Early Magnum: On & In New York
In 2017, Magnum Photos launched its 70th-anniversary program in New York City, in tandem with the year's AIPAD fair, with an exhibition of photographs taken during the early years of the agency in the city. The photographs in this exhibition were presented simultaneously at the National Arts Club Grand Gallery as well as on the Magnum website. The show combined classic images taken in the 1950s by Magnum members such as Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt, Erich Hartmann and Dennis Stock along with archival pictures of the agency’s New York office. It was an exhibition that portrayed the workings of the organization and its community of enterprising members in dialogue with the city that has been Magnum Photos’ U.S. home and a source of inspiration since its founding in 1947.
As the legend goes, Magnum Photos was founded over a magnum of champagne at the Museum of Modern Art by Robert Capa and took its name from that particularly generous sized bottle. Opening a bureau in both Paris and New York in 1947, the New York office at 55 West 8th Street was first run by Rita Vandivert, wife of photographer William Vandivert. Empty Magnum bottles served as a reminder of Capa’s favorite drink and particular brand of joie du vivre.
The agency fizzed with pioneer spirit, its independence reshaping the relationship between magazines and photographers reclaiming copyright for the latter’s benefit. Its membership grew in size to match its founders’ ambitions – incorporating as full members Arnold, Cornell Capa, Erwitt, Glinn, Hartmann and Stock in 1954, Morath in 1955, Miller and Davidson in 1958, and Burri in 1959, amongst others over the course of that decade.
Included in this collection are Estate stamped prints and signed contemporary prints of some of Magnum’s best-known images of the city and its inhabitants: Davidson’s intimate portraits of the youthful, self-possessed members of a Brooklyn Gang, Stock’s iconic image of James Dean in Times Square, Erwitt’s image of his wife and first child, and Arnold’s Harlem Fashion show.