Assistant Professor of Art History Nadya Bair was recently named the winner of the Association of American Publishers’ 2021 PROSE Award in Media and Cultural Studies for her book The Decisive Network: Magnum Photos and the Postwar Image Market.
According to the publisher, University of California Press, the book offers “a new history of what it meant to shoot, edit, and sell news images after World War II,” and “unravels” the mythology surrounding Magnum Photos, a photographers’ cooperative founded in the middle of the 20th century.
“Bair shows that between the 1940s and 1960s, Magnum expanded the human-interest story to global dimensions while bringing the aesthetic of news pictures into new markets” and “made photojournalism integral to postwar visual culture,” the description continues. “By unpacking the collaborative nature of photojournalism, [the] book shows how picture editors, sales agents, spouses, and publishers helped Magnum photographers succeed in their assignments and achieve fame.”
In “‘The Decisive Network’ Review: The Magnum Image,” published by The Wall Street Journal in June, reviewer Marc Weingarten compared Bair’s book to Magnum’s First, also about Magnum Photos. He said that the two books “offer contrasting views of an organization that has become synonymous with photography as the apex of humanist visual art. One polishes that myth; the other explodes it.
“Bair skirts the usual narrative attached to Magnum and focuses instead on Magnum as a for-profit business that generated revenue with magazine photo spreads, print-advertising assignments and industrial commissions,” he wrote. The Decisive Network “excels at revealing Magnum’s secret history as a supplier for companies eager to appropriate Magnum’s empathetic point of view—the feel-good soft sell of the 1950s and ’60s,” Weingarten said.