Contact sheets are collections of thumbnails of all the pictures taken during a photo shoot. While they are usually not shown to the public, they provide great insight into the creative process and the history behind the image. The Magnum Contact Sheets exhibition is currently at c|o Berlin and shows outtakes from some of Magnum’s greatest photographers and their most iconic images.
Well-known images in this exhibition include, among many others, Che Guevara smoking a cigar by René Burri, Robert Capa’s photos from the landing of the allies in the Normandy and Peter Marlow‘s portrait of Margaret Thatcher.
The portraits of Margaret Thatcher and Che Guevara were particularly instructive; the contact sheets clearly demonstrated the power of photography in shaping a person’s image in the media. The contact sheets show a thoughtful, a smiling and a tired revolutionist. Yet it is the self-confident one that was picked for the public. Margaret Thatcher comes in all shades, from smiling and soft to the iron lady that became her image. Perhaps the most impressive set of images in this context was in the contact sheet of Elliot Erwitt‘s picture of Nixon and Khrushchev which was later used in Nixon’s election campaign and where the images on the contact sheets told a very different story of the conversation between them.
Also very impressive was the contact sheet for Steve McCurry‘s picture of women in a dust storm (the one at the bottom in this post). Impressive because all the pictures in this contact sheet were of very high quality and because in a room full of images, the colors immediately drew me to this one.
Other contact sheets taught us about the endurance necessary to take them, how time may change our perception of what the best picture is, and how very small elements can be decisive to turn a picture into a great picture.
If you are anywhere near Berlin before January 16, 2015 and interested in photography or political journalism, this exhibition should be on your list. Plan to spend 2-3 hours. For those who cannot visit Berlin, there is also a book and I assume that the exhibition, which has already been shown in several other cities, will move on to somewhere else after that date.
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This article was published on perelincolors.com