Dear Magnum Community,
Our photographic world is entering an unprecedented period of self-reflection. Many of us are starting to look at ourselves and our work from points of view that we had previously overlooked. I am happy to have seen Magnum dedicate time and effort in the past few years to really thinking about who we are and how we represent the world from both sides of the camera. I fully acknowledge that we are on a journey with plenty of road ahead of us.
Recently, we have also been alerted to historical material in our archive that is problematic in terms of imagery, captioning or keywording and we are taking this extremely seriously. We have begun a process of in-depth internal review – with outside guidance – to make sure that we fully understand the implications of the work in the archive, both in terms of imagery and context.
That being said, we don’t want to dismiss or underestimate the role of photographers (both historically and currently) to go out into the world to document important global, political and social issues. As documentarians, my colleagues have been recording and commenting on global issues for nearly 75 years. In that period standards for what has been acceptable have evolved. Issues and questions that were previously overlooked, have to be addressed. That’s a good thing. With this review of the archive we do not want to undo historical work but make sure that we understand the full ethical considerations. Some cases will be clear cut, others will not be easy decisions, full of grey zones.
It is a huge archive with many authors and we want to conduct this review both thoroughly and reasonably, so it will no doubt be a lengthy process.
We at Magnum always welcome the scrutiny and feedback of the public and our friends in the photographic community, whether it is positive or negative. Most of us have spent our lives trying to use photography to question and interrogate society around us – and I hope we will never stop doing that inside our organisation as well.
Olivia Arthur, President, Magnum Photos
I fully support this review and feel confident that Magnum’s collective of photographers will balance a robust defence of freedom of expression with heartfelt care and consideration for those on the other side of the lens.
It is also a chance for us to consider how Magnum presents work in the archive, both to be clearer about the protections we have in place around sensitive images as well as to look closely at our keywords which have been added over decades and regrettably show varying degrees of attention.
Caitlin Hughes, CEO, Magnum Photos