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Black and White Photography Magazine


A legendary photojournalist and one of the first American members?of Magnum, Burt Glinn is synonymous with the Cuban Revolution. Photographing it as it happened, his pictures embody the jubilation, fervour and chaos of those historical moments. Elizabeth Roberts reports.

It was on New Year’s Eve, 1958, that photographer Burt Glinn attended a party in New York. The talk was all of the revolution taking place in Cuba – and it was a photojournalist’s dream that he could not resist. He borrowed $400 from Cornell Capa, then president of Magnum, and within hours boarded a plane heading for Havana.

What Glinn found on his arrival was both chaotic and world changing. Fulgencio Batista, the dictator, was preparing to flee, Fidel Castro was hundreds of miles away, and Che Guevara had not yet reached the capital. As the following 10 days unfolded, history was made – and Burt Glinn was in the middle of the action with his camera. The images he brought back to the States with him revealed history in the making – and have become iconic symbols of revolution worldwide.

Currently showing at the Serena Morton gallery in London is an exhibition entitled Cuba 1959, with images drawn from the Burt Glinnarchives. Accompanying the exhibition is a book published by Reel Art Press. With pictures in both B&W and colour – some iconic and some previously unseen – we see the fervour, intensity and excitement of those heady days. ‘It was one of the greatest adventures of my life,’ Glinn is reported to have said. It is little wonder that the pictures contain that spirit of camaraderie and liberation. They were immediate and intimate, snatched as and how things happened, minute by minute, as the rebirth of a nation took place.

Born in 1925 in Pittsburgh, Glinn studied literature at Harvard where he edited and photographed for the Harvard Crimson college newspaper. From there he joined Life magazine for a couple of years before going freelance. By 1951 he had become an associate member of Magnum, along with Eve Arnold and Dennis Stock, the first Americans to join the prestigious agency – and he became a full member in 1954.

An indefatigable photojournalist, he covered such significant events as the Sinai War and the US Marine invasion of Lebanon as well as the revolution in Cuba. His reportage work has appeared in publications worldwide including Esquire, Geo, Life and Paris-Match among many others. He was also an excellent advertising and editorial photographer and won numerous awards for his work in these fields.

Burt Glinn was president of Magnum from 1972 to 1975 and was later re-elected in 1987. He died in 2008, aged 82.

The exhibition is at Serena Morton II, 343 Ladbroke Grove, London W10, 28 Oct-20 Nov;   

28 Oct, 2015 Elizabeth Roberts