up 40,000 miles in China accompanied only by an interpreter, Arnold was able to produce deeply authentic and vivid portraiture that still feels resonant today.

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‘A plane flies low over students riding a train at a funfair over the weekend, Istanbul, Turkey, 29 August 2018’ from the series Hafiz: The Guardians of the Quran by Sabiha Çimen/Magnum

Self-taught photographer Sabiha Çimen has built a name with her images of women and Islamic culture. This picture comes from a project that was awarded second place in the World Press Photo Contest’s Long-Term Projects category in 2020. It followed Muslim girls at a Quran school, where they are expected to learn the entirety of the holy book by heart. Once this is achieved, they can use the title ‘Hafiz’ before their name, and it is believed this accomplishment is rewarded by Allah and a rise in status once in Paradise. Having attended such a school herself, Çimen’s approach is rooted in personal experience.

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‘Bar, Gouyave, Grenada, 1979’ by Alex Webb/Magnum

Against a backdrop of red, yellow and green – which also happen to feature on Grenada’s rather wonderfully designed flag – we enter a bar scene in the West Indian nation. Alex Webb, born in 1952, is known for photography that intentionally strolls firmly off the beaten track. His depictions of life have always been injected with delicious colour, and his earliest works stem from the American South, as well as the Caribbean and Mexico.

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‘Daytona Beach, Florida, USA, 1997’ by Constantine Manos/Magnum

Born to Greek immigrant parents in the US in 1934, Constantine Manos’s career in photography can be traced back to a school camera club at the age of 13. Within a few years he was working as a professional and, after time in military service, he moved to New York where he landed editorial roles. This delightfully intersected image is one of many that capture the American experience in bright, snappy vignettes. Manos says he finds that when photographing people at the beach, he can often benefit from their sense of relaxation – indeed, by moving discreetly, he says the photographer may be overlooked entirely.

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‘After a protest related to continuous power cuts during lockdown level 5 in Thokoza, 2020’ by Lindokuhle Sobekwa/Magnum

Having been introduced to photography in 2012, Lindokuhle Sobekwa has had a strong decade. His works have been published and exhibited internationally, including in his home country of South Africa as well as in Iran, Norway and the US. Born in 1995 in Johannesburg, Sobekwa's early projects focused on poverty, drugs and unemployment in local towns. This image was produced during the Covid-19 outbreak; in the same year he became an associate member of Magnum Photos. The contrast between the aftermath of what appears to have been a violent skirmish with the relaxed nature of the central figure makes for an engrossing final product.

Emin Özmen is interviewed in the January-March 2024 issue of the RPS Journal.

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