Few photography books can lay claim to being truly groundbreaking. The first edition of Magnum Contact Sheets was one of them
‘Exemplary … stunningly beautiful’ – Geoff Dyer, The Observer
‘Utterly absorbing. To be able to follow dozens upon dozens of the most recognised images of the 20th century backwards through the selection process gives these pictures a new immediacy and vitality … fascinating and surprisingly intimate’– John Banville, The Daily Telegraph
‘Magnificent … every compelling page gives us an intimate and exciting sense of walking alongside the photographer’– RA Magazine
‘A treasure trove’Andrew Motion, The Guardian
‘Excellent value … a fascinating book that can not only be enjoyed for itself but can be utilised as a great learning tool for the most difficult task of all – picture editing’– Black & White Photography
This exceptional book, presented here in a new, accessibly priced format, is published just as the shift to digital photography threatens to render the contact sheet obsolete and celebrates the sheet as a fascinating way of accompanying great photographers as they work towards, and capture, the most enduring images of our time.
Addressing key questions of photographic practice — was the final image a set-up, or a chance encounter; did the photographer work to extract the potential from a situation, or was the ‘decisive moment’ at play? — this book lays bare the creative methods, strategies and editing processes behind some of the world’s most iconic images.
139 contact sheets, representing 69 photographers, are featured, as well as zoom-in details, selected photographs, press cards, notebooks and spreads from contemporary publications, including Life magazine and Picture Post. Further insight is provided by texts written by the photographers themselves or by experts chosen by members’ estates.
Many greats of photography are included, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt and Inge Morath, as well as Magnum’s latest generation, such as Jonas Bendiksen, Alessandra Sanguinetti and Alec Soth. These photographers cover over seventy years of history, from the Normandy landings by Robert Capa, the Paris riots of 1968 by Bruno Barbey and war in Chechnya by Thomas Dworzak to images of Che Guevara by René Burri, Malcolm X by Eve Arnold and classic New Yorkers by Bruce Gilden.
Kristen Lubben is Associate Curator at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her previous books include Susan Meiselas: In History and Amelia Earhart: Image and Icon.