Since its founding in 1947
by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger, and
William Vandivert, Magnum Photos has come to be the top photographers’
cooperative in the world. Its enduring reputation and quality are due in no
small part to its three-stage membership process, in place since 1955, in which
applicants advance from nominee to associate to full-fledged, voting
member—with portfolio reviews at every step of the way. Here’s ten of our
favorites who have made the cut over the years:
After fighting for his native France in WWII, Cartier-Bresson would become one
of the original five founders of Magnum in spring 1947, taking on India and
China as his regions of focus. The immensely influential photographer would get
his first major museum exhibition at MoMA later that year.
(1912-2012): Arnold began working with Magnum Photos in 1951,
becoming its first full-fledged female member in 1957. She was best known for
her humanistic portraits of luminaries and everyday people alike; her work in
China earned several awards and Arnold’s first major museum show—at the
Brooklyn Museum in 1980.
(1913-1954): Called “the greatest war photographer in world” in
1938, Capa produced some of the most enduring images of the Spanish Civil War
and WWII, including the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, and the liberation of
Paris. Magnum was his brainchild, and he was one of its five co-founders. On
assignment for Life
in French Indochina in 1954, Capa stepped on a
landmine and was killed.
(b. 1930): Fusco first joined Magnum in 1971, after photographing
the Korean war for the American army and working at Look
documentary photography and photojournalism often documents social issues like
poverty, illness, and tragedy—some of Fusco’s best known series capture AIDS
victims in California and the lasting effects of the nuclear disaster in
(b. 1933): Few photographers have captured the
life and streets of New York to as much acclaim as Bruce Davidson, who first
joined Magnum in 1958. Davidson tackles the streets of the city in focused
projects, like The Brooklyn Gang
(1980), or his
documentation of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that earned him a
Guggenheim Fellowship. His most famous project is probably East 100th Street
two years of photographs shot on an infamous block of Harlem.
(b. 1948): Meiselas is known for her searing,
visceral photographs of civil unrest and political revolution around the world,
from Central America to Kurdistan. However, it is her “Carnival Strippers” that
defines her career for many: the series was published by Farrar, Strauss &
Giroux in 1976, catching the attention of Magnum and earning her an exhibition
at the Whitney several years later.
(b. 1950): If you haven’t heard of McCurry, you’ve certainly seen
his most famous image: “Afghan
,” the haunting portrait of
a refugee that graced the cover of National Geographic
in 1985. Since
first disguising himself and crossing into rebel-controlled Afghanistan in
1979, McCurry has gone on to capture the human toll of several wars. “Most of my images are grounded in people,” he says.
“I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience
etched on a person’s face.”
(b. 1969): Soth is
world-famous for his sprawling series that document the American Midwest in all
its alluring banality. His works include NIAGARA
, for which he
photographed the touristic areas around the national landmark, and Last Days
, a chronicle of Americans exhausted from eight years under Bush’s
presidency. He was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and received a solo
retrospective at Paris’s Jeu de Paume in 2008.
(1970-2011): Photojournalist Hetherington took on
assignments throughout Africa, from Liberia to Angola, and was probably best
known for co-directing the film Restrepo
, a documentary about American
troops fighting in Afghanistan. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best
Documentary Feature in 2011, the same year Hetherington would be tragically
killed while covering the civil conflict in Libya.
1981): One of the most acclaimed younger photographers working today, Subotzky
turns his lens on his native South Africa, documenting the struggles and social
injustices of the Post-Apartheid nation. Featured in MoMA’s “New Photography
2008” exhibition, his best-known series is probably “Beaufort West,” which
contrasts images from inside a prison with the rural towns that surround it.