Review of Contact Sheets by Sidewalls Magnum Photos

As one of my current tutors suggestions, I was asked to take a look at Sidewalls Contact sheet website for inspiration on supplying how contact sheets are, and have been used in the past. The website  here reminds me of the film days, when I myself shot on a Nikon F3 and Brinicba ETRS-i mdiim format camera during my LRPS course, which I never managed to complete at the time due to travel and work.

I was interested in the contact sheets of some of best past photographers of our day. On the website it mentions the following :

‘If you’re a fan of analog photography of Magnum photographers, these will be your lucky seven days. Only in the week between November 23rd and December 1st, 2015, you will be able to see and buy prints of the original Magnum contact sheets, created by the agency’s most notable photographers. Moreover, your purchase will support a charity, as 50% of net profits from the sale will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the occasion the first Seasonal Benefit. A total of thirteen Magnum contact sheet prints are currently available over at their store, at a discount price of $175 each. Among them, we can find some of the iconic moment immortalised on filmstrip of Elliott Erwitt, Werner Bischof, Eve Arnold, Martin Parr and Guy Le Querrec.’

And another section quotes:

‘In the age of digital technology, filmstrips, darkrooms and analogue cameras became almost completely obsolete, and these prints give us an exclusive insight into famous photographers’ visions and the way they worked their path towards the capturing of the perfect image. We witness how a large part of a photographic work usually never leaves its contact sheet, as only a couple of the best pictures from it actually get to see the light of day. A sort of a visual diary of their creator, the prints contain editing marks and selection comments, as a sort of a “behind-the-scenes” and a complete narrative of some of the most famous shots in contemporary photography, told through a filmstrip sequence.’

I feel with the age of digital we do not have the chance to see what is never used and discarded on the digital darkroom floor. One issue I find hard with digital and when asked to produce a contact sheet, is without seeing how certain images could have been changed, it would take a lot of time to manipulate images and show hoe changes would be made, as opposed to the actual pen markings on a film based contact sheet which can be easily identified.
Sample contact sheet from
magnum contact sheets contact sheets photographers sheet books print images email edition book search hudson history history history thames contact book contact story best digital

Left: Thomas Hoepker – Muhammad Ali, 1966 / Right: David Hurn – The Beatles, 1964

Reading further on the website it later gives examples of other contact sheets of famous photographers and even now offers the option to purchase some of these never seen to the public contact sheets such as the following states:

‘The Decisive Moment of Magnum Photos

Still of an immense importance in the world of documentary photography and photo reportage, Magnum Agency was founded in 1947 by leading photographers in the field, such as Robert Capa, David Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Rodger. One of the first photographic cooperatives owned and administered entirely by its members, Magnum has covered some of the most important events of the 20th century, developing an extensive image archive still updated on a daily basis – there are approximately one million photographs in both print and transparency and over 500,000 online as we speak. The Agency specialized in catching pure moments of truth, following the notion of “the decisive moment” introduced by Cartier-Bresson. In today’s world, where photography often lies, Magnum photos bring us back a reality we’ve slowly started to forget. You can buy Magnum contact sheets on the official store website. All Contact Sheet Print orders will be shipped starting December 9th.’

I certainly wouldn’t mind getting some of these contact sheets if i was able, but I wonder what costs this would bring, how long they would last and how these would be presented, i.e., closed case, open to finger prints etc.

Another aspect of the contact sheet is it really cannot lie. What you see is what you get, or in this case what was taken, true and without edit. See this other site:

I will try and supply again a contact sheet of some of my discarded images for my last assignment 5, but it will not be in the form of markings made on print which I rather miss.



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