Book tip: Burt Glinn. Half a Century as a Magnum Photographer

Burt Glinn

September 29, 2023

A comprehensive monograph of Burt Glinn’s work has appeared, fifteen years after the passing of the legendary photojournalist, Leica photographer and Magnum member.
Erich Lessing, also a legendary Magnum photographer and just two years older than Glinn, said that there was one word that best characterised his American colleague: elegance. For Lessing, Glinn represented the epitome of this somewhat out-of-fashion quality, and he meant it in regard to both Glinn’s personality and his photographic work. Since he was always immaculately dressed, and not only at Magnum member meetings, Glinn’s presence was hard to miss. His precisely-composed pictures – taken, time and again, with Leica cameras – are considered style-defining to this day.

Glinn belonged to a past era of photojournalism; he was part of its heyday, when highly endowed reportage budgets were the norm. However, as the magazine business became increasingly tough for photographers, he was also one of the first whose clear imagery visually enhanced the annual reports of successful companies, ensuring him the necessary financial independence with which to fund his own personal projects.

After graduating with a degree in literature, Glinn had the opportunity to work in New York as an assistant to LIFE magazine photographers. It is hard to imagine a better way for him to begin his career, as it was there that he met Robert Capa, who invited him to join the still fledgling Magnum Photo Agency. In 1954, alongside Eve Arnold and Dennis Stock, Glinn was one of the first Americans to be given full member status. After a few years in Seattle as assignment photographer for LIFE, and having explicitly negotiated to retain his freelance status, he went back to New York, in 1956, to follow Chim’s (David Seymour’s) advice and become a “global” photographer. “This conversation with Chim was one of the most important in my life,” Glinn admitted later. It was not long before he achieved international recognition, thanks to his pictures of the Cuban Revolution. He did a brilliant job of capturing the idealism and excitement, as well as the chaos and violence, of the revolution. In the following period, he also became well known for his comprehensive colour travel series, covering the Southern Seas, Japan, Russia, Mexico and California for Holiday magazine.

The current photo book presents the full range of Glinn’s photographic endeavours, and the subjects he dealt with. It reveals the diverse and empathetic work of the photojournalist, who was one of the most productive of his generation. Over more than half a century, he covered the most varied of themes: crises, wars and conflicts; travel, architecture, wilderness, and science; celebrities, social and cultural reportages, and corporate culture. Half a Century as a Magnum Photographer includes many of his most important images; these go beyond contemporary historical documentation, and qualify as timeless classics of the highest order. The texts, by editor Sarah Stacke and Glinn’s widow Elena Prohaska Glinn, are complemented by numerous fascinating statements by other Magnum members: Glinn not only played an important role as President of the agency as it developed, he was also regarded as a strong-minded colleague who sought consensus. This photo book is a tribute long overdue.
Ulrich Rüter

Burt Glinn. Half a Century as a Magnum Photographer+-


144 pages, 100 colour and black and white images
With texts by Elena Prohaska Glinn, Sam Glinn, Mark Lubell, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Gilles Peress, Sarah Stacke, Larry Towell, Alex Webb, and Eelco Wolf. Designed by Bonnie Briant
24 × 30 cm, English

Burt Glinn+-

Self-portrait by Burt Glinn, USA, 1954 ©  Burt Glinn / Magnum Photos

1925 born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1951, following his military service, studies and first experiences as a photography assistant, he joined the Magnum Agency, becoming a full member three years later. He was the agency's President from 1972 to 1975, and in 1987. As a photojournalist, he travelled most of the world. He also photographed commercial campaigns; and, as far back as the 1960s, he worked on numerous annual reports for American companies, including Goldman Sachs, PepsiCo, and General Motors. More


Book tip: Burt Glinn. Half a Century as a Magnum Photographer

Burt Glinn