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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

REVIEW: Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne by Fred Ritchin and Carole Naggar

REVIEW: Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne by Fred Ritchin and Carole Naggar

By Jendayi Omowale

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

Magnum Photos, the worldwide photographer cooperative, is discussing the influential sphere and history of the photobook in Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne by Fred Ritchin and Carole Naggar. This survey contextualizes the evolution of the photobook through the lens of Magnum’s publications and photographers and the nuanced fluctuations of consequence the photobook has throughout societal occurrences and the archival timeline of visual arts. It is an extensive bibliography of 1,000 photobooks refreshed with the perspective and reflection as both photographer and viewer of the content, genesis, and impact that each of these vibrant illustrations had during their time of publication and the time following. The bulk of the overviews of the photobooks were written by Carole Naggar, prolific writer and photography historian with regular contributions to the likes of Aperture Magazine and TIME; she has familiarity with Magnum Photos through the writing of the biography David Seymour Chim, a co-founder of Magnum Photos.

©Henri Cartier-Bresson, Image courtesy of Phaidon 

©Henri Cartier-Bresson, Image courtesy of Phaidon 

©Josef Koudelka, Image courtesy of Phaidon 

©Josef Koudelka, Image courtesy of Phaidon 

The Catalogue Raisonne’s introduction is written by Fred Ritchin, Dean of the School at the International Center of Photography in New York, and established critic on the subject of photography. He frequently examines the nature of photography and the implications the rapid digitization of the visual arts has on the field of multimedia. In his eleven-page introduction, he thoroughly formulates the various positions, situations, and discourses the subsequent catalog of photobooks have sparked in their years of publication and years thereafter. He deliberates the intentional photographic footprint that Magnum co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson created with his photobook The Decisive Moment in an effort to explain the ambience behind post World War II photobooks, “exploring the outside world and communicating what they discovered was essential,” while also managing to delve into more recent gender-critical photobooks by female photographers during the era of second-wave feminism with Abigail Heyman’s groundbreaking book Growing Up Female. He even contributes to critical dissection of the more recent photobooks, for example, Thomas Dworzak’s series of Instagram books, that consider the current hot-bed argument of what really constitutes ‘professional photography’ in the modern era of wide-spread amateur photographic devices and mediums. Ritchin in his distinct expertise in the progression of photography in the turn of the century, makes a perfect introduction to Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne to readers eager for an experienced photographic perspective in which one can examine the comprehensive collection of photobooks.

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

After the introduction, The Catalogue Raisonne is broken down into three major parts: “The Photobooks: In Detail 1938-2016”, “From the Archive: Making Photobooks”, and “The Catalogue Raisonne & Photographers’ Biographies”. “The Photobooks: In Detail 1938-2016” is the survey of the 1,000 photobooks featured in the Magnum publication, with the textual analysis by Fred Ritchin and Carole Naggar providing essential information - date of publication, associated personal narratives, overview, and historical context of each photobook. “From the Archive: Making Photobooks”, has critical clippings or samples of the elemental content that give an outline of the creation of the assorted photobooks. “The Catalogue Raisonne & Photographers’ Biographies” contains an editorial note that explains the nature and background of all photobooks featured, as well as the aforementioned photographers’ biographies, and this is followed by an index for readers to easily identify parts of the bibliography for references. Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne is an illuminating account of the systemic narrative of the photobook in the photographic aggregate of Magnum Photos publication. It is an attestation to the authority and standing the particular medium of the photobook has had in our cultural panorama throughout the twentieth century to contemporary times.

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

©Image courtesy of Phaidon

Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonne is currently available for pre-order from Phaidon
Press at http://www.phaidon.com/store/photography/magnum-photobook-the-catalogueraisonne-
9780714872117/.

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