Frozen in time: Foam Amsterdam celebrates the art of contact sheets

Exhibition of sheets by the photographers’ notes
'Magnum Contact Sheets', a new exhibition at Amsterdam's Foam photography museum, examines the critical winnowing of image picking. Pictured: Magnum 911, New York, USA, 2001. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Thomas Hoepker. Courtesy of Foam Museum and Magnum Photos
(Image credit: Thomas Hoepker)

The photographer's 'decisive moment', as Henri Cartier-Bresson tagged it, often comes in the dark room as much as in the initial flurry of action or on the surreptitious stake out. It is the mark of chinagraph on contact sheet that can make history.

'Magnum Contact Sheets', a new exhibition at Amsterdam's Foam photography museum, examines that critical winnowing. The show includes 60 contact sheets, and a print of the single iconic image they contain, from photographers such as Robert Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Martin Parr, Jim Goldberg and Elliott Erwitt (Magnum members all, though some of the images pre-date the agency's founding in 1947). 

The show includes iconic images of the Second World War and the Prague Spring; of Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Margaret Thatcher; conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East; and Brooklynites taking it easy with the Twin Towers disappearing into smoke across the East River, as well as Martin Parr's pasty British seasiders.

The joy, of course, is in tracking the moments before and after the decisive one. The exhibition includes the photographers' notes, explaining their choice (and, of course, inviting you to disagree and to pick another point frozen in time). It is also inevitably a lament for a lost process; the contact sheet has been replaced by Capture One Pro on a pimped-up Mac Book Pro, where the unchosen image leaves no physical trace.

People sitting next to a river in New York

The show includes 60 contact sheets, and a print of the single iconic image they contain. Pictured: Magnum 911, New York, USA, 2001Photography: Thomas Hoepker. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Thomas Hoepker)

Picture of a man on a contact sheet

The joy, of course, is tracking the moments before and after the decisive one. Pictured: Ernesto Che Guevara, Havana, Cuba, 1963. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Rene Burri / Magnum Photos. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Rene Burri, Magnum Photos)

Ernesto Che Guevara smoking a cigar

Ernesto Che Guevara, Havana, Cuba, 1963. Photography: Rene Burri / Magnum Photos. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Rene Burri, Magnum Photos)

Exhibition of sheets by the photographers’ notes

The exhibition includes the photographers' notes, explaining their choice (and, of course, inviting you to disagree, to pick another point frozen in time). Prague Invasion, Czechoslovakia, August, 1968. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Josef Koudelka. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Josef Koudelka)

Prague Invasion

Prague Invasion, Czechoslovakia, August, 1968. Photography: Josef Koudelka. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Josef Koudelka)

Contact sheets of the works of photographers

Among the contact sheets featured are the works of photographers such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Martin Parr, Jim Goldberg and Elliott Erwitt. Pictured: Tiananman Square, Beijing, China, 1989. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Stuart Franklin. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Stuart Franklin)

Margaret Thatcher on a contact sheet

Margaret Thatcher, Blackpool, England, 1981. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Peter Parlow. Courtesy Foam Museum and Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Peter Parlow)

People at Last Resort summer 1985 on a contact sheet

Last Resort, Merseyside, England, Summer 1985. Contact Sheet C. Photography: Martin Parr. Courtesy Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Martin Luther King greeting people

Martin Luther King, Baltimore, USA, October 1964. Photography: Leonard Freed. Courtesy Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Leonard Freed)

Shooting Practice, Tehran, Iran 1986 on a contact sheet

The show is also inevitably a lament for a lost process; the contact sheet has been replaced by Capture One Pro on a pimped-up Mac Book Pro, where the unchosen image leaves no physical trace. Pictured: Shooting Practice, Tehran, Iran 1986. Contact Sheet C. Photography Jean Gaumy. Courtesy Magnum Photos

(Image credit: Jean Gaumy)

INFORMATION

'Magnum Contact Sheets' is on view at Foam until 9 December

ADDRESS

Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam

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