Monday, 7 February 2011

Picture libraries - AP and Magnum

As part of the archives course I am attending, I was invited recently to the photo library of Associated Press. This is situated in an old gin factory in Camden Town. AP 'went digital' in 1995, but the negatives (or ‘negs’) before this date, are stored in a cold room. They sit alongside a massive card index, a small section of which you can see in the picture. There is something you get from flicking through these drawers that is not replicated in a computerised system – a sense of the human behind the cataloguing.

You can search the AP Images database to see the sort of material that is currently uploaded, as well as selected pictures from the archive (e.g. the photographs of AP photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt).

The photographers, though, are not the focus of the agency, unlike at Magnum – which is a cooperative, owned by the photographers. The current exhibition, The Magnum Markat the Magnum Print Room, shows the photographic print as collectors' items.

Some of the prints are displayed in hinged frames, so that you can see the ‘magnum mark’ on the back – and in the examples here, a succession of marks – part of the provenance, which confers value (or a specific sort of value) on the print. The care taken in the darkroom is evident in the ‘print maps’ – here shown through the work of Magnum printer, Pablo Inirio.

Two very different visions of the photographer are presented at AP and Magnum respectively: the photographer as hack and the photographer as auteur. 

Related links

AP Images

Corbis Corp

Getty Images

'Getty Images, Inc' n.d., Datamonitor/Life Science Analytics Company Profiles, EBSCOhost, viewed 4 February 2011