Shake-up at Magnum Photos

A man looking at photos in an exhibition of the 70th anniversary of photo agency Magnum, which runs until Sept 3 at the International Center of Photography in New York.
A man looking at photos in an exhibition of the 70th anniversary of photo agency Magnum, which runs until Sept 3 at the International Center of Photography in New York. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • Magnum Photos, the legendary agency set up by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, is undergoing a shake-up and seeking private investors for the first time.

The cooperative set up after World War II quickly became home to some of the world's greatest photographers, including Ansel Adams, Eve Arnold, Don McCullin, Sebastiao Salgado and Steve McCurry.

But now, with trillions of photographs being taken every year, everyone has become a photographer, said Magnum's managing director David Kogan.

"The market has completely changed in the last 30 years," he said on Tuesday. "Newspapers that spent a lot on photos are no longer spending that money. So we have to invest in new projects and to think of the future."

Magnum, with offices in New York, London and Tokyo and Paris, has been forced into a historic overhaul, bringing in private investors for the first time, he said.

German-born media investor Nicole Junkermann, who co-founded the online gaming portal Winamax, and Norwegian Jorg Mohaupt, who sits on the board of Warner Music and streaming service Deezer, have loaned the agency money and are creating a new subsidiary called Magnum Global Ventures to manage its assets.

Mr Kogan insisted that the deal "aims to correct certain historic weaknesses at Magnum without losing its soul".

He said Magnum would still be the majority shareholder in the new company, which he added would quickly turn a profit for the agency, which has long been in the red.

As part of the plans, Magnum's 92 photographers will still control their copyright and the admission of new members.

The digital side of the business already accounts for 27 per cent of its income, mainly through the sale of prints, said Mr Kogan.

Magnum now hopes to expand into online photography courses and develop a new website to better mine its archive of more than 600,000 images.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


Correction note: This story has been updated with a clarification from AFP over Nicole Junkermann's business background.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Shake-up at Magnum Photos'. Print Edition | Subscribe