It is one of the most important photography archives of the 20th century, consisting of more than 180,000 images known as press prints, the kind of prints once made by the collective to circulate to magazines and newspapers. They are marked on their reverse sides with decades of historical impasto — stamps, stickers and writing chronicling their publication histories — that speaks to their role in helping to create the collective photo bank of modern culture.
“The trucks had GPS, and I was so nervous, I was tracking every single second of the trip,” Mark Lubell, Magnum’s director, said.
Since Magnum’s founding in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, David Seymour and William Vandivert, the prints have always been kept at the agency’s headquarters, which has moved around Manhattan. But like many other photo agencies Magnum began digitally scanning its archive many years ago, and in 2006, the cooperative’s membership voted to begin exploring a sale, whose proceeds would be used to help reinvent Magnum for a new age.
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