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Some thoughts on documentary photography and legacy 
 
  
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In 1968 Cornell Capa edited his book The Concerned Photographer[1] which included photographs by Robert Capa, David Seymour ("Chim"), Andre Kertesz, Leonard Freed, Dan Weiner and Werner Bischof. Four years later Cornell Capa published a second volume The Concerned Photographer 2[2] with works by Marc Riboud, Roman Vishniac, Bruce Davidson, Gordon Parks, Ernst Haas, Hiroshi Hamaya, Don McCullin, and W. Eugene Smith. With the deaths of so many photojournalists with vast visual legacies and capturing the major wars and news events of an age there was becoming a pressing need to establish frameworks for storing the legacies of documentary photographers and photojournalists. The breaking away from news agencies and magazines allows the freedom of new collaborative ventures such as Magnum but it didn't address the archives. As Cornell Capa wrote in 1968 his 1968 introduction to The Concerned Photographer:
What does happen to a photographer's work after his death - work that does not get commercial attention, that has no governmental or public subsidy for its maintenance and that is not known or celebrated enough to become part of a museum's permanent collection.[3]
Or more succinctly:
Man's witness to his time dies with him.[4]
Cornell Capa responded by creating the International Fund for Concerned Photography in 1966, mounting a number of exhibitions at Riverside Museum (New York) and publishing books that defined "concerned photography". The International Center of Photography (ICP)[5] in New York was founded in 1974 and is a flourishing educational resource, exhibition space and archive. With its close association with the early Magnum photographers it established extensive archives but there is an inherent risk that it hasn't solved the fundamental issue that Cornell Capa raised in 1968. It has done a remarkable, as have numerous other institutions, but there are many thousands of photographers alive today and few will have their archives preserved. The photographs of the individual photographers working in association with Magnum are responsible for their own material and this has left a complex legacy for Magnum with scattered archives and no single coherent index.
 
Documentary photographers who have been financially stable, fiscally prudent and concerned about their legacy have established their own trusts and foundations. The best, or the fortunate, will have their archives preserved by secure institutions but this will be a minute fraction of working photographers. For most their websites will cease within a few months of their deaths as payments are no longer made to hosting companies and their digital image files will lose context as the databases supporting them no longer function. Certainly the data might be embedded into the image file but that is only part of the story. There is a pressing need for national and international coordinated efforts to preserve the witnesses to our times.[6]
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ Cornell Capa (ed.), 1968, The Concerned Photographer, (New York: Grossman) 
      
  2. Λ Cornell Capa (ed.), 1972, The Concerned Photographer 2, (New York: Grossman) 
      
  3. Λ Cornell Capa (ed.), 1968, The Concerned Photographer, (New York: Grossman), Introduction, unpaginated 
      
  4. Λ Cornell Capa (ed.), 1968, The Concerned Photographer, (New York: Grossman), Introduction, unpaginated 
      
  5. Λ Current address - International Center of Photography, 6th Avenue and 43rd Street, Manhattan, New York 
      
  6. Λ I'd welcome information on international and national initiatives to preserve the legacy of documentary photographers and photo-journalists. - alan@luminous-lint.com 
      
 
  
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