Image by Olivia Arthur

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 leads 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 play?

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. But now more than ever, we all need to question and not be afraid to be questioned. 


DAY 1 – Wednesday 16th June 2021

15:00-16:30 BST
Speakers: Shannon Ghannam and Pauline Vermare
Framing of Chapter II
Speakers: Anthony Luvera, Noelle Flores-Théard

19:00 – 20:00 BST
Susan Meiselas and Laura Wexler discuss“Collaborations”, a project that maps the many forms collaboration can take within the medium of photography, and that proposes the lens of collaboration as a more just way to view and interpret images.
Moderator: Anthony Luvera

DAY 2 – Thursday 17th June 2021

15:00-16:30 BST
Practices of Representation
Chaired by Anthony Luvera
Speakers:Tanya Habjouqa, Laia Abril, Robert Andy Coombes

DAY 3 – Friday 18th June 2021

15:00 – 16.30 BST
Representation and Responsibility: Institutions as Changemakers
Chaired by Noelle Flores-Théard
Speakers: Shahidul Alam, Kristen Lubben, Mark Sealy

17:00 – 18:00 BST
Agata Kay, who features in the work of, and collaborated with Bieke Depoorter, on representation.
Moderator: Anthony Luvera

19:00 – 20:30 BST
Social practice – Who’s Looking at Whom?
Chaired by Anthony Luvera
Speakers: Mark Strandquist, Julian Germain, Tiffany Fairey

20:30 – 20:45 BST Final Comments by Anthony Luvera, Noelle Flores-Théard

Anthony Luvera is an Australian artist, writer and educator based in London. His photographic work has been exhibited widely in galleries, public spaces and festivals, including Tate Liverpool, The Gallery at Foyles, the British Museum, London Underground’s Art on the Underground, National Portrait Gallery London, Belfast Exposed Photography, Australian Centre for Photography, PhotoIreland, Malmö Fotobiennal, Goa International Photography Festival, and Les Rencontres D’Arles Photographie. His writing appears regularly in a wide range of publications including Photoworks, Source and Photographies. Anthony is Associate Professor of Photography in the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University, and editor of Photography For Whom?, a periodical about socially engaged photography. Anthony is Chair of the Education Committee at the Royal Photographic Society. He has designed education and mentorship programmes, facilitated workshops, and given lectures for the public education departments of National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Magnum, Royal Academy of Arts, The Photographers’ Gallery, Photofusion, Barbican Art Gallery, and community photography projects across the UK.

Noelle Flores Théard is senior digital photo editor at The New Yorker. She is also part-time faculty in photography at Parsons, and co-founder and the board chair of FotoKonbit, a non-profit organization created in 2010 to support Haitians in telling their own stories through photography. From 2016-2021, Noelle was program officer at Magnum Foundation, a non-profit that expands creativity and diversity in documentary photography. In addition to her day-to-day support of global fellows and grantees, she served as a juror for the Alexia Foundation, World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass, Overseas Press Club, Photoville, and the New Jersey Council of the Arts, and as a mentor in the Women Photograph program. She was a reviewer at the New York Times portfolio review, FotoFest Houston, the Bronx Documentary Center portfolio review, Chobi Mela in Bangladesh, and Photo Kathmandu. She also moderated public talks with photographers, which included Jamel Shabazz and Joseph Rodriguez at the Brooklyn Museum, Clayton Patterson at Overthrow, Alex Harsley and Eli Reed at the Magnum Foundation, and Devin Allen and Ruddy Roye at the Open Society Foundations.

Laia Abril is a multidisciplinary artist working with photography, text, video and sound in research-based projects. She is the author of Thinspiration (2012), The Epilogue (Dewi Lewis, 2014), Tediousphilia (Musée de l'Elysée, 2014), Lobismuller (RM, 2016) and collaborated as a creative editor in many publications as well as the staff of COLORS Magazine for 5 years. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in private collections and museums, such as the Centre Pompidou, Musée de l’Elysée, Fotomuseum Winterthur, FRAC, MNAC and FotoColectania. Her new long-term project A History of Misogyny has been granted with the 2016 Arles-Prix de la photo Madame Figaro, 2018 Visionary Award, the 2019 Magnum Foundation, 2020 FOAM Paul-Huf Award; and her book On Abortion won the 2018 Aperture-Paris Photo best book of the year and was a nominee of the Deutsche Börse Award. Abril is based in Barcelona and represented by the gallery Les Filles du Calvaire in Paris. Portrait credit: Mahala Nuuk

Shahidul Alam, Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018, is a photographer, writer and curator who has championed human rights throughout his career. Recipient of the Shilpakala Award, the highest national award given to Bangladeshi artists, Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. Returning to Dhaka in 1984, he produced his seminal work, documenting the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. A former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam’s work has been exhibited in leading galleries like MOMA, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tate Modern. A speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam is a visiting professor of Sunderland University and RMIT and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. He has chaired the international jury of World Press Photo. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine described his book “My journey as a witness” as “the most important book ever written by a photographer”. His book "The Tide Will Turn" was on the New York Times list of "Best Art Books of 2020". Alam is the founder of the Drik Picture Library, the Pathshala Media Institute, the Majority World Agency and the Chobi Mela festival of photography. He is also a new media pioneer and introduced email to Bangladesh in the early nineties. Considered a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ he was arrested in 2018 for criticising his government and spent 107 days in jail but was released on bail following a massive international campaign for his release. In 2020 Alam won the International Press Freedom Award conferred by the Committee to Protect Journalists. He is currently setting up a centre for investigative journalism in Bangladesh.

Robert Andy Coombs was born and raised in Michigan’s upper peninsula in a little town bordering Wisconsin. Being a closeted gay male in a conservative rural environment, Coombs couldn’t wait to leave his small town behind. He received a scholarship to Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids where he studied photography and started living authentically as a gay male. In 2009, during a trampoline training accident, Coombs landed on the back of his neck resulting in a spinal cord injury. After a short year at home, Coombs returned to KCAD in 2010 and completed his BFA in 2013. During those years disability and sexuality emerged as a main subject for him. He then went to study at the Yale University School of Art where he continued the exploration of disability and sexuality with a focus on documenting his intimate relationships with friends and lovers. After receiving his MFA in 2020, Coombs relocated to Miami Florida where he continues his photographic practice in the sun.

Dr Tiffany Fairey is a visual sociologist based as a Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.  She has worked for 20 years with participatory photography and media as a researcher, practitioner and educator.  Her current Leverhulme research project, Imaging Peace, explores the role of images and image-making in building peace and dialogue.  In recent years she has undertaken research on arts-based peacebuilding with Art & Reconciliation and Changing the Story.  Co-founder and director (1999-2009) of PhotoVoice, she has been involved in over 40 participatory photography, photovoice and digital media projects with communities and partners in the UK and internationally.    Fairey also works as an advisor for projects and oganisations working with participatory photography including Everyday Peace Indicators and Voice of Freedom.  Her work has been recognised with various awards including the Royal Photographic Society’s Hood Medal for outstanding advance in photography for public service (2010).

Julian Germain was born in London in 1962. He studied at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham and the Royal College of Art, London. As a photographic artist, Germain is interested in the documentation of diverse social groups and in the notion of the amateur. He often utilises vernacular photographs, collected from archives, catalogues and family albums, lending his work an anthropological quality and indeed it can be seen to reflect on photography’s place in society as well as recording the passage of time. His first book Steel Works (Why Not Publishing, 1990) considers the impact of post-industrialisation in a northeast English town; Babybabybaby (2005) is a collection of images of new-borns from 1906 to the present day; War Memorial (2008) presents photographs made by British soldiers and sailors over the last century and the exhibition and book Classroom Portraits (Prestel, 2012) features large format portraits of classes of schoolchildren from more than twenty countries around the world. Since 1995 he has been working alongside the Brazilian artists, Patricia Azevedo and Murilo Godoy on a number of co-operative photography projects with groups such as favela communities and street children, who produce the imagery and participate in its dissemination themselves. Proceeds from the book No Mundo Maravilhoso do Futebol (Basalt, 1998) financed the construction of a library and community centre and the No Olho da Rua collective has specialised in bringing imagery made by these marginalised groups directly to the public in the form of posters, newspapers and flyers displayed and distributed on the streets of the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. A series of 18 ‘zine publications from the extensive No Olho da Rua archive (accumulated over 25 years) is currently being released on an occasional basis by Mörel Books (2020-22). In 2014, Germain set up the Ashington District Star, a free local photographic newspaper for the ex-mining town of Ashington in NE UK, run with an editorial team of local people seeking to creatively explore their everyday surroundings.

Shannon Ghannam is the Global Education Director at Magnum Photos, responsible for the celebrated agency’s educational programming globally, including the online learning platform Magnum Learn Previously she managed Content Strategy and Development at Reuters, working to showcase on multiple platforms the agency’s multimedia content. Shannon has collaborated on numerous photographic books, international exhibitions and multimedia projects including the Emmy award winning photojournalism app Reuters The Wider Image. Shannon has worked in various roles during a 20 year career including Screen Labs, Night Contact photography and multimedia festival, Australian Associated Press (AAP), The Australian Photojournalist Journal, The National Archives of Australia as well as developing a year long collaborative portraiture project with refugee communities for the Australian Red Cross. She studied at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia where she graduated with First Class Honours in Photography.

Tanya Habjouqa is a photojournalist, artist, educator, and member of NOOR Images photo agency. She is trained in anthropology and journalism (MA: Global Media, SOAS, London). Tanya’s approach to visual storytelling fuses a mordant sense of irony with unstinting, forensic interrogations of the implications of geopolitical conflict on human lives. Largely focusing on the Middle East, Tanya’s work on Israel-Palestine in particular has been cited as a powerful investigation of the cross-currents of religion, politics, economics, and cultural production. Her project Occupied Pleasures received critical acclaim from Time Magazine and Smithsonian and the project won a World Press Photo award. A leading advocate for new methods in photojournalism and documentary practice, Tanya is the co-founder of the Middle East visual storyteller organization Ruwa, and is a mentor in the Arab Photography Documentary Program, providing marginalized narratives and narrative-creators with the space and skills to tell their stories.

Agata Kay is a trained dancer and physical theatre performer. She studied theology and philosophy at King’s Collage London as well as Art History at The New School. Between 2015 and 2018 she staged over 40 unique guérilla performances performances in underground spaces in London, Paris, Berlin and Lyon, solo or with a drag collective House of Health that she co-founded. She took a break from her performance practice after recognizing it as too self destructive and violent. She is a protagonist of a documentary-fiction film TRIP by Lesly Lynch and Geoffrey Cochard, that explores Parisian queer party scene. She collaborated with many photographers, but most extensively with Bieke Depoorter, contributing large portion of her writings to the project.

Kristen Lubben is a curator, writer and editor whose work explores the intersections of photography, art and politics. Prior to joining the Magnum Foundation as its first Executive Director in 2016, she was Curator at the International Center of Photography in New York. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including triennials of contemporary photography and video, monographic surveys of socially engaged artists, and installations drawn from her research in historical archives, including the ICP’s collections of the work of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. She is the author of several publications, including Magnum Contact Sheets and Susan Meiselas: In History.

Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer and member of Magnum Photos since 1976. She is the author of Carnival Strippers, Nicaragua, Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Pandora’s Box, Encounters with the Dani and A Room of Their Own. She has co-edited two collections: El Salvador, Work of 30 Photographers and Chile from Within. Meiselas is well known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Her photographs are included in American and international collections. She is presently the President of the Magnum Foundation. The Magnum Foundation supports, trains, and mentors the next generation of in-depth documentary photographers and seeks to increase the impact of both historical and contemporary photography. 

Dr Mark Sealy, Executive Director of Autograph ABP (1991) and Principal Research Fellow: Decolonising Photography at University of the Arts London (University Arts London). Sealy is interested in the relationship between photography and social change, identity politics, race, and human rights. He has written for many of the world’s leading photographic journals, produced numerous artist publications, curated exhibitions, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide. Headshot photo credit to Steve Pyke.

Mark Strandquist (he/him) has spent over a decade using art to amplify, celebrate, and power social justice movements. The immersive exhibitions, interactive photo-based public art, and multimedia projects he directs have helped advocates close a youth prison, pass laws, train police officers, and connect the dreams and demands of communities impacted by the criminal justice system with tens of thousands of people. His work has been exhibited in museums, galleries, and universities, as well as through parades, church-basement legal clinics, and illegal wheatpaste installations. He has received multiple awards, fellowships, national residencies, and reached wide audiences through the NY Times, the Guardian, NPR, the Washington Post, PBS, BBC, VICE, and many others. He founded, and currently co-directs the Performing Statistics project in Richmond, VA, and, through fellowships from A Blade of Grass and Open Societies, co-directs the People’s Paper Co-op and Reentry Think Tank with his partner Courtney Bowles. In response to the Covid19 public health crisis, he founded Fill the Walls With Hope, Rage, Resources and Dreams, which installed thousands of posters on boarded up buildings across Philadelphia, and co-directed the People's Paper Co-op's campaign to use art to bail out Black mothers and caregivers (raising over $160,000 in art sales).

Pauline Vermare is the cultural director of Magnum Photos, New York. She was formerly a curator at the International Center of Photography (ICP), The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris. Pauline holds a Masters in Japanese from Langues' O, a Masters in Art History from the Sorbonne, and a Masters in International Relations from Sciences Po. She is currently finalizing a Ph.D. on the visual representation of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. She sits on the boards of the Saul Leiter Foundation and of the Catherine Leroy Fund.

Laura Wexler writes about intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and nation within the photographic cultures of the United States.  She holds a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and has taught at Amherst College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Peiking University. She is currently Professor of American studies, film and media studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Yale.  She is the author of Tender Violence:  Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism (Kelley Memorial Prize, AHA), coauthor of Pregnant Pictures, coeditor of Interpretation and the Holocaust, and The Puritan Imagination in Nineteenth Century America, as well as many essays, book chapters, and exhibitions, including most recently work on Roland Barthes and Keiji Nakazawa and on the photographs of Pablo Delano, Frederick Douglass, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jim Goldberg, Lorie Novak, Roman Vishniac, Jo Ann Walters, and Donovan Wylie.  She is also founding director of the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale, a founding member of the steering committee of the Feminist Technology Network (FemTechNet) and a member of the Photogrammar Project, which has received NEH and ACLS support to make a web-based interactive research system for visualizing the more than 170,00 photographs created by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information between 1935-1945.  Currently she is completing a collaborative project entitled Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography, along with Magnum photographers Susan Meiselas, Wendy Ewald, and photography historians Ariella Azoulay (Brown) and Leigh Raiford (Berkeley), viewing the history of photography as conveyed in a collection of over 120 collaborative projects viewed through the lens of collaboration. 

Get Magnum news and updates directly to your inbox

Stay in touch
Stay up to date every Thursday with Magnum photographers’ activities, new work, stories published on the Magnum website, and the latest offerings from our shop.
Be the first to know about recent Magnum Shop drops. From new books and limited editions, to special offers, you can find it all on the weekly Magnum Shop newsletter.
Get fortnightly tips and advice articles, find out about the latest workshops, free online events and on-demand courses.
Learn about online and offline exhibitions, photography fairs, gallery events, plus fine print news and activities, on a monthly basis.
Know when our quarterly 7-day square print sale is coming.
Monthly updates on the latest assignments, photographer projects and collaborations with brands.