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Two Magnum Masters: Bruno Barbey and Ian Berry

2016.03.13 – 05.29



British-born Ian Berry and French-Swiss Bruno Barbey are two of the most long-standing and respected photographers within the Magnum collective. Each joined in the 1960s – Ian Berry in 1962 at the personal invitation of Henri Cartier-Bresson, becoming a full member in 1967; Bruno Barbey became an associate member in 1964. As with all candidates awarded the honor of Magnum membership, both had produced a seminal series of photographs that signified their talent, intellectual concerns and the eye for the moment within the times that they each brought to their observations. For Ian Berry it was in South Africa in 1960, a nation at the height of apartheid; for Bruno Barbey, it was The Italians, dating to the early 1960s. Both photographers would continue to travel the world and to cover some of the most significant political, social and economic events of the second half of the twentieth century.

Both photographers have also been regular visitors to China for a number of decades, and have produced works now familiar to local photographers and lovers of photography. For this exhibition, however, each presents a medley of iconic images from their broader careers. For Ian Berry, we focus on his work in South Africa, beginning in 1960, and on The English, a study which began in the early 1970s, and which here is broadened to be more fully “British”. For Bruno Barbey, we present richly-colored scenes from his extraordinary global travels, studies of people and place, and classic images which embody the diverse moments in which he was witness to history.


Bruno Barbey served as Magnum vice president for Europe in 1978 and 1979, and as President of Magnum International 1992-95.

In Conjunction with this exhibition, and with the kind participation of both masters Bruno Barbey and Ian Berry, SCôP is proud to have partnered with Leica for the first Leica Master Class. 


“Two Magnum Masters: Barbey and Berry” is supported by Leica, as the leading sponsor. SCôP would like to thank Tuchong for its support in this exhibition. We would like to give particular thanks to the two photographers Bruno Barbey and Ian Berry; and to the Magnum Photos agency. For their support, SCôP thanks Modern Weekly, iWeekly, Huang Yunhe at Ofoto Gallery, Shanghai, Chang He at The Paper and Wu Hon Lam.



Bruno Barbey (1941-)

The son of a French civil servant posted to North Africa, Bruno Barbey was born in Morocco, where he spent his childhood amid a “mixture of sensations, smells, colors and sounds that steeped his perceptions” and where, he says, “the color and light is unique.” The experience was formative, awakening his senses to these phenomena. Contrasts and subtle nuances in light, shadow and hue are characteristic of much of his work. His use of Kodak film was also pioneering for the times. At the time Bruno Barbey joined Magnum, the agency’s co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson strongly favored black-and-white. This was in part because magazines did not reproduce color well at the time – the majority of Magnum photographers stuck with black-and-white. But in 1966 when Bruno Barbey went to Brazil, at the request of Vogue, he couldn’t resist shooting the country’s distinctive spectrum in his photographs. This was his decisive moment.

    In traveling the world over for assignments for Magnum, but especially for personal projects, Bruno Barbey describes himself as shying away from news scoops, but never missing an opportunity to witness history. One of the subtle ways he achieved this was by repeatedly bearing witness to the erosion of tradition at the hand of modernization in countries with ancient cultures, clearly visible in the richly colored visions with which he returned from his travels.

    Bruno Barbey served as Magnum vice president for Europe in 1978 and 1979, and as President of Magnum International 1992-95. He has published almost thirty books of his photographs, many of them studies of a single country, an amalgam of images collected over a period of years; studies that are reflected in the various focus of the two dozen exhibitions of his works that have taken place since 1970 through to today.

Ian Berry (1934-)

Ian Berry departed England in 1952 for an explorative adventure in South Africa.Having taught himself the basics of photography, settled in Johannesburg, Transvaal, he worked under Roger Madden, a South African photographer who had been assistant to Ansel Adams. Ian Berry was in South Africa in 1960 and the only photographer in Sharpeville on March 21st to witness a peaceful protest turn violent.

    A constant character of Ian Berry’s iconic work is the subtle, almost unobservable presence of the photographer in the moments that he captures as scenes from daily life. “As a photographer, you're always looking for shapes, for people to fall into the right place,”he says, “but it doesn't happen nearly as often as you'd like. You must either grab the decisive moment on the hoof, or see a potential situation and hover unseen until it develops; simply to wait until you become part of the fixtures and fittings so that when you raise the camera, no one’s attention is drawn by an unusual movement.”

    The juxtaposition of the two bodies of works from Britain and South Africa, with the underlying history that links the two nations, today seems to reflect an era far from the present. Ian Berry’s photography convey the humanity of situations, challenging or life-affirming, that subtly reminds us of the tensions that continue to exist, but also how people are able to transcend prejudice and adversity and come together in very natural ways.

    Ian Berry’s photographs of South Africa under apartheid are part of a large body of work published in two books, Black and Whites: L'Afrique du Sud, with a foreword by French prime minister François Mitterrand, 1988, and Living Apart, with text by Desmond Tutu, 1996.

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