To coincide with Photo London, Magnum Photos have opened up its archives to collaborate with perpetual provocateur Richardson on a capsule collection of printed T-shirts for DSM that reposition iconic images onto defiant chests.
Guy Le Querrec, Berlin, Germany, 1989. Magnum Photos
As Magnum Photos begins to celebrate its 70 year contribution to photography, the acclaimed agency's archive has been curated by Andrew Richardson around the themes of resistance and protest. Rather than finding a home on an exhibition wall, this special project results in a collection of five T-shirts that will be sold exclusively via Dover Street Market. Intersecting fashion and documentary photography, this is the first time Magnum Photos and its photographers have allowed their work to be used on textiles.
From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Tiananmen Square "Tank Man", the chosen images from Stuart Franklin, Thomas Dworzak, Leonard Freed, and Guy le Querrec capture historic moments and celebrate a spirit of resistance, independence, and revolution in times of great social change. "Resistance goes hand in hand with provocation and we are all about provocation," Andrew Richardson explains over email, "and certainly now is a time to come together and resist what we want to change in our environment." From Brexit to Trump, austerity to post-truths, we're all experiencing socio-political challenges and now is the time for positive action. Resistance is far from futile.
"We chose moments of great personal courage, freedom, and joy as well as confinement; ideas that show the diversity of human experience during times of protest and resistance," Magnum's Fiona Rogers adds. Ahead of the collection's Dover Street Market launch, Richardson and Rogers talk to us about how this cross-pollination between disciplines can bring new and untold stories to the fore.
It's extremely rare for Magnum and its photographers to allow their images to be tampered with or used in such a way. Why now? Why in this way?
Fiona Rogers: It's Magnum's 70th anniversary this year and it felt important to find ways of re-interpreting our archive and reaching new people through creative partnerships. This collaboration is one of many activities we have planned for the year and our photographers are excited to be experimenting with new ways of disseminating their work. We're proud to be able to show Magnum's photography on textiles.
Andrew Richardson: We have published images in past issues of Richardson Magazine, so we know how much work went into getting all the different elements together for this.
The archive is vast. Firstly, what drew you to the theme of resistance and protest?
Andrew Richardson: Resistance goes hand in hand with provocation and we are all about provocation. And certainly now is a time to come together and resist what we want to change in our environment.
Fiona Rogers: Magnum's archive is full of images from the last 70 years of history, and many of our photographers remain committed to telling these kind of global stories, particularly whilst the world is experiencing great social and political change. The concept of "witnessing history" is a reoccurring theme of our 70th anniversary and the images curated by Andrew Richardson complement these ideas. Perhaps we can learn something from the events of the past to inform our future.
How did you decide on the iconic images themselves? How does the work of Stuart Franklin, Thomas Dworzak, Leonard Freed, and Guy le Querrec make you feel?
Fiona Rogers: Some of the images are taken from significant moments in living history, such as the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square. We hope the edit elicits strong emotions and champions the need for questioning and interrogating in periods of change. We chose moments of great personal courage, freedom, and joy as well as confinement; ideas that show the diversity of human experience during times of protest and resistance.
Fashion has never been held accountable for politics, but we're living in an age where bowing out of the conversation is no longer acceptable. Therefore it feels like the right time to ask again... can fashion still have a political ambition?
Fiona Rogers: Art and fashion has a strong lineage of being influenced by politics, and visa versa. We hope that by showing the work of Magnum photographers through collaborations such as this brings new and inspiring meaning to the images. Cross-pollination between disciplines, in this case between fashion and photography, can bring new and untold stories to the fore.
Andrew Richardson: In the past, fashion was an arena for cultural reflection and, though things have changed, what you wear will always be an indicator or who you are and what you stand for, whether subliminally or directly.
If people take one thing away from the project (in addition to a shirt), what would you like it to be and why?
Fiona Rogers: We would love people to take a look at these images and feel inspired to research the historical conditions that brought them and Magnum into being. By wearing them with pride, we can share these important stories and continue to question the world in which we live in.
Andrew Richardson: What goes through our eyes is as much a form of nourishment as what goes through our mouth in a way. So hopefully this collaboration will be a helpful reminder that things will change and it's up to the individual within the collective to participate in that process.
Text Steve Salter