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Magnum Square Print Sale brings together a selection of over 100 images by photographic artists
Martin Luther King Jr. at the podium delivering a speech. USA. 1960 © Bob Henriques / Magnum Photos.

NEW YORK, NY.- Works of Imagination, the October Square Print Sale in partnership with Aperture, brings together a selection of over 100 images by international photographic artists. Toward the end of a year that has seen a series of international events unparalleled in recent memory, these images bring together a collection of works from disparate storytelling and artistic practices: works of fact and fiction with the potential to inspire our social and artistic imagination.

Photographers imagine the world in pictures, and document it in ways that spur and inspire freewheeling thought. Documentary photographers — whether capturing the aftermath of conflict, famous figures, religious observances, social realities, or indeed making visible the unreal — take a fraction of time and suspend it, allowing the image to be interpreted in myriad ways by viewers.

Artists inspire us to imagine the future. Their commitment to shape it in a better way, is reflected in their works. David Benjamin Sherry pictures America’s National Monuments in a colourful light reminding us their beauty and the need to preserve them from future threats, while Dawoud Bey’s photograph highlights an everyday intimate moment of togetherness in the African American community. The Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjij reclaims the power of North African visual elements showing a diverse Arab world thus creating a counternarrative to Western clichés, Stephen Tayo’s portrait captures the inspiring and transformational work the Leap of Dance Ballet academy is doing in Lagos Nigeria providing a place for its students to channel their imagination through dance, and Diana Markosian’s image, staging a scene of her mother’s migration to America with her two children, is a poetic strong reminder of the American dream’s promise of a better future.

Elliott Erwitt’s cinematic locomotive conjures Hitchcockian backstories, while Bruce Davidson’s more sedate subway platform raises its own wonderings. Sometimes a location can be so fantastical that even a literal depiction of it seems unworldly: Steve McCurry’s golden boulder teetering on a clifftop, or David ‘Chim’ Seymour’s post-war dreamscape showing children playing peacefully under looming coastal defences. Inge Morath’s image — of a photographer’s props stacked in a Madrid sidestreet — transforms assorted arcane items into “her version of [Franz Marc’s expressionist painting] Blue Horse; a mix of imagination and reality that teeters between fact and fiction.”

Artists can form and script images from their own minds, through the manipulation of photographic processes and innovative techniques. Via the staging of events and subjects, their photographs can also mix fact and fiction. Erich Hartmann’s famed experiments with ‘light drawing’, repaint their subjects and shift the lines of reality for the viewer. Werner Bischof’s harnessing of light in 1940 to create otherworldly, poetic images, might reflect a wish to escape his situation — marooned in neutral Switzerland as Europe fell into war around him. Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts project takes a different approach, using costume and staging to re-imagine the now-distant memory of a Zambian space program, “a project that came about when [de Middel] imagined something that had already happened in reality”.

Famed thinkers and sources of inspiration also feature throughout the selection — Bob Dylan, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and Jean Cocteau — three wildly varied lightning-rods for the imagination of others, captured in similarly varied styles and acts by Elliott Landy, Bob Henriques, and Philipe Halsmann. For others — like 2020 Magnum nominees Sabiha Çimen and Yael Martínez — it is the hopes or fears of their subjects we are drawn to consider. Çimen’s series on young women in Turkey’s Islamic schools lays bare a secret world of daydreams and aspirations, and Martínez’s work — on fellow victims of organized crime in Mexico —creates dreamscapes that oscillate between sublime and haunting, where the subjects themselves seem to escape this world.

Technical developments or hands-on experiments also offer fresh avenues for image making, as was the case for Martin Parr’s making use of ring flash combined with a macro lens in the mid 90s, and Elliott Landy when he decided to photograph Bob Dylan using infrared film. Taken in 2015, Malin Fezehai’s chosen image, of an Eritrean wedding, was the first iPhone photograph to ever receive a World Press Photo Award, making the photographer realize that, “you can make do with what you have, and it’s what you are seeing in front of you that matters.”

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