在一个图像以天文数字的量级被生产、消费与遗忘的年代，谈论这些似乎已是不合时宜，或者仅仅是一种略带感伤的怀旧，正如现任马格南主席马丁·帕尔（Martin Parr）把《Magnum Contact Sheets》（中文版《马格南世纪经典》由中国摄影出版社出版）称为“底片印样的墓志铭”。今天摄影师的烦恼是永远不够时间去仔细翻看动辄以 TB 级计算的海量照片。摄影越发变得方生方死，从按下快门到看见照片，时间的间隔已可忽略不计，再也不会有那种等待中的忐忑或烦躁、初见时的懊恼或狂喜，更不会有一份记录这种初见的诚实印样。哪个摄影师没有在回放照片的时候快速地删除掉那些记录了令人难堪的技术错误的废片呢？即使储存卡是海量的，自尊心却是脆弱的。
Magnum, a word means "great, strong" in Latin, gains one more specific meaning since 1947: a community composed of a group of maverick photographers. For the photographic history of the 20th century, Magnum is a legend spans more than half a century which continues today, and an alternative spectator and recorder be with the history. It has established the worldwide benchmark of photojournalism and documentary photography. In this course, the photographers of Magnum have created many classics, these works have become the visual symbols of the specific times.
However, this is not an exhibition to worship the classic. On the contrary, it is an exhibition to "deconstruct" the classic. We call it deconstruction, because the shaping of classic is often accompanied by the process of de-contextualization, symbolization and mystification, while this exhibition will display the original contact sheets of the masterpieces, leave the classic back to its "parent body", and make disenchantment by situational reduction.
During the long era of photographic film, photography has always been a mysterious process. When you press the shutter, you don't know what exactly left on the film, this pending state would not be terminated until the film contact sheet was made for the first time. Contact sheet is the first chance for a photographer to look at his work, but the first sight may not always make his heart beat faster, most of them are disillusionary. Usually, only a few photos of each roll of film will be printed, even fewer photos will be propagated, and eventually, only very few of them will be remembered as the classics.
In this process, watching the contact sheet is the private activity which is only carried among photographer, photo editor, agency and a few of intimate people. Contact sheet is treated as an intermediate product, when it finishes its mission of photo primary election, it will begin a long sleep in the file box, even being discarded.
Perhaps the concept of "the decisive moment" created by Henri Cartier-Bresson has gained so much popularity that many people believe good photographer should be as precise and abstemious as a sniper, only presses the shutter button calmly and elegantly in a decisive moment. They assume that a true master should have his magic power and won’t miss anything. And the de-contextual propagation and worship of the classic work has reinforced this preconceived idea for a long time. These classic images become the loners floating in the discourse space, as if they were coming out unexpectedly, you can’t find any clue about them.
Our eyes are framed by the "good photo" standard, so we ignore the possible information and value of the "bad image" which as the inevitable cost deservedly. However, photography has never been a one-time capture, it is to select and correct again and again. Photograph is the slice of moment, and the stillness sight, while contact sheet presents a flow of time, it is the floating situation, and the fresh context.
Contact sheet restores the working condition and instant reaction for a photographer at the scene, it both records a flash of brilliance and a strange combination of circumstances. Due to the great deal of information it is carrying, for many photographers contact sheet is a private existence. I named these contact sheets the "manuscripts", because only this word could convey the contact sheets’ significance for the classic works and the history of photography accurately in the Chinese context. Different from “product of machine” that photography has been considered as customarily, the “manual” of “manuscript” reflects the special meaning of a creator’s trace appropriately, and symbolizes the past intimate contact and significant effort. Beyond the classic, the manuscript has reshaped another history, a history of ways of seeing. To leave the classic back to its parent body, is the effort of trying to rebuild this historical situation.
In an age of images are produced, consumed and forgotten with enormous scale, talking about these seem to be inappropriate, or it is simply the reminiscence with a bit of sadness, just like the current Magnum president Martin Parr called “Magnum Contact Sheets" as "the epitaph of contact sheet". Today a photographer's trouble is that he never had enough time to go through the enormous photos he took carefully. Photography is in the constantly changing condition, from press the shutter to see the photo, the time between them is negligible, there would never have that kind of anxious or upset during waiting, and annoy or ecstasy for the first sight. There will be no more honest contact sheet to record the first sight. Any photographer who has never quickly delete the waste photo that records his embarrassing technical error during the playback? Even if the memory card is quite large, the self-esteem is fragile.
When we were preparing this exhibition, the 93-year-old Magnum veteran Marc Riboud passed away. Perhaps it is really the metaphor of the end of an era. Thanks to the contact sheets, we could imagine in 1953, how the shy young Marc Riboud and the painters moved and made room on the Eiffel Tower, even the anecdote about his practice of the secret tip that Henri Cartier-Bresson taught him to "reverse the viewfinder to see the composition of work" on the Eiffel Tower and he almost fell down from the tower also become vivid. During his career spanning more than half a century, Marc Riboud came to China for dozens of time. Shenzhen, the city which is a symbol of China's modern innovative achievements was his important observation subject. Therefore, the Magnum Contact Sheets exhibition in Shenzhen is even more significant.