Nadya BairJul 20, 2021
The Decisive Network
Magnum Photos and the Postwar Image Market
University of California Press 2020
The legendary Magnum photo agency has long been associated with heroic lone wolf male photographers such as Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, roaming the world in search of the “decisive moment” – the perfect shot that captured the essence of a major news story. Nadya Bair’s highly original book The Decisive Network: Magnum Photos and the Postwar Image Market (University of California Press 2020) argues that this idealized portrayal of Magnum occludes the larger networks within which these photographers operated, including the crucial roles performed by often female office staff, by picture editors and corporate clients. She sets out to show that right from the outset, Magnum was also a business operation, one that pioneered modern ideas of branding borrowed from advertising agencies and commercial partners.
Drawing on extensive archival work and including numerous images of photo page spreads, The Decisive Network presents Magnum in a novel and distinctive light, as the framer of new global imaginaries that reflected the evolution of post-war capitalism.
Nadya Bair is an assistant professor of art history at Hamilton College
For digital explorations of the Magnum network, see Nadya’s fascinating website.
Duncan McCargo is an eclectic, internationalist political scientist and literature buff: his day job is directing the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Learn more here, here, here, and here.