Magnum announces its new president
At Magnum's AGM in New York this month, the agency announced three new members and welcomed its latest president amidst celebrations of its 75th anniversary.
New York is where it all started, according to Magnum Photos legend, when Robert Capa popped open a double-size champagne bottle to celebrate the birth of the new agency over lunch at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947.
And New York is where Magnum took its next steps 75 years later, with photographers, staff and guests gathering to celebrate the anniversary with a series of in-person events, including talks, parties, cinema screenings and a book fair.
The eight-day program culminated last weekend, running alongside Magnum’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), where one of three newly elected members – Cristina de Middel – also stepped up to become the next President, taking over from Olivia Arthur.
De Middel initially joined Magnum as a nominee in 2017, then became an associate in 2019. She came to worldwide attention in 2012 with the breakout success of her second book, The Afronauts, having previously worked for a decade as a photojournalist. She has subsequently published nine books, and shown her work around the world at venues including Rencontres d’Arles, Perth Center for Photography, Chobi Mela Festival, and the Museo del Prado.
“I am, of course, honored and also conscious of the responsibility,” says de Middel. “I have never been a president of anything before, but if hard work and respect for the role and the legacy of Magnum is what it takes, then I should be fine. I hope that I can continue the great work that the previous presidents have done, and that I manage to contribute with new ideas and enthusiasm for the group.”
Arthur, who has seen Magnum through a turbulent period, becoming president in 2020, during the pandemic, commented: “It has been an honor to serve the organization that I love as its president for the past two years and to be there as we celebrated our 75th anniversary. I am also delighted to hand the baton over to someone who I know will continue the mission to lead us with her energy and thoughtfulness. I am excited to see the next years unfold for the future of Magnum.”
The AGM, which is staged on rotation in Paris, London and New York, where the agency has its three offices, was led by Arthur alongside Magnum’s CEO, Caitlin Hughes. Photographers and staff discussed business and the agency’s priorities going forward, as well as potential new additions to the membership, during a two-day session at the French Institute Alliance Française.
As an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members, Magnum has a structured process for introducing new members. Photographers first join the organization as nominees, before progressing to become associates, and then finally gaining admission to the Magnum collective as full lifelong members.
The 75th-anniversary program, which takes up the theme of ‘In Dialogue’, runs throughout 2022. It began with retrospectives of Susan Meiselas and Bieke Depoorter at C/O Berlin (ongoing until September 9th), followed by activities at Photo London in May and the premier of Magnum Photos 75 years at f/est Amarante in northern Portugal.
The celebrations resumed with a constellation of events in New York, beginning with a book fair at the International Center of Photography on June 18, with talks by photographers including Alec Soth, Susan Meiselas and Jim Goldberg.
The following week kicked off with a party and pop-up exhibition and portrait studio at MCM Creative. Jim Goldberg created collages made from printouts from Magnum’s archive, and visitors created masks in honor of Inge Morath on the 20th anniversary of her death, revisiting her celebrated collaboration with the cartoonist Saul Steinberg.
The program continued with a panel discussion, ‘Seeing Ukraine’, at the New York Public Library, with Magnum photographers Alex Majoli and Rafał Milach, alongside Fred Ritchin and Ira Lupu, who together curated the recent exhibition, In Ukraine. The New York events culminated with two nights of short film screenings, the first at the French Institute Alliance Française’s Florence Gould Hall, and the second at the Bronx Documentary Centre, where Magnum photographer Peter van Agtmael was showing his exhibition, Look at the USA.
Magnum’s anniversary program continues throughout 2022 with events and exhibitions coming in Arles, Berlin and Paris.
“We hope lots of people will join us in conversation at these different events around the world,” says Caitlin Hughes, CEO of Magnum Photos. “Our 75th anniversary is the stage for critical conversation about the world we live in, the changing role of documentary photography, and the future we shape with contributions to arts and culture.”