Watch Now: Beyond Magnum

A series of talks sees Magnum photographers and key practitioners in the industry discuss the challenges facing image-making today

Sohrab Hura © Sohrab Hura | Magnum Photos

This month saw Magnum Photos launching Beyond Magnum: an in-depth talks programme created to address and explore some of the challenges facing the photographic industry today. Through a series of free talks in chapters addressing Archives, Representation and the Future of Photography, speakers shared thoughts and engaged in debate across a range of issues. Each section was led by respected figures from the world of photography who invited an array of speakers doing critical work, ranging from practitioners to academics, to subjects of photographs. Below, read a summary of the events of the three chapters of the season and find links to re-watch the panels. Read about the aims of the programme and why it came together here.

Sim Chi Yin © Sim Chi Yin | Magnum Photos

Chapter I: The Content, Use, and Impact of Photographic Archives
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This first chapter aims to explore the potentiality of the photographic archive through a series of case studies around and beyond the Magnum Archive. Through case studies aiming to identify and reflect on the common problematics linked to the nature of archives, each presentation will be followed by a discussion between the presenter and moderator. These case studies will include a personal photographic archive found in the suitcase of a Nigerian artist; the analysis of photographic documents relating to the anti-colonial Malayan Emergency; and the transition of Ernest Cole’s archive to Magnum Photos. All these discussions will unveil a number of sensitive questions related to the archives: issues of ethics, ownership, presentation and access. In each case, we will seek answers from the perspectives of both vulnerability and strength. We will ask: how can we use storytelling as a strategy of working with archives? How can found photographs become the testimonial of a looted legacy? How can the relocation or the destruction of an archive repurpose its meaning? What learnings can we share with artists and institutions creating the archives of the future today. And what can be learned from the artists when we look beyond the archive?
– Azu Nwagbogu and Asya Yaghmurian

Azu Nwagbogu and Asya Yaghmurian chaired the first chapter of talks. The week consisted of an introductory talk with Nwagbogu, Yaghmurian, and Magnum president Olivia Arthur. This was followed by four ‘case study’ talks: Ana Briongos, Dr. Carmen Perez Gonzalez, and Moritz Neumuller explored the journey of Prince Emmanuel Adewale Oyenuga; Sim Chi Yin presented her work on the history of the Malayan Emergency, and was in conversation with museum curator and director Wayne Modest; the estate of Ernest Cole presented the rediscovery of works from Cole’s archive; the Inge Morath Estate discussed the photographer’s work and legacy; and Rafal Milach and Cristina de Middel discussed how they use archival materials in their artistic practice. Listen back to talks on Youtube here.

Olivia Arthur © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

Chapter II: On Representation and Self-Representation
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… who is representing whom? How are they going about it? What gives any photographer the right to construct a representation of an individual, group of people, situation, or issue outside of the realms of their own lived experience? How are we to view images made on assignment for the purposes of photojournalism or an NGO commission when they circulate in museums, galleries, and in other contexts they were not originally intended for? What questions should we ask of documentary photography when it is created for the art market? What responsibilities are incumbent on us all involved in photographing other people? And what role do institutions and networks play in showing us the way forward? …
– extract from statement by Noelle Flores Théard and Anthony Luvera

Noelle Flores Théard and Anthony Luvera led the second week of Beyond Magnum talks. Its first day saw an introductory session from the chairs and a discussion between Susan Meiselas and Laura Wexler. On its second day, Tanya Habjouqa, Laia Abril and Andy Robert Coombes spoke about their own differing practices of representation. Three panels comprised the third day: Shahidul Alam, Kristen Lubben and Mark Sealy discussed the responsibilities of institutions to make change within issues of representation, Agata Kay — photographic subject of and collaborator with Bieke Depoorter — was in conversation with Anthony Luvera, and artists Mark Strandquist and Julian Germain tackled the question ‘who’s looking at whom?’ in social practice together with visual sociologist Tiffany Fairey. Listen back to all of the talks from Chapter II here.

Yael Martínez © Yael Martínez | Magnum Photos

Chapter III: Towards a Future for Photography
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Given the many profound challenges that the world is facing, what might photography’s role be in facilitating a more coherent discussion about the potentials for positive change and healing? And given the extensive transformation of media in the current digital, “post-truth” age, what role can a photograph still be expected to play? Are we facing a renaissance in imagery, or a dystopia?
– Fred Ritchin and Zahra Rasool

The third and final installment of talks took place with chairs Fred Ritchin and Zahra Rasool kicking off three days of programming they co-produced. Their two talks at the beginning of the week explored the role of photographs and photographic ‘tools’. The program continued on Tuesday with an exploration of technology’s impact on images: Magnum’s Thomas Dworzak presented his work on photographing Zoom gatherings and collating an archive of Instagram; photographers Joshua Irwandi and Samar Abu Elouf discussed the relationship of social media with reporting on the Covid-19 crisis and conflict in Gaza; activists Vanessa Nakate, Jamie Margolin and Isra Hirsi spoke about social media’s impact on the climate crisis; and a panel of artists, Alexey Yurenev, Debi Cornwall, Josue Rivas and Marvin Heiferman explored the concept of the ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ in photography. Wednesday invited Ellen Tolmie to discuss the ethics of photographing children with Fred Ritchin. Donald Weber, Bill Gaskins, and Aperture’s Sarah Meister joined Magnum president Olivia Arthur in a discussion about the future of photographic institutions. Finally, and Nick Bruckman, Lisa Osborne and Yasmin Elayat spoke about the meaning and limitations of representation in photography. Watch recordings of seven of the sessions here. (Note: Thomas Dworzak’s talk is not yet available.)


Find out more about Magnum’s educational programming – including free opportunities – here.

Chris Steele-Perkins © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos
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