Ask any professional photographer how many photographs they have taken in their lifetime, and you’re liable to get an astronomical number.
But how many of those exposures are ever seen by anyone other than the photographer himself? Not many.
“When you’re editing you’re editing towards a certain end, and when that end is met you forget about the pictures that didn’t make it,” famed photographer Larry Towell told the New York Times.
Towell and many of his fellow legendary photographers at Magnum Photos, the renowned photo agency, are now diving into their archives, looking through old negatives and digital files to save some of these lost photographs — ones they love, but for whatever reason, never shared.
These striking photos are being rescued as part of a limited-time sale put on by the cooperative agency. Signed prints of select images can be purchased for $US100 at Magnum’s webstore.
Larry Towell took this striking photo of Mennonites in Zacatecas, Mexico and found it years later among tens of thousands of other negatives.
'I found this picture after perusing my work among the Mennonites of Mexico, some two thousand rolls of film shot over a period of ten years. Only 120 pictures ever made it into the book. La Honda colony was one of the few that actually had electricity, if you had money. I was visiting Frank Klassen and his wife, whose name escapes me at the moment. They were landless, unemployed, poverty stricken, and were planning on finding their way to Canada in search of farm work. His wife bummed a cigarette. We smoked at the kitchen table by the light of a kerosene lamp. Then we went outside and I took their picture as the moon was rising.' -- Larry Towell
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54628d1a6da811ca10cb38ec-1200-858/tol-par92368.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Larry Towell
'In 1966, while working on a feature about a Picasso exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, I recorded the pre-opening preparations and observed a moment: One of the cleaners stopped, puzzled, in front of the Picassos. I think that this is an image, that can be universally understood, but with a grain of salt. I never chose this image in edits before because it seemed to me that it felt posed -- the composition was a little too perfect. But believe me, it was a lucky moment…' -- Micha Bar-Am
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626a62ecad042915bca63d-1200-858/bam1966007w00011-20.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')
Credit: MAGNUM/Micha Bar-Am
Peter van Agtmael, then a young but already well-respected member of Magnum, took this during a formative time in Chile.
'I took this picture in the Atacama Desert of Chile in 2007. It was my first trip back to Chile since I lived there for six months in 2002. Those months were deeply formative for me. I was obsessed with photography but had no real outlet in college. I took the semester off from school and got an internship at a tabloid in Valparaiso. They gave me a loose leash to explore the city and make little features. I started to learn the freedom to be myself. I had my first experience with conflict during a massive rally that turned suddenly violent. I was scared and strangely liberated. And I fell in love. Although this picture is a departure from most of my work, it was in that place I discovered who I was supposed to be.' -- Peter van Agtmael
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626af7ecad04181cbca638-1200-924/agp-img_2222.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Peter van Agtmael
Alessandra Sanguinetti made this image during a determinitive time in her career as well. It was taken on a beach in Brooklyn in 1992 and almost never saw the light of day until now.
'I took this photograph, 'The couple' in the summer of '92. That was long ago when everything and everyone still felt endlessly fascinating and mysterious and when photography was the only way I could take it all in. I'd left Buenos Aires to spend the summer in Brooklyn with my grandfather and spent every day roaming the city taking pictures and hurrying back home at night excited to develop the film in the blacked out laundry room. I distinctly remember uncurling the wet film this frame was in, seeing it and being in awe at how a portrait could transcend anything I had seen or intended.' -- Alessandra Sanguinetti
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54628c5deab8eaf96adc66db-1200-1200/saa-pareja.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Alessandra Sanguinetti
Many photos, like this one taken by Olivia Arthur during her time in Azerbaijan, go unseen because, while the photographer loves them, they don't fit with the current project he or she is working on.
'I took this picture when I was working on my project 'The Middle Distance.' There was a boat that was sitting out in the Caspian Sea on the coast of Azerbaijan. The project was about women and I was researching and working on lots of different little stories about women in the region. But in between working on those stories, I would also just wander and explore with my camera. I made so much work from that trip, so there are a lot of images - like this one - that I've always liked but didn't obviously fit into the subject.' -- Olivia Arthur
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626bd969beddf27777990d-1200-1334/aro2006003zxx37.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Olivia Arthur
'At a car wash in the suburbs of Paris, I saw this poor woman locked in a car, just as the giant rollers were about to swallow the vehicle. She looked familiar; she was, in fact, my wife. I could never put this picture with my personal work, because there was a certain complicity between me and the subject. To maintain my credibility, my photos must be 'found', which wasn't quite the case here, so the picture has remained lonely and neglected. But I like it anyway...' -- Richard Kalvar
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626c696da8115b691952e8-1200-858/kar-par207671.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit:MAGNUM/Richard Kalvar
Many Magnum photographers are used to photographing in dangerous scenarios and disaster zones, both abroad and at home. Michael Christopher Brown shot this photo on his iPhone after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
'This iPhone picture was made in the Rockaways, New York, after Hurricane Sandy. Most of the time, we see news pictures for a few seconds then never see them again. Like blips on a radar screen, they are important but quickly fade into the bowels of history. The news pictures I like looking at again and again are often those with a universal message, something I can identify with that is more about the human spirit than the event. I don't know if this image has an effect on others, but to me, it is less about destruction and more about a certain resilience.' -- Michael Christopher Brown
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626d32eab8eada6abca638-1200-1200/brm-nyc147603.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Michael Christopher Brown
Bruce Davidson has spent his career documenting everyday life in the USA and throughout the world. He found this family in the New Jersey marshes, close to Manhattan, but also worlds apart.
'In the winter of 1965, I explored the industrial wasteland across the Hudson River from New York City to New Jersey. I traveled on dirt roads that led through the brackish marshlands with mountainous garbage dumps used for landfill. There I met Willie Royka, who with his young son Willie Jr., picked the dumps for scrap metal in the warmer months and trapped muskrats on the colder days when the pelts were thicker. They led me deep into the New Jersey meadows where tall cattails obscured the Manhattan skyline and the marshlands became a pristine wilderness. At low tide, we made our way through the muck to the traps and the drowned muskrats. At the end of the day they invited me home, where they skinned and dried the pelts for sale. They also removed the musk gland that can hold the aroma used in perfume-making processes.' -- Bruce Davidson
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626d946bb3f762071952e4-1200-1200/dab-nyc6308.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit:MAGNUM/Bruce Davidson
This photo, by nationally acclaimed and celebrated photographer Elliott Erwitt, was taken when he was just 18 years old.
'In 1946, I was 18 years old and certain that I would become a professional photographer. While still in public school, I managed to save enough to buy my first serious camera -- a Rolleiflex with which I shot all my pictures for several years at belly level. Eventually, I moved up to eye level, shooting where I still am with modern cameras. Recently, while looking in to my old proof sheets and seeing pictures I had taken over 60 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at what I shot while still a teenager. The picture of a window washer taken 68 years ago is one of those 'found' images and a small part of a rescue from the depths of my archive.' -- Elliott Erwitt
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/546270e669beddcd0c77990c-1200-1334/ere-528.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Elliott Erwitt
'The picture was shot in Jaipur in 2000 during the annual kite festival. Thousands of people on the city rooftops parry with fighting kites: the aim to cut the string of feuding kites. The strings are dipped in a mixture of glass shards and glue. Truly, this is a photograph that I had forgotten I had taken until quite recently. I recalled the event and the assignment, but not this particular touching moment. I really don't know how many photographs I have taken. It makes me wonder how many 'touching moments' I've captured that I've somehow forgotten about.' -- Stuart Franklin
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5462876cecad044d11049b4d-1200-858/frs-lon26136.jpg' alt='FRS LON26136' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Stuart Franklin
Famed street photographer Bruce Gilden captured this lonely and possibly drunk Santa waiting for the A-train in 1968.
'When I was 22 or 23, I took a semester long photography course. We had an assignment, and I decided I want to follow Santa Claus. At the time, there were all these guys around New York dressing up as Santa for Volunteers of America, and they'd collect donations outside Macy's, etc. After they'd collect, they'd head back to the volunteers headquarters on Houston Street and go out drinking - most of the Santas were alcoholics. I took this picture because in my head, I remember thinking, 'Why is Santa taking the A train. Where is his sleigh?' Later, I took this photograph to an editor at the New York Times, and he loved it, but said it's 'Too late to publish for Christmas.' Well, I missed the boat that Christmas, so I guess I'll catch the boat 46 years later.' -- Bruce Gilden
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54628b40ecad046d20049b50-1200-706/gib-nyc16335.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Bruce Gilden
David Alan Harvey, who has shot all over the world but has a special affinity for the beauties of Rio de Janiero, took this photo of a parkour artist but couldn't find a home for it until now.
'Most of the photographs I make are personal pictures and never end up in print. Even the magazines I shoot for on assignment publish very few of the actual selects. Sometimes these personal pictures will end up in a book of my work. Oftentimes, however, they are simply photographs which I hope resonate, yet rarely find a publication home. I do a lot of personal work in Rio de Janeiro, and this of a parkour artist making a jump on Ipanema Beach is such a moment.' -- David Alan Harvey
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54628bed6bb3f78f02bc7442-1200-800/had_parkour0104408.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/David Alan Harvey
Moises Saman took this photo in Kabul in 2003, where he saw both violence and beauty and captured it all.
'This photograph was taken in Kabul in the fall of 2003, during a parade in honour of the late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance and a fervent anti-Taliban commander, was killed by Tunisian Al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists, two days before the 9/11 attacks. The Afghanistan I know is a land of clashing contrasts, of raw beauty; its landscape scarred by centuries of wars fought against foreign armies and with itself. From 2001 to 2010, I have returned over and over again, with the hope of documenting the promise of peace and prosperity made by the latest invading powers. I soon realised the fragility of this promise. I found Afghanistan staring at a precipice, its free fall toward anarchy gaining strength throughout the country and no longer confined to the Pashto-speaking provinces where the Taliban was born and remains entrenched.' -- Moises Saman
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54628cb269bedddb06dc66db-1200-800/sam-nyc131538.jpg' alt='Unseen magnum' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: Moises Saman
Bieke Depoorter made this image while working on a project where she traveled the US, asking strangers if she could spend a night in their home.
'This photograph was taken during my first visit to the United States for my project, 'I am About to Call it a Day.' I had just finished working on 'Ou Menya' in Russia, a project made by asking people I met on the street to spend a single night in their home. I found that this was my way of entering into the intimacy of their family. With this, I finally felt comfortable taking photographs of strangers. But I wanted to use the same approach in a country where I could speak the language; I wanted to see if it would still work even then. So, while shooting in the U.S., I got stranded in a little town in Louisiana. I couldn't find a place to stay, but an old man wanted to show me, 'The only beautiful museum in town.' The museum's exhibits were buried with dust and the dismal, lonely atmosphere was remarkable.
This is not an image I wanted to use in my book because it's totally different than any of my other photographs. And to be honest, I actually still don't know if I like this image! But somehow, for some reason, the photograph keeps popping up in my mind.' -- Bieke Depoorter
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/54626e18ecad04f42abca63a-1200-800/deb2010002g-----4320.jpg' alt='Magnum unseen' link='lightbox' size='primary' align='center' nocrop='false' clear='true')Credit: MAGNUM/Bieke Depoorter
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