Magnum photographers are a rare breed. Since the photo agency was founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Rodger, its international members have had a knack for being in the right place at the right time—and often in the wrong place at the right time. They’re on hand for historic happenings and crises across the world, tracking those big-scale public events with a tenacious ability to immortalise not only a moment in time, but also the key ones. Private moments, too—Magnum has them covered.
And then there’s that place in between: the local scene, the pedestrian streets. The photographers are there, documenting the everyday, seeking recognisable and relatable goings-on. Although their work depicts an array of styles, they share an idiosyncratic pedigree of journalist, artist and storyteller. Wherever they travel, they are unified by a curiosity for real stories—surprising, unbelievable, but real. It’s not so surprising, then, that a dig through the extensive archives unearths a notable presence of dogs.
Dogs are also there during global conflicts, in the homes of the privileged, on the laps of the homeless on the streets. They’re in every country, on every continent. Oblivious to a watchful lens, unaware and unselfconscious, without a scrap of falsity, dogs just do their own thing without a thought to what they look like, while we stiffen and posture and pose. Yes, a dog can be trained to perform, but they don’t pretend—if they’re hungry, they’ll let you know, and if they’re happy, their tails will give it away. Animals possess authenticity, so our canine counterparts —walking the same sphere as us, living in unison with humans—provide a serendipitous subject for an honest snapshot. Of course, it helps that—unlike their aloof feline rivals, but much like these photographers—dogs are right in the thick of it. Unabashedly in your face and in the way, trailing havoc and mess and mistakes in their wake, and everything that makes a photograph real.
In dogs we recognise ourselves. They’re the ladies who lunch after hitting the salon. The rough-and-tumble beach boys. Pageant queens eager to please. Those labradors who lack the reflex to tell them when they’re full are an embodiment of our own insatiable greed, and if you see abandoned strays wasting away on the street, their human equivalents will be just around the corner. Perhaps that’s why, more than any other animal, we anthropomorphise dogs, seeing their world as a microcosm of our own. We glimpse in these photos a warped reflection of ourselves: what we could be, beyond the restrictions of a self-conscious, often insincere society.
All images courtesy of Magnum Photos / Thames&Hudson
Magnum Dogs is published by Thames & Hudson
Available online and from all good bookstores
Left column: ©2021 Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos, Richard Kalvar Nîmes, France, 1989; ©2021 David Hurn/Magnum Photo, David Hurn San Diego, USA, 2002; ©2021 Alex Webb/Magnum Photo, Alex Webb Baudrémont, France, 2000; ©2021 Cristina Garcia Rodero/Magnum Photo, Cristina Garcia Rodero Tbilisi, Georgia, 1995 Right column: ©2021 Inge Morath/Magnum Photo, Inge Morath Jayne Mansfield, Hollywood, USA, 1959; ©2021 Dennis Stock/Magnum Photo, Dennis Stock New York, USA, 1959; ©2021 Eve Arnold/Magnum Photo, Eve Arnold New Jersey, USA, 1958; ©2021 Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photo, Chris Steele-Perkins Blackpool, UK, 1982
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