Famed Photo Co-Op Magnum Launches a Free Newspaper With a Deep Dive Into ISIS

Magnum Photos, the renowned international photographer cooperative, has launched its own newspaper. The first edition of Magnum Chronicles, which has been edited by the New York-based Magnum photographer Peter van Agtmael, comes out this month and will be available in print, for free, as well as online via Magnum’s website.

The first issue in the series is titled “A Brief Visual History in the Time of ISIS.” It includes an essay and timeline by Peter Harling, an expert on the Middle East, with accompanying images from the Magnum archive that range from British-Indian troops in Syria in 1941 to a dazed New Yorker on September 11, 2001, to post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

USA. NYC. 9/11/2001. A dazed man picks up a paper that was blown out of the towers after the attack of the World Trade Center and begins to read it. Copyright Larry Towell/Magnum Photos.

One of the darkest images in the first issue shows an ISIS prison in Fallujah, Iraq, by Paolo Pellegrin. It features a chain from which prisoners were hung when tortured. A sunnier—if still disorienting—image by photographer Martin Parr features two sunbathers, one reading a tabloid newspaper with the banner headline “We’ll Bomb Syria.” Parr took the image in 2013.

Wales. Llandudno. Bank Holiday. 2013. Copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos.

“ISIS didn’t come out of nowhere,” Van Agtmael tells artnet News. The editor hopes the Magnum Chronicles will provide a context for current events that is typically missing from the daily news media. “It is a way to react to the news in a nimble way that is, hopefully, visual and moving but never inflammatory,” he says.

Van Agtmael says that frustration with the limitations of photobooks and the ephemeral consumption of images online also motivated the move into newsprint. The fact that the newspaper will be free will make it far more democratic than a photobook, he hopes. With a photobook, “you end up with a few thousand beautiful copies bought by a small community of people who share your view,” he says.  

As a photojournalist, Van Agtmael has covered the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and its fallout in Europe and the US. His first photobook, Disco Night Sept. 11, was followed last year by Buzzing the Still. The latter features images taken across America after he had returned from covering wars abroad. The so-called War on Terror has dominated his career, and his knowledge of Magnum’s archive goes back just as far—even to when he was studying history at Yale in 2001. “I used to search the Magnum archive from my dorm as it was one of the first to go online,” he says.  

Libya. Sirte. September 2016. Ouagadougou Conference Center
Copyright Lorenzo Meloni/Magnum Photos.

Now that the first issue is complete, Van Agtmael says that he is “handing over the baton” to another Magnum member to produce the second edition of the Magnum Chronicles. According to the Magnum website, each newspaper will present visual stories on global, social, and political issues but will also include narratives on lighter general interest subjects. “We have a bunch of ideas buzzing around,” he says, adding, “It would be nice to bring out a new edition every five or six months.” 

Magnum, which has offices in New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo, will distribute the print edition of the newspaper from a selection of cultural venues and bookshops across Europe, where it is available now, and in the US, starting in late April.

Anbar Province, Iraq. June 2008. A Sunni militiaman at a checkpoint near Kharma, copyright Moises Saman/Magnum Photos.

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