There were two things I dreamed of becoming when I grew up that, now in 2010, are as preposterous a prospect for me as princess or astronaut might have been when I was 8.
One of them was a bush pilot.
Another was a photojournalist.
The Magnum . Shifting Media . New Role of Photography exhibit – one of the last to be shown in C/O Berlin’s current home in the stunning Postfuhramt in Mitte – was a bittersweet reminder to me that my second dream didn’t come true, in a way, because it did.
If in Warhol’s projected future everyone was to be famous for 15 minutes, I wonder if the founders of Magnum Photos, the photojournalists’ cooperative created in 1947, ever imagined that in their future everyone with a point n’ shoot would become a photojournalist.
The photojournalist I dreamed of becoming took pictures like the ones I saw on the ground floor of this exhibit: the intrepid, detailed images taken in black and white by Magnum founders Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David “Chim” Seymour and George Rodger.
I too would have had photo essays printed in giant-paged matte-sheen magazines like LIFE, covering events that must be talked about in capital letters: the Blitz in London (Rodger), the Spanish Civil war (Seymour), life behind the Iron Curtain (Cartier-Bresson), the founding of Israel (Capa). Like a bush pilot, I would have visited places not meant for visitors; I would have exposed people to things they would have never otherwise have seen were it not for brave, adventurous me. Also, if the Magnum exhibit is any indication of what it took back in the day to become a photojournalist, it seems I also would have had to have been a man.
But anyway, now, I don’t need LIFE to get the vision out there. I can just get an account on Flickr. I AM a photojournalist – just not a professional one. And unfortunately, no one seems to be sending me on assignment.
These days, a professional photographer is someone who gets their work on the walls of museums, who is a genius at retouching on Photoshop. In 2010, a “professional” photographer is an artist, not a journalist.
The Magnum . Shifting Media . New Role of Photography exhibit does a dramatic job of showing just how much professional photography has changed since the golden era of photojournalism.
In contrast to the work of the cooperative’s founders on the ground floor, the upper floor of the exhibit shows the work of Magnum photographers closer to today. The colors are radiant and the photos themselves giant and luminous. They are paintings, they are installations, they are conceptual, they’re art – but not exactly news.
~Mara Goldwyn, a writer living in Berlin.
(Images: George Rodger, G.B. England. London, Steel helmets were worn by all who could get them. Life in London during The Blitz of World War II in 1939-40, 1940; David Seymour, Spain, Battle of the Ebro river (July 25th to August 3rd 1938); Henri Cartier-Bresson, Soviet Union, Leningrad, Commemorating the victory over the Nazis, 9 May 1973; Courtesy of the artists and C/O Berlin)