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
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?