A look inside ‘Magnum Contact Sheets’ with Ted Forbes

by Gannon Burgett

posted Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 4:00 PM EST


In the analogue era, contact sheets were the go-to means by which photographers would overlook the photographs from their latest assignment. Created by placing negatives onto an 8”x10” sheet of photo paper and exposing properly, these contact sheets were the sketchpad of photographers and editors who would quickly glance over the images and see what crops and edits needed to be made.

Since the arrival of digital, the physical representation of contact sheets has long been ignored. And while it’s not better, per se, to use physical contact sheets over digital previews, there was a magical aesthetic to the scratchy grease pen marks that circled and cropped and drew over the preview prints.

One book that perfectly captures the power of the lost process is Magnum Contact Sheets, a detailed, visual analysis of the contact sheets that were behind some of the most iconic images of the 20th and early 21st century. Released today, Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography, takes an inside look at the book, breaking down the interesting marks and notes that led to photographers and editors choosing one photo over another.

Inside, we catch a glimpse into some of the best work from Magnum photographers Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson, as well as Magnum’s more recent photographers, such as Jonas Bendiksen, Alessandra Sanguinetti, and Alec Soth.

Forbe’s video comes in at 19 minutes, so it’s not exactly a quick watch, but it’s a wonderful preview into an incredible book, full of photographic history and insight. You can pick up Magnum Contact Sheets for $48 from Amazon.