Magnum Photos Promises More Investigations in Response to Harrowing Exposé

Magnum Photos has continued to come under fire for its response to allegations of the treatment of women by one of its photographers, David Alan Harvey. Today the organization published a letter, promising to reveal its Code of Conduct and perform further investigation into allegations.

On December 21, 2020, The Columbia Journalism Review published a deep-dive exposé into Magnum Photos. Magnum had suspended Harvey from the organization for one year over what it cites as one anonymous case, a suspension that some viewed as lenient. But the piece argues that despite attempts to appear as a leader in the #MeToo movement by adding more female photographers and choosing women as both president and CEO, multiple accounts from women describe inappropriate behavior from David Alan Harvey over a span of 13 years.

The Columbia Journalism Review lays out multiple on-the-record cases of Harvey’s inappropriate behavior. That report cites distinct examples of harrowing behavior that caused irreparable damage to multiple women.

In response, Magnum today released a statement promising to do more.

Today we are opening a new independent investigation into the allegations of inappropriate conduct by David Alan Harvey made recently in the Columbia Journalism Review. This will be carried out externally and independently by Susie Al-Qassab, a partner at UK law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA).

We recognise that making a report takes courage and we promise that all accounts will be dealt with sensitively and confidentially. The investigation offers a safe space that is independent from Magnum and no information will be passed to us without the consent of the person who reports it. Out of consideration for those involved, we would like to progress quickly, and so respectfully ask those who wish to come forward to consider doing so by the end of the month.

In a full turnaround from previous statements, Magnum has now promised it will publish its code of conduct.

As we strive to improve, we realise that being more transparent about our processes is a key part of building confidence in Magnum. We will therefore be publishing Magnum’s code of conduct in the coming weeks. We understand now that not making this available last year contributed to some people’s reluctance to come forward, and we are sorry for not realising this sooner.

We also have plans to publish a new child safeguarding policy this year alongside a statement that sets out Magnum’s values in a new ethical code. Whilst our photographers practice independently and their work is diverse, there are standards and values to which we collectively aspire and that we would like to publicly commit to.

This has been a difficult and upsetting time for women in the photography industry, and for all those involved in Magnum. We are fully committed to supporting a full and independent investigation, and to seeing through whatever changes are needed to create a new welcoming and inclusive culture for all those who work for and with Magnum.

You can read Magnum’s full letter here along with The Columbia Journalism Review’s detailed report here.

Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members that has existed for more than 70 years. Magnum says that its photographers have documented most of the world’s major events and personalities since the 1930s, and that “Magnum photographers are a rarity and the agency is self-selecting; membership is a minimum four-year process and is considered the finest accolade of a photographer’s career.”