“Wow.” I just kept saying it. Out loud. I couldn’t help it.
By far one of the most wondrous and enjoyable things about the ICP’s Martin Munkacsi show Think While You Shoot! is how clearly it represents the locus of not only contemporary fashion photography, but of sport and news photography as well.
I’d been wanting to see the show since it opened, expecting it to highlight the master’s fashion work, with which he is credited with releasing models from static studio poses and for promoting the image of the athletic, independent American woman. I was looking forward to some glamorous masterpieces from when Harper‘s Bazaar hires like Munkacsi were photography’s superstars.
And the Harper‘s photos were there, usually as original prints and as they appeared in vintage copies of the magazine. And they were beautiful, often with a stark simplicity that I hadn’t expected.
But what I really didn’t expect was how Munkacsi would have taken innumerable photos—more than 60 years ago—that were precursors to the stock and trade shots of today’s sports and news photographers. The footballer upside down in a kick at the moment his head makes crushing impact with the ground. How much more amazing is this shot when we consider it was taken without super-fast zoom lenses or auto-focus? Or the shot of a dead soldier’s feet protruding from a bloody blanket. Despite the countless duplicates of this image from conflicts around the world, Munkacsi’s original still packs a distressing punch.