Sudden Impact: Photography on the Printed Page


January 24 – April 8, 2016

A rare selection of early 20th century large-format magazine covers, prints, and posters illustrate printed media’s shift from word-dominated to image-heavy.

Mana Contemporary is pleased to announce Sudden Impact: Photography on the Printed Page, presented by the International Center of Photography (ICP) in their gallery on Mana’s sixth floor. Consisting of thirty-five striking magazine covers and picture spreads from international periodicals of the 1920s to 1940s, Sudden Impact explores the moment when innovative photography and imaginative graphic design joined forces.

The publications have been selected from ICP’s extensive collection of more than two thousand historic magazines, newspapers, and posters of the 20th Century. They include Vu, Regards, Estampa, Picture Post, Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung, USSR in Construction, and Life.

Many of the iconic photographs of the 20th Century first reached the public in the pages of large-format illustrated magazines like these, which are today regarded as classics of dynamic graphic design. Among the artists and photographers whose images are highlighted in the exhibition are such celebrated figures as André Kertész, Martin Munkasci, Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, Weegee, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Brassaï, and John Heartfield.

Sudden Impact reveals the emergence of photography as a key component of modern visual communication. The magazines displayed in the exhibition helped to create a vast, news-hungry audience that wanted not just to read about the events and celebrities of the day but to see them as well. Printed on inexpensive paper in press runs that often reached the millions, the individual copies of Vu, the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, and Picture Post were never meant to last. Seldom preserved, most have disappeared from memory. Yet for anyone seeking to understand the extraordinary impact of photography on our visual culture, they provide an essential point of reference. As Sudden Impact demonstrates, they have lost none of their power to shock, surprise, and delight.

Press Release

(1) Vu, Apr. 1, 1931, cover photograph by James Abbe. Courtesy International Center of Photography.
(2) Vu, July 20, 1932, cover. Courtesy of International Center of Photography.