Renowned photography agency Magnum is synonymous with big, beautiful, expensive books, but last month it published its first ever newspaper, distributed for free at select events. Drawing upon the Magnum archives, A Brief Visual History in the Time of Isis takes a long view of history to tell a fresh story about how Isis formed, and why the relatively small group has been able to provoke such universal fear and revulsion.
It’s a fascinating publication, created by Magnum photographer Peter van Agtmael, who spent five years on the project. We’re all accustomed to seeing Isis via the images they create for themselves, and with this simple but affecting magazine Magnum challenges and undercuts that image.
In the conversation below, Magnum’s Director of Special Projects Francesca Sears explains why the controversial subject appealed to the agency and its photographers, and why now is the right time for them to produce their own newsprint.