The Making of “Magnum Contact Sheets” by Thames & Hudson

Magnum Contact Sheets is a forthcoming October 2011 release by Thames & Hudson, the publisher responsible for a number of other classic Magnum books like Magnum Magnum and Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World (both of which are on my shelf). This book, four years in the making, features film contact sheets from Magnum photographers and “each photographer (or representative of an estate) has written a commentary on the assignment, how the photographs were taken, what happened at the time and what followed.”


Thames & Hudson have been running a feature on their blog called Life Cycle of a Book: Magnum Contact Sheets about the process of commissioning, editing, designing and publishing (more posts are promised) such a large important photography book. It offers a nice and detailed behind-the-scenes look into the huge process, time and number of steps required to put together such a juicy project. Design Director Johanna Neurath wrote about how the “dream project” came to be:

We all (the designers that is) got very excited when we saw the gorgeously graphic smudgey brightly coloured marks of the chinagraph pencils on the sheets. And the orderly little round stickers on some of the sheets, stuck just so, and those beautifully expressive felt-tip pen scribbles and stars and exclamation marks… All these things gave away clues to the personality of each photographer. We knew that somehow we wanted to make the most of this. (from the post Magnum Contact Sheets: Design #1)

I’m very excited to see the final book, though I am a bit wary of the marketing description on Thames & Hudson’s page for Magnum Contact Sheets: “Contact sheets tell the truth behind a photograph. They unveil its process, and provide its back story. Was it the outcome of what a photographer had in mind from the outset? Did it emerge from a diligently worked sequence, or was the right shot down to pure serendipity – a matter of being in the right place at the right time?”

Maybe not exactly true, but the sentiment it is pretty close to why most of us love looking at each others’ contact sheets. Who doesn’t want to see the roll (look above!) that produced Trent Parke’s cover photograph for his book Dream/Life?

For more behind-the-scenes bookmaking awesomeness check out our recent interview with Donald Weber about his new book Interrogations.

One Response to “The Making of “Magnum Contact Sheets” by Thames & Hudson”

  1. m

    thanks for this. considered it pre-ordered.

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