For 70 years, the Magnum Photos agency has embodied social documentary photography from crisis zones and geopolitical hotspots around the world. A less prominent element of the agency’s work is its close link with the world of fictional cinema. The TV documentary Filmikonen: Magnum Photos und das Kino (Movie Icons: Magnum Photos and the Cinema), directed by Sophie Bassaler, now details this extraordinary part of movie history – based on the fascinating behind-the-scenes images shot by Magnum photographers from the 1940s to today, always with the well-trained eye of a photojournalist.
It all began with Robert Capa who, being a great admirer of the actress Ingrid Bergmann, visited the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious shortly before Magnum was founded – thereby laying the foundation for a long-standing relationship between the Magnum agency and the world of cinema. Bassaler’s documentary takes a look at the reciprocal connection between a co-operative of photographers that has brought forth some of the medium’s greatest masters, and the actors and directors who made history within their chosen field.
Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, Orson Welles, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrej Tarkowski, Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and many more have been captured by Magnum photographers.
Their professional background in street and documentary photography gave Magnum photographers a unique approach to the glittering world of movie-making: simple equipment, no artificial lighting, and a complete absence of post-processing. Their view of the movie industry was a long way from the images produced by the Hollywood Machine itself. Magnum photographers brought a breath of fresh air and authenticity to a culture that was previously defined by high-gloss prints, retouching and visual perfection.
The documentary will premier on Arte Deutschland channel on 31 May at 22.40.