Magnum – the photographic agency set up by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David “Chim” Seymour and George Rodger – turns 70 this year, and to mark the occasion it is holding a special Square Print sale, beginning on June 5, called Closer.
The title comes from Capa’s remark: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” – a maxim that has proved as influential as his history-defining pictures – and the five-day-only sale will feature more than 70 signed or estate-stamped, limited edition prints ($100 each) by Magnum photographers, including Capa, that draw on various meanings of the word.
Some of the photographers interpreted “closer” in physical terms, such as Stuart Franklin, whose chilling picture of a lone protester standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square was taken with a telephoto lens because Chinese security had locked down the hotel he was staying in. British photographer Martin Parr, meanwhile, zoomed right in on the middle-aged sunseeker in Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2014, exposing the meticulous measures (shells on eyes; undone watch) the subject had taken to ensure a line-free tan.
Alessandra Sanguinetti’s contribution takes “closer” to mean intimate rather than nearby. Her black-and-white portrait of Cecilia, a girl she lived opposite while she was in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s, is a moving evocation of adolescence, capturing the brief point when both vanishing child and emerging young woman co-exist.
American photographer Matt Black has also submitted a portrait, but his one is of an unknown man shot from across the street, and captures him in a private moment of deep despair. As an image, it is perfectly composed, but as uninvited onlookers, our discomfort raises questions about when close becomes too close.
With all the shots coming in square format and printed on archival paper, this is a unique opportunity to buy a powerful work by some of the 20th and 21st century’s most significant photographers.