‘Open for Business’ spotlights seven decades of commercial photography by Magnum artists

‘Open for Business: Magnum Photographers on Commission’ at Foam Amsterdam explores the hidden stories behind Magnum photographers’ commercial projects

A lady is holding drinks.
(Image credit: © Martin Parr/ Magnum Photos)

The space between a photographer’s independent work and their commercial work is filled with contradictions and connections; it’s rare for one side to exist without a hint of the other. For most, the cycle works as follows: personal work attracts commercial clients seeking to draw on the artist's perspective, which then funds the next chapter of personal work, which then draws in new commissions, and so on.

Both sides fuel each other while seeking often opposing forms of success, as cultural accolades and financial rewards are not always aligned. Perhaps this tension between the two sides propels photographers forwards as they seek out a balance between aesthetics and ethics.  

Gucci makeup fashion shoot, Brooklyn, New York City, USA, 2019 © Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos

Gucci makeup fashion shoot, Brooklyn, New York City, USA, 2019.

(Image credit: © Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos)

Revealing this often hidden complexity is ‘Open for Business – Magnum Photographers on Commission’, an exhibition presented by Foam Amsterdam (on view until 7 September 2022). For more than 75 years, Magnum’s roster has been taking on diverse commissions ranging from reporting for NGOs to fashion shoots for the chicest of publications to advertising tinned food. Magnum has done it all, while also creating some of the most memorable imagery of our time. 

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann, director of Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, and Mirjam Kooiman, curator of Foam, eight exhibition chapters carry visitors along a journey through assignments that occupy the intersection of art, documentary and commerce. 

Artists include Olivia ArthurHenri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt, Jean Gaumy, Bruce Gilden, Jim Goldberg, Harry Gruyaert, Alex Majoli, Steve McCurry, Cristina de Middel, Rafal Milach, Inge Morath, Trent Parke, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Mark Power, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Alec Soth, Newsha Tavakolian and many more

Mexico, 2018. © Cristina de Middel/ Magnum Photos

Mexico, 2018

(Image credit: © Cristina de Middel/ Magnum Photos)

An image of sea and mountains

Sollac, Dunkerque, France, 1987

(Image credit: © Harry Gruyaert/ Magnum Photos)

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Moscow, 2016 Alex Majoli/ Magnum Photos

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Moscow, 2016

(Image credit: © Alex Majoli/ Magnum Photos)

Green colored design

Detail of a printed circuit, USA, 1979

(Image credit: © Erich Hartmann/ Magnum Photos)


‘Open for Business: Magnum Photographers on Commission’, until 7 September 2022, Foam Amsterdam. 


As Photography Editor at Wallpaper*, Sophie Gladstone commissions across fashion, interiors, architecture, travel, art, entertaining, beauty & grooming, watches & jewellery, transport and technology. Gladstone also writes about and researches contemporary photography. Alongside her creative commissioning process, she continues her art practice as a photographer, for which she was recently nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. And in recognition of her work to date, listed by the British Journal of Photography as ‘One to Watch’.