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The Author’s Significance for the Magnum Archive: Archiving of Invasion 68 by Josef Koudelka

Doi: https://doi.org/10.47659/m3.082.art

The article is based on an insight into the workflows of the Paris agency Magnum Photos. The theoretical framework introduces a modernist model of the author’s concept, which corresponds to Magnum’s type of photographer, based on the specific historical circumstances of the agency’s founding and its modus operandi. The concept of the author as a heroic individual with a unique photographic career and biography is in a reciprocal relationship with i.e. the “myth” which, as the latest study of Magnum’s history has shown, is maintained by the agency throughout the seven decades of its existence. This myth does not exist without the “author”, while the agency does not exist without the “myth”, therefore, according to Foucault, neither the “death of the author” in a Barthesian sense, nor his replacement with the “author’s function” is possible. The author, who makes exclusive decisions regarding production, distribution, use and archiving of his photographs, affects all the processes of the agency’s work. This becomes less ambiguous in the question of the importance of Magnum’s archives, which can be claimed to have a broader relevance for social history. The archiving practice is described on the example of Josef Koudelka’s Invasion 68 series, which, with its unconventionality, shows the challenges of archiving and explains the author’s original solutions.

The article is based on an insight into the workflows of the Paris agency Magnum Photos. The theoretical framework introduces a modernist model of the author’s concept, which corresponds to Magnum’s type of photographer, based on the specific historical circumstances of the agency’s founding and its modus operandi. The concept of the author as a heroic individual with a unique photographic career and biography is in a reciprocal relationship with i.e. the “myth” which, as the latest study of Magnum’s history has shown, is maintained by the agency throughout the seven decades of its existence. This myth does not exist without the “author”, while the agency does not exist without the “myth”, therefore, according to Foucault, neither the “death of the author” in a Barthesian sense, nor his replacement with the “author’s function” is possible. The author, who makes exclusive decisions regarding production, distribution, use and archiving of his photographs, affects all the processes of the agency’s work. This becomes less ambiguous in the question of the importance of Magnum’s archives, which can be claimed to have a broader relevance for social history. The archiving practice is described on the example of Josef Koudelka’s Invasion 68 series, which, with its unconventionality, shows the challenges of archiving and explains the author’s original solutions.

The article is based on an insight into the workflows of the Paris agency Magnum Photos. The theoretical framework introduces a modernist model of the author’s concept, which corresponds to Magnum’s type of photographer, based on the specific historical circumstances of the agency’s founding and its modus operandi. The concept of the author as a heroic individual with a unique photographic career and biography is in a reciprocal relationship with i.e. the “myth” which, as the latest study of Magnum’s history has shown, is maintained by the agency throughout the seven decades of its existence. This myth does not exist without the “author”, while the agency does not exist without the “myth”, therefore, according to Foucault, neither the “death of the author” in a Barthesian sense, nor his replacement with the “author’s function” is possible. The author, who makes exclusive decisions regarding production, distribution, use and archiving of his photographs, affects all the processes of the agency’s work. This becomes less ambiguous in the question of the importance of Magnum’s archives, which can be claimed to have a broader relevance for social history. The archiving practice is described on the example of Josef Koudelka’s Invasion 68 series, which, with its unconventionality, shows the challenges of archiving and explains the author’s original solutions.

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I don’t think I learned a lot from Henri Cartier-Bresson as a photographer; but he was an extraordinary men and I learn enormously from him as a person, including taking his advice that I should never lose ’my eye’ and become a photojournalist. Still, I adopted his system to archive my negatives. – Josef Koudelka
Reading Time: 25 minutes
Reading Time: 25 minutes
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