If you don’t get the reference, it’s a curious title for a photobook – Fables of Faubus, the 30-year retrospective by British documentary photographer Paul Reas. But if you’re a jazz fan you’ll know it’s taken from a song by Charles Mingus, written after Arkansas governor Orval Faubus decided to bar the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
To Mingus, and many others, Faubus stood for a dark force holding back progressive social change. For Reas, the title suggests the metanarrative that runs behind the many stories he’s shot in the UK on heavy industry, consumer culture, the heritage industry, and more – namely, the disenfranchisement of the British working class, “the years of decline of industry and the fall out from that, communities being de-centred and levelled”.
Though he co-founded Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Rodger and though – like them – he was one of the great documentary photographers of the 20th century, David ‘Chim’ Seymour is less famous than his colleagues. But this winter, a large retrospective in Amsterdam looks set to change all that.
Chim [pronounced “Shim’] acquired his nickname from his surname, because he was born Dawid Szymin in Warsaw, Poland, in 1911. His family was Jewish, and his parents were respected publishers of Yiddish and Hebrew Books; Chim and his parents left Warsaw for Odessa as World War One broke out in 1914, returning to Warsaw in 1919. Chim studied printing in Leipzig, then chemistry and physics at the Sorbonne in Paris, but got into photography while in France and started working as a freelance journalist in 1933. His first credited photograph was published in 1934 in the French communist magazine Regards.
From 07 November to 04 February, the Centre Pompidou in Paris is showing a striking exhibition on a little-known aspect of the roots of 20th century social documentary photography, Photographie, arme de classe [which roughly translates as ‘Photography as a weapon in the class struggle’]. Curated by Damarice Amao, Florian Ebner and Christian Joschke, the show deals with a comparatively unknown period in French photo history, from the end of the 1920s to the arrival of the Front populaire government of 1936 – when the socialist, communist and radical parties formed a short-lived coalition to govern France, with the tacit backing of the Soviet Union.
Photographer and activist Henri Tracol (1909-1997) was the first to formulate the idea that photography could be an “arme de classe”, in the tract he wrote for the photographer’s section of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Revolutionnaires [‘Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists’ aka the AEAR], formed in 1932. Although this communist front, Moscow-sponsored organisation only lasted a few years, it attracted many of the leading figures of the day from art, theatre, literature, architecture, and particularly photography. Those who joined were either fellow travellers or politically attached to communism, seeing it as a bastion against the twin evils of the time – fascism and capitalism.
The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson is moving to new premises in Paris, giving it double the exhibition space, a bigger research space, street-level access, and a place in the cultural hotspot of Le Marais, also home to the Maison Européenne de la photographie, The Pompidou Centre, the Museum Picasso, the Museum Carnavalet, and the forthcoming Pinault Foundation, to name just a few.
The Fondation HCB’s 800 square metre new home will open on 06 November, and will be further expanded “in a year or two” when a new extension will triple the hanging space from its current venue in Montparnasse, according to Fondation HCB director François Hebel. “Then we will enter more experimental shows,” he told BJP. “It is hard to say [more] as this is not today and linked to the creativity of the artists that we will enjoy showing then.”
“Philip always hated being called a ‘war photographer,’” says Hannah Watson, director of TJ Boulting Gallery, of Philip Jones Griffiths. “He wasn’t interested in the ‘action’ that you often associated with war photography.” Instead, Watson draws attention to the careful consideration and intelligence behind each of the Magnum photographer’s shots. “In a single image he could give insight and an in-depth analysis to a complex situation,” she says.
Bruce Davidson has won a Lifetime Achievement prize in this year’s ICP Infinity Awards, which will be formally presented on 09 April. Best-known for his two-year project on the poverty-stricken residents of East 100th Street, Davidson joined Magnum Photos in 1958 and showed his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963. His work often documents social inequality, and includes iconic series such as The Dwarf, Brooklyn Gang, and Freedom Rides.
From rare interviews to important technological advancements: a snapshot of photographic history from the BJP archive
Illuminating India: Photography 1857-2017, is the first exhibition to document the history of photography in India, and includes both archive and contemporary work. It includes images by India’s first known photographer Ahmad Ali Khan, pioneering art photographer Marahaja Ram Singh II, the country’s first female photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla; and award-winning contemporary photographers such Magnum’s Sohrab Hura. It also includes images of India taken by non-Indians, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Werner Bischof, Margaret Bourke White, Lucien Hervé, Mitch Epstein, Vasantha Yogananthan, and Olivia Arthur.
The camera is like a divining rod and I have lived my life letting instinct show me what I am interested in, says Joel Meyerowitz, who quit his job in advertising in 1962, after seeing Robert Frank at work. A native New Yorker, he became known for his early colour work on the city streets
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” said Magnum Photos co-founder Robert Capa, famously. This week Magnum Photos is revisiting Capa’s concept with its Square Print Sale, part of a cycle of four print sales it’s running to celebrate its 70th anniversary.