Today we bring you a lovely piece hosted on the UT History Department’s Not Even Past website: Dr. Steve Hoelscher and Ph.D. candidate Andi Gustavson have teamed up to bring you this piece on the Magnum archive of photography. We’ve reprinted an excerpt below; take a look at the full article here.
Like the print itself, the collection of photographs to which it belongs is now also retired—at least from its previous occupation of carrying the image it bears to publishing venues. Davidson’s print came out of retirement in the summer of 2010—or, more accurately, it took on a new life—when the Magnum Photo New York Print Library was opened for research at the Harry Ransom Center, a research library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin. The Magnum Photos collection, as it is now known, is comprised of some 1,300 boxes containing more than 200,000 press prints and exhibition photographs by some of the twentieth century’s most famous photographers. Once Magnum began using digital distribution methods for its photographs, the function of press prints as vehicles for conveying the image became obsolete and these photographs became significant solely as objects for both monetary and historic value.
Magnum’s visual archive is a vast, living chronicle of the people, places, and events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Images of cultural icons, from James Dean and Marilyn Monroe,to Gandhi and Castro, coexist in the Magnum Photos collection with depictions of international conflicts, political unrest, and cultural life. Included are famous war photos from the Spanish Civil War and D-Day landings to wars in Central America, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as unforgettable scenes of historic events: the rise of democracy in India, the Chinese military suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, the Iranian revolution, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.