Thursday, August 4, 2011

Magnum 50 years at the front line of history (ii)

Chapter 2.The Founders.

"THE FOUNDERS of Magnum were the unlikeliest band of brothers imaginable: four men of different nationalities and from widely differing backgrounds whose paths would never have crossed had they not shared a precocious passion for photography. The inspiration and driving force was Robert Capa, a swarthy Hungarian adventurer, notorious womaniser and incorrigible gambler who became known has the world's greatest war photographer. He was joined by a French intellectual, Henri Cartier-Bresson, a radical left-winger who liked to insist, a mite tetchily, that his main interest was painting but who nevertheless went on to inspire generations of photo-journalists and dominate the photographic pantheon. David Seymour, known to everyone as Chim, was a plump, owl-like Polish Jew, a shy, gentle polyglot and epicurean who, unusually for a photographer, invariably wore a suit and collar and tie. Finally there was the quiet Englishman, George Rodger, a former public schoolboy who described himself as a dreamer and only drifted into photography as a means of seeing the world".

"While in later years the credit would be diligently shared, it was Capa who had the idea and Capa who made it happen. In fact his name was not Capa at all, but Andre Friedman. He was born in Budapest on 22 October 1913, the son of a tailor".

"The young Andre went first to Berlin and enrolled at the respected Hochschule fur Politik to study journalism, [...] but the Nazis were in the March and in January 1933, soon after Hitler was appointed chancellor, he decided, as a Jew, that it was prudent to leave".

"[He] made is way to Paris [...] and it was there he met a young Polish photographer by the name of David Szymin, who had managed to find a job working for the Communist weekly, Regards. Szymin's name was pronounced 'Shimmin' which was why everyone called him 'Chim'. [...] Chim was born in Warsaw on 20 November 1911, the only son of a well-known Yiddish publisher".

"Henri Cartier-Bresson, talking in his Paris apartment  on the rue de Rivoli, overlooking the Tuileries: 'We all met in Montparnasse' before the war, I don't know dates. I met Chim first at an association where Man Ray belonged, Brassai and son on, called Artistes et Ecrivains Revolutionaires. [...] I just met Chim there one day among heaps of people and he had a Leica and so had I and he asked me "What have you got there?" I said it was a Vidom, which was a viewfinder of that time, of a Leica, which is of course, no longer in use, and started up this conversation. And we saw each other and he told me "I know somebody very, very curious, a very strange person. You''ll meet." I took him about four months to introduce me to Capa, who was living in the Hotel de Blois with his mother, little Cornnel and two Japanese and I think on the ceiling was hanging the laundry'."

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