Becoming a member of the Magnum photography co-operative has all the intrigue, secrecy and intellectual rigour of any cult from a Dan Brown novel. Possible candidates - all documentary photographers - are judged worthy of entry by a jury of 60 other Magnum members every two years for a six-year period. And since members include Eve Arnold, Raymond Depardon and Martin Parr, all of whom provide a meticulous critique of the newcomers’ images, being raised to the ranks of a Magnum photographer is the visual equivalent of graduating from Oxbridge with a double first.
As a result, the archive is extremely precious. And enormous. It contains more than one million pictures dating back to 1947 when founding fathers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour set up the cooperative in Paris after realising the power of the image and the need to document how the world had changed post-WW2.
Luckily, all the photos go on display regularly, at any one of Magnum’s galleries in Paris, New York , London or Tokyo, and now, with a new gallery which opened last week in Saint-Germain-de-Pres, there is even more opportunity to see images by the elite.
Veteran arthouse publisher Robert Delpire is behind the new space in St Germain which sits beneath his eponymous publishing empire.
Delpire curated the inaugural show, titled demain/hier, which features work from new members including Australian Trent Parke who documented an extensive road trip around his motherland, Larry Towell’s work on Protestant sect the Mennonites and Thomas Dworzak’s disturbing shots of war torn Chechnya.
As well as having two curated shows a year, Magnum St Germain also has a library where signed copies, limited editions and Magnum publications can be borrowed and bought.