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How Magnum photographers see Switzerland

In 1947, as Europe lay in ruins, like-minded humanist photographers founded in Paris the agency “Magnum Photos”. It remains the oldest and most renowned photo agency in the world. Many of its images are iconic. But to what extent was – or is – Switzerland a theme for the agency’s photographers? 

If you enter “Switzerland” into the Magnum archivesexternal link, you’ll get around 9,000 results. Martin Parr focused extensively on Swiss cultural peculiarities, the World Economic Forum in Davos is always a topic, Henri Cartier-Bresson traversed the country, and the post-war images of legendary photographers René Burri and Erwin Bischof heavily influenced how the world saw Switzerland. 

In 1947, during the heyday of photo journalism, Robert Capa, George Rodger, David “Chim” Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson founded the agency as a cooperative. They placed themselves at the service of humanity. Images could not be cropped, a credit was obligatory, and the negatives and rights belonged to the author. 

Originally the photographers would travel the world, from crisis to crisis, capturing life for magazines such as “Look”, “Life” or “Vu”. In the meantime, the choice of subjects expanded. Whoever wanted to join – there were hundreds of applications a year – had to go through a long process of direct democracy.

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