Magnum Photos is excited to launch Beyond Magnum, an in-depth talks programme created to address and explore some of the challenges facing our industry today. Through a series of free talks in chapters addressing Archives, Representation and the Future of Photography, speakers will share thoughts and engage in debate across a range of issues. Each section will be led by respected figures from the world of photography and speakers will range from practitioners to academics to subjects of photographs.
In August 2020, concerns were raised about certain images and keywords that were publicly accessible in Magnum’s archive online. Magnum photographers and team members agreed that they needed to look not only at these images, but at the entire archive: hundreds of thousands of images spanning from the 1930s to today, material that had accumulated there over the agency's nearly 75 year history.
In having conversations about the archive, its role and purpose, and the right way to handle historic images, we realised that this was an opportunity to address many core and sometimes difficult subjects: power dynamics in photography, issues such as race, sexuality, childhood, vulnerability, consent, and political sensitivity. We reached the conclusion that a full-scale review of Magnum’s historic archive was necessary.
Through this process, we have given a lot of thought to and continue to assess the best way to present these historic and contemporary images. As well as our internal discussions, we also felt the need to be more present in current conversations happening within the photographic community about these issues, and to engage publicly with some of the important questions being asked of us and our industry.
The events will be live, free, and accessible on our online platforms. Recordings of these talks will later be made available on the Magnum website, and transcripts will be available as a downloadable pdf as well as a self-published reader this Fall.
By opening up a debate between the generations, cultures, and disciplines of our collective, we intend to take a deeper look into Magnum’s archive and diverse photographic approaches, past and present, and share this debate, its challenges, and lessons, with our audience and critics.
With this upcoming series of talks, we also want to use our platform to bring other voices into the conversation that will help us analyse the challenges that the photography world at large is facing. By engaging industry figures and thinkers from other fields, as well as the subjects of the photographs, or those reading them, this forum seeks to engage critically, and to contribute crucial perspectives around issues impacting our industry, for both individuals and institutions.
Chapter I: The Content, Use, and Impact of Photographic Archives
Statement from Co-chairs Azu Nwagbogu and Asya Yaghmurian
"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?"
9-11th June 2021
Chapter II: On Representation and Self-Representation
A statement by our Co-chairs Noelle Flores Théard and Anthony Luvera
"The question of representation is complex. Now more than ever, with improvements in human rights apparently won or afforded to individuals and communities who have long suffered historical oppression, there is also a recognition that institutional racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-semitism, and many other forms of social, economic, environmental, and political inequality and discrimination, continue to persist in our daily lives and in the policies pursued by corporations, governments, and nation-states.
Terms such as equality, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability are used so regularly and broadly they are often siphoned of demonstrable meaning or action. At the core of the problem here, and part of the solution, is the role representation plays. On the one hand, representation enables visibility and visibility matters. Especially when it can bring about greater understanding of the circumstances of what or who is depicted or described, and contribute to a culture shift which results in change for the better or lead to social justice. On the other hand, questions about representation strike at the power dynamics at play between who is represented and who is in control of this depiction. But 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?
These are the kinds of questions we feel are particularly important for photography, but never more so when the topic of conversation is focused on individuals and groups of people who are marginalised, excluded, overlooked or typically depicted in ways they themselves do not recognise or choose. It is questions such as these that bring us to On Representation. Questions which we are certain will generate many more questions. Now more than ever, we all need to question and not be afraid to be questioned."
16-18th June 2021
Chapter III: Towards a Future for Photography
A statement by our Co-chairs Fred Ritchin and Zahra Rasool
"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?"
28 - 30TH June, 2021
Programme to be announced shortly
Recording of Beyond Magnum
Watch the recording of each day sessions, case studies and panel discussions by following the link below