Finding a family connection in Madrid . . .

     Prior to travelling to Paris France and then Belgium some ten years ago we contacted a cousin of Sonja’s to see if he was interested in meeting us there. His name is James “Jimmy” Fox, and he is actually well know as the long time and legendary Photo Editor at the world news photo service Magnum. Jimmy’s is older than us by a number of years, had two sisters, Betty and Jacqueline, the latter who, at the age of 78 years,  came from Belgium to visit us in Victoria, BC when we lived there, 

     To put this story in context, Sonja’s Mother, Diane was a war bride from Belgium. She moved to Canada with Sonja under her arm immediately following the war, and her and husband Jean lived in Notre Dame de Lourdes (just south of Winnipeg) Manitoba prior to moving to Ottawa where he worked for National Defence.

     Family visits over such distances were rare occurrences in those days, but fortunately for Sonja, chaperoned by her grandmother, she did get to travel back to Belgium when she was 10 years of age, and in that single visit she met cousins and aunts and uncles and other family members. In spite of her grandmother’s attempts to hand down the importance of family contact and history and knowledge, only a few crumbs of information remained. And life then got in the way. Distant family became unfamiliar, to the point of invisible, although rare letters and cards did cross back and forth over the Atlantic.

     Ten years ago, meeting up with Jimmy Fox for dinner in Paris was emotional to say the least. And once he arrived there was question upon question concerning names unfamiliar to me. Sonja walked Jimmy Fox to the Metro station late on that Paris night, shared some tearful goodbyes, and save a few letters here and there since, we’ve heard little from Jimmy, other than failing health is catching up with him.

     Flash forward to Madrid, Spain, more than ten years after that night, we’re looking over events in the city and there it is. An exposition of the Magnum photographers contact sheets covering events of the 20th century. Contact sheets are small prints of the photographer’s film strips. Photo Editors chose the visually best frame to not only depict the event, but to add some visual oomph to telling the story. We had learned some time ago that Jimmy Fox spent his career as Magnum’s Photo Editor.

     We attended the exposition, and looking over the displays we read Jimmy Fox’s name many times, viewed his work and choices of photos, several of which we’ve added to the accompanying slide show, particularly those of the Russian Invasion of Prague in the late 60’s.

     Jimmy Fox has more recently assisted British author Sue Elliott with research for a book that has been published. The story line is around a group of children caught between the Nazis invasion in WWII and the failed opportunity to escape to Britain. Jimmy Fox was one of those children. “The Children Who Fought Hitler!”

     This is a very small planet we live on . . .  enjoy the photos . . .


     The story concerning the eventual publishing of the book “The Children Who Fought Hitler!” can be viewed here:


     Wikipedia explains Magnum Photos as follows: Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members, with offices in New York City, Paris, London and Tokyo. According to co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually."

    Magnum is one of the first photographic cooperatives, owned and administered entirely by members. The staff serve a support role for the photographers, who retain all copyrights to their own work.

     The Magnum cooperative has included photojournalists from across the world, who have covered many historical events of the 20th century. The cooperative's archive includes photographs depicting family life, drugs, religion, war, poverty, famine, crime, government and celebrities. Magnum In Motion is the multimedia offshoot of Magnum Photos and is based in New York City.