Magnum is synonymous with street photography, and this book is a masterclass in the genre. Amy Davies delves inside its pages

Featuring more than 300 images from some of the finest names in street photography, this has got to be the ultimate bible for fans of the genre.

Since its foundation in 1947, street photography has been at the cornerstone of Magnum Photos’ guiding principles. Ambitious in its scope, this is a book which delves deep into the extensive Magnum archive, revealing the images that helped to define the genre itself. What was a modern concept to Henri Cartier-Bresson clearly evolves to the brilliant work of modern practitioners who continue to advocate and promote the notion of candid photography.

Magnum Streetwise street crossing Yerevan

A street crossing in Yerevan, Armenia. Credit: Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos

If a photographer has made his or her name as a street photographer, it’s likely you’ll find some of their work in this fascinating collection. To name but a few, there’s Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt, Trent Parke, Inge Morath, Bruno Barbey and so many more. Simply picking up the book and flicking to a page at random reveals a master of their craft, somebody to study and admire, and perhaps even seek to emulate.

There are also fantastic sections on how the various agency members have photographed specific cities – the natural homes of street photography (London, Paris, New York and Tokyo) – as well as how they have approached certain subjects, such as marketplaces, places of leisure and travel.

Magnum Streetwise workers unloading sharks Dubai

Workers unload sharks from vans at the Dubai Fish market. Credit: Olivia Arthur/Magnum Photos

Many photography books can be guilty of being a shelf or coffee table filler. You might look through it and enjoy it once or twice, but it’s not something you’d consider a reference manual. By contrast, Magnum Streetwise is a rare example of a book that you can take off the shelf time and time again and find something new to look at and enjoy – I expect this volume to be ever-so-slightly dog-eared this time next year.

A lot of books pass through the Amateur Photographer office, but as a particular fan of this kind of photography, I haven’t seen a better one in a long time – and at the price of £28, it’s also a complete bargain.


Magnum Streetwise book coverMagnum Streetwise: The Ultimate Collection of Street Photography

Publisher Thames and Hudson
Price £28
Cover hardback
Pages 384 pages
ISBN 9780500545072