Magnum Photos: Universal Dialogues

Held in the birth-place of naturalist Charles Darwin, Evolution Explored chronicles the universal and regional shifts taking place across the world. Key moments in humankind’s history are brought to the fore through colour and black and white documentary photography from the 1940s to the present day. Notable artists capture significant political events – Stuart Franklin’s Tiananmen, for example, depicts the looming tragedy of Beijing’s 1989 June Fourth Incident through the image of a bare-chested student lifted high above the crowd, whilst Rene Burri’s references a more contained expression of freedom through a raised v-sign in AntiVietnam War Rally, Washington (1969).

Curated thematically rather than chronologically, the outdoor exhibition invites audiences to make comparisons between disparate generations and locations. Michael Christopher Brown’s Kili, Marshall Islands (2016), is displayed opposite Burri’s image in an attempt to forge a dialogue about the US Government’s positive and negative relationships overseas. Reminding the viewer of Magnum’s scope of photographers and their relevance today are scenes by the likes of Robert Capa, whose Arriving Immigrants, Haifa (1949-1950), connects with the current migrant crisis.

A nod to technological advancement is made in Rene’s US Moonlanding on TV (1972), and Peter Marlow’s The Last Days of Concorde (2003). Contemplating our relationship with the environment is Jonas Bendiksen’s The Entrance to the Seed Vault, Svalbard (2016), which remarks on our responsibility to safeguard the planet’s most important natural resource: plants. Franklin’s The Natural History Galleries of the Horniman Museum (1993), illustrates a Darwinian skeletal evolution while Elliott Erwitt looks at our domestication of animals in New York City (2000). Martin Parr also makes an appearance with Longleat Safari Park (1994), and Japan, Miyazaki (1996), bringing to light our artificial encounters with nature.

Selina Oakes.

Magnum Photos: Evolution Explored, until 23 April, Shrewsbury Town Centre.

Find out more:

1. Stuart Franklin, Orchid hunting in the rainforest. Forest where rare orchids grow. Borneo, Malaysia. (2002). Courtesy of Stuart Franklin and Magnum Photos.