Magnum: Contact Sheets at Foam photography museum in Amsterdam


Photo credit – Marco Derksen – Creative Commons

It’s been a while since I visited Amsterdam. Despite many visits to the Netherlands over the years, most of those are family-based so I don’t get chance. Plus there seems to be some North-South rivalry going on; ‘above the rivers’ is different to the south, or so they tell me!

Amsterdam seems a little like London in that it’s always evolving; new places to see, new exhibitions to visit, new bars mingling with the old. But always the canals. Foam Amsterdam sits on the Keizersgracht, a nice walk from the centre of town. I really wanted to visit the Magnum: Contact Sheets exhibition on this visit and it didn’t disappoint.

Established in 1947, Magnum is probably the most well-known photographic agency in the world. Think of any iconic shot of the 20th century, especially reportage, and it’s likely a Magnum photographer took it. Henri Cartier-Bresson shot for Magnum.

Magnum Contact Sheets


The great thing about this exhibition is the chance to see all the shots taken – not just the one that made the front pages. Rene Burn’s shot of a cigar-chomping Che Guevara may eventually have made its way on to a thousand gringo T-shirts, but there were many more taken on the day.

With the arrival of digital photography printed contact sheets are becoming a part of history. The exhibition also makes you think ; why was one image chosen over all the others on the contact sheet. What makes an image powerful?

Foam has a regularly changing programme of exhibitions, usually two or three at a time. I also enjoyed the video installation from Anne de Vries.
Entry is a very reasonable 9 euros.

Magnum: Contact Sheets is on at Foam Amsterdam until 9 December 2015.

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