Magnum Photos 1968

 

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MAGNUM on 1968



Dennis Stock's pictures of California are still imbued with the care free attitude of the early Sixties, however 1968 was the year that counterculture shifted from hippy self-expression and free love to left-wing radicalism with dissent against the Vietnam War driving waves of public protest around the world.

In February 1968, the Vietnamese communists launched their famous Tet offensive, attacking US troops in every major South Vietnamese city. With America's position in Vietnam beginning to look seriously shaky, radical social elements saw that even world super powers could still fail against a badly equipped but determined and organised opponent. Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths first visited Saigon in 1966. He sympathised hugely with the plight of the Vietnamese and his unflinching images of the effects of the conflict, published together in Vietnam Inc. in 1971, are often cited as having a significant impact on the change in the American public's stance on the war. Jones Griffiths, who passed away last month, remained committed to the people of Vietnam throughout his life. Some of his most important images from this conflict are exhibited here.

In March, an anti-Vietnam protest in London, including well-known figures such as Vanessa Redgrave and Mick Jagger marched on the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. David Hurn who photographed the protest on his bicycle, says of his experience: "We ended up in Grosvenor Square where it turned into what was really one of the first pitched battles that I can remember." His vintage prints, included here, depict mounted policemen engaged in tussles with demonstrators, echoing both historical battle scenes and images of more recent protest such as the violent encounters between police and miners during the strike of '84. In April, the American Civil Rights movement suffered the assassination of one its leading figures, Martin Luther King, followed in June with that of Senator Robert Kennedy. Costa Manos' photographs record King's funeral with great compassion, and depict one of the movements numerous marches on Washington led by Jesse Jackson, who had been on the balcony with King when he was shot. Paul Fusco's Funeral Train pictures, taken from the train carrying the body of Bobby Kennedy from New York to Washington, only came to light almost 30 years on, but now serve as a record of the depth of feeling and diversity of those mourners who turned out to witness its progress.

By May, the student protests that had been rumbling in Nanterre since March had spread to Paris. With one of Magnum's office located there, the agency's photographers were out on the streets en masse however it is those images taken by Bruno Barbey which are perhaps the most memorable. Returning from Japan, where he had recorded student protests against the Vietnam War, he photographed in both black and white and colour, the stand offs between students and factory workers against the police, as Paris descended into a war zone.

In August, the Russians sent their tanks in to Czechoslavakia, in response to the liberal reforms introduced by the new communist government. Ian Berry was the only Western photographer to get into Prague at the same time as the Russians. While recording the clashes between the Czech's and the Soviets he frequently spotted another photographer "an absolute maniac who had a couple of old-fashioned cameras on a string around his neck and a cardboard box over his shoulders, who was actually going up to the Russians, clambering over their tanks and photographing them openly." That "maniac" was Josef Koudelka whose work was first published in the West under the pseudonym 'The Prague Photographer.

In Mexico, students took over their universities, demanding an end to oppression and one-party rule. On October 2nd - with the eyes of the world on Mexico City ten days before the Olympic games were due to begin there - thousands of students poured on to the streets to demonstrate and troops opened fire resulting in several deaths and hundreds of injuries. Raymond Depardon captured the games themselves including the Black Power salute by America's athletes in support of the civil rights struggle there.

While drawing attention to its archive from this extraordinary year, Magnum also seeks to explore the legacy of 1968, with talks focusing on Civil Rights and an exploration of protest then and now asking Where Have All The Revolutionaries Gone?