Magnum Photos History of Magnum
Ajax loader

David "Chim" Seymour and George Rodger

Chim, with whom Cartier-Bresson felt the most empathy as an artist, had yet another style, one that was gentler. Chim had largely given up photography during the war but soon after began working for UNESCO on a two-year project depicting the impact of the war on children in Europe, particularly those who had been injured or orphaned. One of his most distressing photographs shows a young girl who, having been asked to draw her home, stands mutely in front of an inchoate scribble. Cultured and modest, a lover of fine wines and good food ("Chim avoided ostentation as if it were the Automat," wrote Horace Sutton in the Saturday Review), Chim made pictures that radiate a quiet sensitivity, an awareness of the pain of suffering and an understated appreciation of others' humanity, almost as if he were attempting to restore a more distinguished order to a senseless world. "Chim picked up his camera the way a doctor takes his stethoscope out of his bag," wrote Cartier-Bresson, "applying his diagnosis to the condition of the heart; his own was vulnerable." George Rodger would go on to distinguish himself in those early years with photographs and text that depicted Africans living in the dignity and isolation of their own tribes, practicing communal rituals and relating to the camera with the lack of pretense that is now difficult to find in today's highly mediated world. His two-year, 29,000 mile trip by car and jeep was taken in large part as a reaction to the horrors that he had witnessed during World War II and served as an attempt to find those who attach a greater value to life. His photographs, direct and modest, distinguish themselves as both sensitively seen and respectfully rendered.

The deaths within Magnum's first decade of two of the agency's founders, Capa and Chim, and their gifted colleague Werner Bischof, threw the agency into turmoil. Some feel that Magnum's survival at that point was due in large part to a desire by its remaining members not to let the deaths of their colleagues be in vain.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. David "Chim" Seymour and Robert Capa. ¬©Magnum Photos 

Werner Bischof and Ernst Haas

Swiss-born Werner Bischof and the Austrian photographer Ernst Haas were the first new Magnum members after the founders. Each had growing problems with the role of the reporter. Bischof complained of his frustration with the magazines, contrasting the tragedies around him, such as the famine in India that he covered, with the short attention span of the media. "I am powerless against the great magazines - I am an artist, and I will always be that," Bischof wrote. Haas, after working for a short time reporting the devastation of post-war Europe, turned to color and motion. His specialty was luminous, abstract, semi-liquid color imagery of otherwise banal details - shop windows, sidewalks, litter, reflections. "I am not interested in shooting new things," Haas wrote in 1960. "I am interested to see things new. In this way I am a photographer with the problems of a painter, the desire is to find the limitations of a camera so I can overcome them."

ITALY. Capri. 1949. Ernst Haas and Inge Morath. ¬©Magnum Photos