The Forgotten Exhibition: the Beginnings of the Magnum Agency at the Museo Diocesano
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For 50 years, they shut up in a basement in Innsbruck, covered with dust and mould. But today, the 83 photos of Magnum’s first exhibition can be seen at the Museo Diocesano in Milan in an itinerary which is identical to the one that was seen in five Austrian cities in 1955 and 1956. Perfectly restored and mounted on the original wood panels, the black and white shots of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and company offer a significant view on the history of photography. How this important patrimony of images was forgotten is unsure, but the existence of the exhibition itself - the absolute first of the agency of photojournalists - “is proof that, from its start, Magnum was different from other photo agencies. From its beginnings, with a calendar of exhibitions and events, Magnum defended the value of the photo as a document,” explains curator Andrea Holzherr. Today, eight reportages by as many masters, give a view of the world between the 1940s and ‘50s. There are photos by Cartier-Bresson on the final days and the funeral of Gandhi, the travels of Werner Bischop from Perù to Japan, the Basque festivals of Capa, which signal a return to normalcy of the barbarisms of the Spanish Civil War, but also the mutable visage of Vienna during the Nazi occupation, immortalised by Erich Lessing. Tito’s Yugoslavia according to Marc Riboud, the set photos from the Hollywood colossal The Queen of the Pyramids in the quarries of Assuan, Hungary as portrayed to the readers of the New York Times Magazine by Jean Marquis and the London of Inge Morath, the only woman in the group, who created an expressive portrait of Lady Nash.