Olivia Arthur – now can we talk about Magnum Photos and child abuse?

Warning: This post contains distressing details of images centered on child sexual abuse, as well as sexual violence against women.  Images that are potentially indecent were reported to the relevant authorities in 2020.  Images have been altered by me to protect the identity of any children featured in them. The post that follows is addressed to Olivia Arthur.  As President of Magnum Photos (since 2020) she is responsible for enforcing the agency’s code of conduct.

To put the post in context:

In 2017 Magnum photos ran a photo competition marketed on Facebook with a Souvid Datta photo of an Indian child allegedly being raped. The fall out was intense when the industry woke up to find that outside of photojournalism only sex offenders think men with cameras setting up photos of children being raped is anything to celebrate.

Two men decided to take action. Robert Godden (Rights Exposure, formerly Amnesty) and Jason Tanner (Human Rights For Journalism) started a campaign to introduce some very basic child protection standards in the industry.

‘Even a cursory look at photographic work produced over the last five years will turn up at least half a dozen examples of work where children have arguably been exploited, put at risk, and/or child protection laws may have been broken. Where is the clear, unequivocal and guiding response from leaders in the industry, both condemning such images and providing leadership in fostering change? Can we say with confidence that we even know how to spot photos that are problematic and require further inquiry?’ Robert Godden – Witness (World Press Photo)

Magnum photos was one of the few agencies to respond:

“The protection of vulnerable and abused children is of paramount importance to Magnum Photos…the agency is taking the time to consider how these recommendations guide the production of work, and apply to our archive, our new publishing initiatives … Magnum staff and photographers will continue to discuss these topics over the coming weeks and months, examining each part of the business in turn, to ensure we shine a light on concerned areas.” Fiona Rogers, Magnum Photos

That’s the spin.

Here’s the truth.

Hello Olivia,

It’s over five months since I first raised the fact that Magnum Photos was seeking to profit from outing children as survivors of sexual abuse. I did that because I’d sat in a room at Interpol’s head office in Lyon interviewing one of the world’s leading experts in online child abuse.

He told me that what worried him most is the normalization of child abuse. I came home, opened your archive and there it was.

The normalization of child abuse.

Anything goes. For-profit. Just package it as ‘photojournalism’. And sell.

I took screengrabs. Sat at my computer. Tweeted.

(tweet August 3rd 2020)

The journalist Andy Day saw my tweet and started to investigate your agency the next day. He pulled up the Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey’s Thai ‘child prostitute’ photos and started to write:

‘The archive of Magnum Photos features numerous photographs of child sex workers, many of whom were photographed without their knowledge. Several of these photographs are sexually explicit, featuring nudity and encounters with clients. These images may constitute acts of child sexual abuse.’ Andy Day/ Fstoppers

Within days you issued a statement promising an internal review and the archive was taken down (for two weeks) as you scrambled to contain growing anger that it contained large numbers of images where, to quote Godden ‘children have arguably been exploited, put at risk, and/or child protection laws may have been broken’.

That’s over five months ago now. You claimed you’d be cleaning up the Magnum house. Some believed your sincerity. Others didn’t. Especially those that noted two words were missing from that statement and all the other statements you’ve written since then:

Child abuse’

I want to talk about that because as you know it goes a lot further than David Alan Harvey, the only photographer Magnum has made any public comment about.  In this post, I write about Chris Steele Perkins, Antoine d’Agata, Martin Parr, Cristina de Middel, Stuart Franklin, Larry Towell,  Paolo Pellegrin and Patrick Zachmann. But Harvey first.

1: David Alan Harvey

Shortly after I first wrote to you last year the Guardian reported that Harvey was suspended for allegedly harassing a colleague. According to the article, Magnum would not be representing him during his suspension.  Except Magnum continued to defend Harvey against the earlier allegation that he shot numerous naked or semi-naked Thai children, in hotel rooms, for sale on a Magnum gallery title ‘Bangkok Prostitutes’.

The following week Magnum wrote to the journalist Andy Day:

 

Your spokesperson went on to write:

‘It seems that at some point mistagging of these photos has led you to a mistaken conclusion that they represent something they do not.

None of the photos were tagged or keyworded by Magnum Photos ‘dancer’ or ‘bar worker’.

As I wrote in an email to Harvey on August 23rd:

‘You should be able to prove they are not children. Instead, Magnum’s crisis comms people are putting out some bullshit the semi-naked ‘teen’ in your room (presume it was your hotel room) is just a ‘bartender’ or ‘dancer’ and not a ‘teenage’ ‘prostitute’. Despite the gallery saying she is. I mean FFS you can do better than that? Or did they just make that up?’

He didn’t respond.

I guess he was just sticking to his side of the Magnum Code Of Conduct you are responsible for enforcing (the original one that you repeatedly refused to publish): silence.

Despite suspending Harvey you didn’t actually stop selling his work. His ‘child prostitute’ images continued to be marketed ‘for immediate download’ on your partner photo licensing websites, including the Polish site PhotoPower:

It didn’t stop there.

In August you told the Guardian

we have been alerted to historical material in our archive that is problematic … and we are taking this extremely seriously‘.

So seriously infact that some eighty days after it was first reported you’d suspended Harvey the Thai photos were still on sale on your partner ANP’s website (Netherlands largest news agency).

Did you come to the conclusion that the lesser of two evils is that these are not kids being sold on your archive as ‘prostitutes’ but adult Thai bartenders who Magnum have been falsely labeling ‘child prostitutes’?

At the same time you are making this absurd claim, Magnum Photos continued to market the images tagged ‘teenager’ and ‘prostitute’ across multiple photo licensing sites.  Photos returned under the search ‘child prostitute’ one of which is still featured on a news website photo gallery (Slate) captioned ‘prostitute’.

At some point your CEO Caitlyn Hughes must have realised that even the most deluded of Magnum fanboys was not going to buy this defence.

According to Kristen Chick’s  Columbia Journalism Reviews investigation into Harvey, Hughes states that Magnum is infact ‘still trying to determine whether the subjects of the photos were minors when they were photographed and how the photos were tagged.’

After over five months in which you’ve hired three sets of lawyers and a crisis comms firm it’s really hard to believe that in any meaningful sense these photos are still under ‘investigation’.

Again, the lesser of two evils. Magnum’s incompetency over any real transparency.

Once your lawyers told you that there weren’t the grounds to kick Harvey out of Magnum, because no woman external to Magnum would trust your ‘investigation’ enough to speak with you,  did a twelve-month suspension make for an acceptable trade-off for both parties?

Let’s just blame it on some tagging system that no-one at Magnum can explain. One in which naked little girls (not yours mind) got tagged ‘vulva’ and ‘vagina’ and ‘prostitute’.

And that would have been it, wouldn’t it, if it wasn’t for Kristen Chick’s investigation, in which 11 women accused Harvey of abusing his power.  At that point,  you had no choice but to throw him under a bus that probably should have run him over when the Thai ‘child prostitute’ photos were first uploaded to your server.

And that’s the point. Magnum didn’t. The agency you front doubled down and cashed in on Harvey’s exploitation of kids. For profit. For decades.

Here’s how Magnum’s Global Education Director advertised a  Magnum workshop with Harvey on Facebook in February 2017:

”We are taking over a little loft in London Fields for an intensive portfolio review session and general good times with the one and only David Alan Harvey! Look out London!’

 

Just to put that into perspective I first heard of Harvey’s reputation as a sexual predator ten years ago. Because someone openly called him one on Twitter.  So it can come as no surprise to you that one of the women who went looking for mentorship from a Magnum photog and allegedly ended up with a man fifty years older masturbating on skype, has this to say about your agency:

2: Chris Steele-Perkins

In your statement, you wrote, ‘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‘.

Well let’s set the context to a Chris Steele-Perkins photo that Martin Parr and Cristina de Middel included in the La Fabrica published book ‘Players: Magnum Photogs Come Out To Play‘.

At eleven I was offered a place at the (fee paying) independent school Trent College under Thatcher’s Assisted Place Scheme.

One of the first lessons we learned was the junior maths teacher’s nickname: Paedo.

Like many Public schools, Trent had its own swimming pool. Paedo wasn’t just a maths teacher he also took the junior boys for swimming lessons and ran an after-school swimming club.   Only for the youngest most pre-pubescent of boys.

That’s where he got his nickname.

As new kids we were warned that he liked the boys to swim naked.  He claimed to be a ‘naturist’. And would watch boys in the showers and linger in the changing room.  He had a house just across the road from the school.  We were warned never to go there. I have an image of his wooden gate fixed in my mind.

Paedo wasn’t the only one Olivia. There was Mr O’Gorman, my chemistry teacher, who took boys on weekend barge trips.  And Mr Edmonds. I still remember his fat, red grinning face, trying to charm you into coming up the stairs to his flat for an alcoholic drink.

There were others.

I’ll not forget the day in 1988 when we were called into an all-school assembly. The headteacher telling us that the school was going to be in the papers.  No details of why. But what we really needed to know is that under no circumstances should we talk to a journalist if they approached us.  That was it.

No ‘sorry’ we allowed pedophiles to go on and teach and abuse at other schools.

No defining what inappropriate teacher behavior might be and please come and talk in confidence if anything remotely concerning has happened to you.

No offer of help for any child that might have been affected.  Which when you take into account the number of boys being made to strip, swim naked, shower in front of pedophiles, raped on barge trips, sexually assaulted in studies, plied alcohol and raped in school living quarters and sexually assaulted in music lessons, taught me a lot about how institutions act when they are caught harboring child abusers. They cover up Olivia, unless they are brought kicking and screaming to the truth. Sound familiar? Which is where actual journalism has such a profoundly important role to play.

O’Gorman and Mr Edmonds (who’d been quietly moved on from Trent with a reference) were sent down for multiple accounts of buggery(rape). Paedo and a number of other teachers just disappeared.

Nothing was ever said about it again but years later the school is still being sued. And kids turned adults wake up with night sweats.

In stories of child abuse time and time again the swimming pool and showers/bathrooms come up.  The current Independent Inquiry Into Child Abuse has started to tell some of those heartbreaking stories:

‘Steven relates how the first-year students were placed in dormitories and were looked after by a kind priest. However, this priest would occasionally be away from the school, and a more elderly, unfriendly priest, Father Eamon, would take his place.

On one occasion, Steven went to one of the dormitory bathrooms and found Father Eamon waiting for him. The priest sat on the edge of the bath and insisted that Steven undress and bathe in front of him. Steven says he felt very uncomfortable, but never told anyone about it.

Father Eamon behaved in a similar way to other pupils in the school. He was always there early in the morning when the boys were showering or swimming and he would insist that the boys swam naked.’

One of the activities that the inquiry defines as sexual abuse is ‘grooming a child in preparation for abuse’.

At some point in 1974, Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins arranged access to shoot boys in the swimming pool at the City Of London School for boys. Boys whose parents paid for them to be looked after and almost certainly had no idea what was going on.

I first came across the photo on the La Fabrica website where it was being used to promote the book  Players: Magnum Photogs Come Out To Play.

It is a picture of grooming. Child sexual abuse. An extraordinary record.  Martin Parr, if not Middel should have known this. Neither cared to ask what is going on in this picture. Or the devastating impact as an adult that coming across the photo might have.

 

 

The photo was also for sale on the Magnum archive and third-party websites right up until I started to ask questions about it publicly.  After which it was taken down alongside Parr and Middel’s names being mysteriously removed from the page selling the book. I asked La Fabrica why their names had been removed at which point the page was mysteriously deleted and a new one created with the name of the book changed and Parr and Middel restored as editors.

This is typical. Take down the photos and publicly pretend like it never happened.  Except of course it did.  Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins did go to a London school to take a picture of naked boys swimming (no other photo from the school is to be found online).

It gets worse. And worse again.

At some time in the late sixties a man called Alan Doggett went to teach at the school. Doggett was likely one of the UK’s most prolific child abusers. He was previously choirmaster at the notorious school St Pauls from where he was asked to leave for abusing children and his activities hushed up.

Doggett ended up at the City of London School where it’s believed that he was involved in coaching water sports.  And in 1978 he killed himself as a result of being charged with sexual assault against a child (unrelated to his time at the City Of London School). He never faced justice.

Last year I was contacted by a man who saw my tweets. He went to a very similar school around the same time this photo was taken.  I sent him the photo. He knew exactly what it was and wrote this to me (used with permission):

This photograph depicts exactly the conditions I myself experienced, through which abusers in teaching positions groomed boys into thinking sexual exploitation was part and parcel of the violent culture of British public schools, from collective public nudity to targeted sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse.

In the book the photo is juxtaposed with a beautiful Christina Garcia Rodero photo of young kids playing at the beach (one of them naked). The effect achieved by Parr and Middel in putting the two scenes together is to normalize what went on at the swimming pool.

Now read the words used to market the book and apply this to Chris Steele-Perkins actions:

In order to go beyond the rules and the veneration that have characterised the development of photography since its beginnings, it is necessary to transgress, to invent, to play and to flirt with freedom … there are always authors, especially in the newer generations, who break the rules without vindications, just out of curiosity, seeking to have and portray fun.

Child abuse packaged and sold for profit as ‘fun’.

I wrote to La Fabrica’s publishing director Camino Brasa to ask her to explain how the photo came to be published (letter here).  She did not respond. Neither Parr nor Middel responded to my tweets. Middel did, alongside over 600 industry professionals, sign the recent industry statement ‘calling for collective accountability against sexual harassment in photography‘ which includes these important words:

Magnum Photos must take full responsibility for addressing all ethical issues with regards to the conduct of their member/s, as well as the institutional practices that have raised alarming concerns about exploitation of minors.  Both these matters require an equal measure of urgency as they reflect deep- rooted and systemic inequalities of power which can create the conditions that facilitate abuse.

It’s disappointing that Middel has remained silent in relation to the photo. If she’s sincere in signing the statement she should publicly address how the image was added to the book and what action she took when she became aware of the context of the photo.

On the 20th August Steele-Perkins gave an online talk hosted by the Royal Photographic Society, just three days after you took your archive offline because of alleged images of child sexual abuse.  His talk, in part,  related to images of African children taken on assignment for Human Rights Watch. When questions were invited from the audience I wrote:

Massive Fan of your work Chris. Love these pics. Please can you comment on Magnum selling on your archive large numbers of identifiable photos of children who are survivors of sexual abuse (a crime in the UK). Including photos taken by yourself tagged ‘prostitute’, which led to Magnum’s archive being taken offline. This is a huge concern to many of us in the photo community and it’s a question Magnum photogs seem to be dodging. There’s lots of children in these pictures and child protection is a important concern. THANK YOU.

In your statement a few days earlier you said ‘we at Magnum always welcome the scrutiny and feedback of the public.’

Maybe not so much Chris Steele-Perkins.   He remained silent.

 

Sadly the story of this photo doesn’t end there.

A google image search of the photo returned just two websites.

One is Magnum. The other is called BL-LIT.

‘BL stands for boylove … The depiction of underage nudity makes the website controversial for some, even though the whole content is purely art’.

I sent the link to an online child abuse investigator at Interpol. He told me that it was just on the right side of legal, hiding behind ‘art’, but the clientele was clear. The website features hundreds of galleries of prepubescent boys by the great and good of the photography world.  Lined up in alphabetical order from Diane Arbus to Weegee and everyone in between.

It also features a links out page to what I can only presume are sites for pedophiles (I wasn’t going to click).  Including ‘Pederasty Wiki’ and ‘BoyLinks – The Internet’s most comprehensive listing of boy related and boylove websites’. It’s exactly as the investigator described. Normalized child abuse.  Two clicks from a google image search of a Magnum photo.

There’s a gallery of boys shot by Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson. One photo, in particular, stands out. His son lying face down and naked on a bed.

I right clicked to image search the photo and this was how google read the image: ‘erotic’.

And so do pedophiles.

In an interview on American Suburban X  Anderson commented on the photo:

I’m constantly conflicted and still conflicted about showing pictures of my son at all, that maybe later he will resent … There is one photograph in particular of my son naked, seen from the back, and it is a picture I made when he was quite young, but because of the angle and somehow his physique, he looks older than he really is. I never thought of it as being controversial until other people started pointing it out … And some times I wonder: “have I pimped my kid out ? Or am I profiting from my child’s young flesh in a way?”

It’s well worth reading the full interview where he talks about discussing consent with his children (which in the case of at least one photo he admits he overruled), but no-one should be in any doubt where his son’s image ended up. A collectible on the hard drives of  likely hundreds of thousands of pedophiles.

That’s not a conversation I would ever want to have with one of my children after they google image search a naked photo of themselves and find out I’d allowed them to become an object of desire and there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it if they later feel violated.

It’s artists that are supposed to suffer for their art. Not their kids.

And certainly not other people’s kids.

I hope this acts as a wake-up call to you and your agency. But you’re so in love with the cover you afford yourselves as ‘elite storytellers’; I highly doubt it.

3: Antoine d’Agata 

Magnum photographer Antoine d’Agata is celebrated for his dehumanization of women.   The more dehumanized the better. Apparently, it sells. Workshops. Prints. Books.

I found the following photos after searching the word ‘rape’ on the Magnum archive.

What is this? Male rape fantasies for the art buyer that can afford more than pornhub? What is it that the men in Magnum who voted d’Agata into the agency like about photos that dehumanize women and are tagged rape?

‘There is a strong undercurrent in Magnum culture that worships the male photographer who is into sex/drugs/sex-workers/bragging about conquests’.  Dr. Alice Driver

In a 2012 filmed interview d’Agata says:

‘there is something in Cambodia that is very, very far from any morality. Let’s say it is in those extremes I’d like to continue my work. To see if there are still limits for me’.

Sleeping with sex workers is not far from morality. It’s the norm for more than a few foreigners who head to Cambodia. And drugged up artists are a ten a penny cliche.

And there’s the photo below.

Are these naked kids Olivia? They look like kids to me.

I’ve been raising that question since August 22nd.  It’s straight forward and I can’t understand why an organization founded on journalism would dodge such a question?

Looking at this photo has anyone at Magnum considered that d’Agata, camera in or out of hand, might be a danger to children? Because your silence on this matter is not building confidence. And there should no silence permitted on matters of child protection.

4. Stuart Franklin

In 2016 Magnum Photos ran a photo competition with the website Lensculture.  The jury was made up of Martin Parr, David Alan Harvey, Newsha Tavakolian and David Kogan from Magnum, plus Stacey Baker (New York Times),  Amy Pereira (then MSNBC)  and Jim Casper (Editor Lensculture).

For the winner of the Photojournalism prize, they picked Sandra Hoyn’s series The Longing of the Others which focused on the lives of sex workers in Bangladesh. One of the photos shows a man lying on top of a child who looks visibly distressed.  The man’s identity is conveniently hidden.

According to Hoyn the girl is fifteen. She described the scene of the photo in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine:

Sometimes I felt very bad to be taking pictures. But I always had to remind myself that I am a photojournalist … Taking portraits of Pakhi, a 15-year-old girl, together with a customer she didn’t like at all was a bad experience. She is like a friend to me. It felt like I was abusing her when I took those pictures. But I forced myself to do it, it wouldn’t be real if I didn’t show it. Her customer came in a group of five men who all wanted to have sex with her one after another. This was horrible.

In Bangladeshi law a child cannot consent to paid sex with an adult. Hoyn is describing a gang rape.  And furthermore arranging to be in the room she is party to that rape.

An Interpol investigator told me that ‘journalism’ is no defense, ‘the moment you take a photo of a child being raped you have committed a crime’.

In the UK it a crime to identify any child who is a survivor of sexual assault.

If these photos had been taken in the UK,  where child sexual abuse is a growing epidemic and children of 15 can be bought, then Hoyn would likely have been arrested and gone onto the child sex offenders register.

When she writes ‘it felt like I was abusing her’ that’s because she was.

The series also features a second child (14) visibly distressed with a rapist’s arms around her. Hoyn describes her as a ‘sex worker’:  the normalization of rape as ‘work’ for children. The jurists of the prize loved it. Magnum’s Stuart Franklin work led the way.

In 2005 he traveled to Niger to take photographs of slaves. This is how he captioned one of the photos:

‘Memouna (14), a slave, with her one and a half-year-old daughter Safia conceived whilst working as a prostitute’.

Can you image Franklin, who is white British, taking a photo of a fully identifiable 14 year old British girl, who has been traded and raped into motherhood and captioning her a ‘working prostitute’? Then uploading the photo to your website for free download and permission to share on social with the Magnum Photos logo?

Can you imagine Olivia a photographer doing that to one of your daughters or one of my boys? Rape described as ‘work’ for a child.  Horrific.

That anger you are feeling towards me right now for daring to ask this question of you and others is because as a parent you know this is child abuse. And the only thing protecting our kids from a photographer like Franklin and the rest of the creepy guys you share an agency with is that we are both white and well spoken.  Ask the girls of Rotherham.

Franklin responded to my tweet by blocking me.  However, the photo was taken off the Magnum archive after I flagged it. But as of today images of Mounna, captioned ‘working prostitute’ are still for sale on a third party websites three and half years after Magnum claimed child protection was of ‘paramount importance’.

If anyone reading this is still wondering why so many photographers want to shoot children being abused it’s because your agency Magnum made it profitable. You celebrate it. And you have a history of encouraging others to do it.

Hoyn’s photos went on to be awarded prizes in at least 15 other photo competitions. 15.

Is it any wonder that the following year the Magnum/Lensculture competition was advertised on Facebook with the Souvid Datta photo of another South Asian child allegedly being raped?

The market knows it’s audience. The more dehumanising the images the better.

It was only after I and a very small number of other people went to war over the Datta and Hoyn images that organizations like Lensculture were shamed into taking them down. Up until that point it was just award-winning ‘journalism’.

Photojournalism at its worst is a self-celebrating child abuse factory with Magnum photos greasing the cogs.

5: Larry Towell and Paolo Pellegrin

In a former life I set up and helped run a health project for young people in Ethiopia, focused on sexual and reproductive health. Young women and men would tell their stories on the radio of love and loss. Some of the most painful imaginable. Early marriage, FGM, HIV, not being able to be with the boy or girl you love. Dreams spoken and dreams crushed.

On average we’d get a 100 letters a day from young people with questions for Hanna, our agony aunt. We told the stories of many HIV positive children. But one thing we never did, for their own safety, was identify them, even if they’d wanted us to. The consequences can be fatal.

How many fully identifiable children has Magnum Photos outed as HIV positive on your website and others?   Too many for me to count.

Young children who cannot consent, packaged by Magnum as victims and sold like you are doing the world some kind of heroic favor.  Some kids so young that they probably neither knew nor could have understood their status. Objects.

In my very first tweet about your archive last year I included a Larry Towell photo taken in a Lima slum in 2006 (the same year I was working in Ethiopia).

The photo shows a young and extremely vulnerable child sat in the corner of a room and was keyworded ‘prostitution’ and ‘HIV’ on the Magnum archive. On other sites it was keyworded ‘caucasian beauty’ ‘sick’ ‘premium product’.

The caption outs the child as HIV postive.

Even after your statement, you continued to sell this image across at least three different sites until my November 11 tweet when I shamed you into taking it down.

My comments about this on twitter  last November stand true:

@larrytowell1 knows he could not do this in Canada. And since he has often shot his own children he must have an understanding that a photo of you being sold all around the web, taken by a man you met for a moment, who did not speak your language, revealing your HIV status, tagging the photo ‘prostitute’, is exploitation.

And can only happen because he has power and you don’t.

This is a serious child protection issue.

Instead of @MagnumPhotos hiding behind a crisis comms firm, who let’s face it you only bring in when you want to hide something, their photogs like @larrytowell1 who are committing (imho) a  form of child abuse should stop behaving like cowards.

Those of them that have some decency should start to have a proper and open conversation about these issues. Not just delete the photos on one site, keep selling them on others and hope they go away.

If @MagnumPhotos and their photogs collectively had any understanding of child protection these pics would have come down on August 7th. The day after I alerted them. Every day since then is just a finger up to the children in the photos they are exploiting.

Then there’s  Paolo Pellegrin walking around a Romanian hospital, stepping in and out of rooms,  taking fully identifiable photos of very young HIV positive kids, some who appear to be disturbed and frightened by his presence. I guess if you know the work of Pellegrin nothing about this is surprising. Magnum’s master of punching down. It’s exactly that gaze that photo editors like Kathy Ryan rave about.

Amongst the tags included on the photos of HIV positive children was ‘venereal disease’.

After my tweets you silently took the images down. And said nothing.

6.  Really Not An ‘Historical’ Problem

Last August, when the Magnum archive was temporarily taken offline, you wrote ‘we have also been alerted to historical material in our archive that is problematic in terms of imagery, captioning or keywording,’ That’s true but what you left out is that the problem isn’t ‘historical’.

This photo, which I found on your archive this year, is titled ‘Trophy’. It was taken by Magnum photographer  Sohrab Hura in 2018; returned under the search term ‘rape’ and also tagged ‘rape’. So not in any way ‘historical’.

I had the most surreal conversation with Hura in which he told me he had no idea how his photo was tagged ‘rape’ because this is actually a photo of three of his male friends messing around.

He also told me that no-one at Magnum would explain to him how his photo was tagged ‘rape’.

I have had other conversations with Magnum photogs and staff who confirmed this and tell me that essentially the archive is broken. It’s been tagged on the cheap and there has been no real quality control.  It’s a cultural issue in the agency where photographers are marketed as ‘elite storytellers’ and don’t have to take responsibility for how Magnum is selling their work.  And where Magnum looks to package the images in as many ways as they can turn a profit. Irrespective of basic journalistic integrity.

Magnum shows no respect for the people in the pics.  It’s bad enough when there are so many vulnerable adults but when it’s vulnerable kids that’s an urgent child protection issue.

And if you needed proof of that take a look at Patrick Zachmann.

7: Patrick Zachmann

It’s a child, sucking on a bottle. Naked from the waist down. Playing with his penis. Which is erect. And until Fstoppers pointed the photo out Magnum were completely happy to sell it on their archive. (I’m not going to show the image, even modified for decency, but it can be seen on Day’s article).

Olivia, what kind of person takes a photo like this to try and sell? And what kind of organization tries to sell it? And who buys it?

Silence. Deafening. Again.

Let’s finish where we started. With an abuser in Thailand.

‘A young girl with her client in a hotel; he’s charged $12’.  Tagged ‘Children’s work’ ‘Prostitute’ ‘Teenager’.

In other words. Come to Thailand. You can rape a young girl. For very little money. And don’t worry it’s not you the ‘journalist’ will be pointing the camera at. Not you he will be looking to profit from and expose.

The girl in this photo, if she’s alive, is probably the same age as you Olivia. Forced into sex work.

Did she get extra for Zachmann to be in the room? And other deeply troubling questions. None of which you will answer.

Another series.

Zachmann is taking photos on a Thai beach when the police swoop and arrest ‘prostitutes’.  Except they are not prostitutes. They are young boys, who have been forced into a life of being raped by foreigners.

Zachmann takes their photos, even as they are crying, even as they are trying to hide from the camera. And he keeps going. Even as they are taken to the police station.

One form of child abuse, on top of another, on top of another. At the end of the chain of abusers. Seeking to profit. In plain view. Magnum Photos.

In the photo below the boy, you are trying to sell to the world as a ‘prostitute’, is crying. It’s heartbreaking.

And here is where the photos of kids being paid to be raped by foreigners and packaged and sold as ‘prostitutes’ by Magnum ended up.  A ‘gay’ fetish xxx website. Google images returning the two side by side.

8: The future

In an interview given to Tom Seymour for the Art Newspaper last year Robert Godden explained how Magnum could move forward.

Magnum need to be transparent about the review. Best practice would be to bring in an independent expert, make public their terms of reference, including how Magnum will deal with the outcomes of the review, and publish [it] once it is done. They need to re-build trust. Keeping the review internal will not do that.

I imagine everyone at Magnum was shaken that over 600 industry people signed a statement calling for Magnum to be accountable. The Code Of Conduct that you repeatedly refused to publish miraculously appeared.  And any day we are expecting a child protection policy.

It’s decades too late for the kids in the photos.  The kids photojournalists often claim are ‘voiceless’. A convenient way of making sure the industry’s victims are never heard.

History teaches us that to get away with abuse just claim superiority, assume power and target the vulnerable. Magnum photos have excelled at that and given this it’s perverse to me why anyone in the industry would be looking to Magnum for leadership. It’s like they have actually yet to hear the voices of survivors.

‘He knew he could get away with it. He knew there is no protection for women like me.’

Patience Zalanga (not a victim) nails it in the three tweet thread below.

The industry urgently needs new leaders and new institutions.

Sisonke Msimang is right.

‘Starting new things, where old ones are determined to be what they have always been is hard work, but more productive than seeking to burn or reform. Starve the old structures and they will fall’

I hope you get back to what you’re good at Olivia, taking photos. And Magnum, starved, becomes a bag of bones. Remembered for producing some of the great photographic work of the 20th century and for a sense of entitlement towards women and children’s bodies so beyond basic decency it’s actually hard to comprehend.

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If you do come across an image or video that you believe is indecent please report it here.

I changed the nickname of my old maths teacher because it was a homophobic slur.

To understand a bit more about the history and gaze of Magnum photos I recommend reading this thread by John Edwin Mason.

Acknowledgments

Andy Day did a lot of the research featured in the post. I’m indebted to him as a human being who just really gets kids are more important than photos.

Amanda Mustard has been a constant voice calling for change in the industry.  That doesn’t come without a cost.  They don’t deserve her.

Whoever was behind the statement calling for accountability. That 600 people signed it was a big moment in the history of the industry and forced Magnum to rethink the self-destructive course they’ve been heading on.

Kristen Chick never gave up wanting to tell the stories of the women Harvey acted inappropriately towards.

Those 11 women who spoke with her were incredibly brave.

Jonny Bark sat in the duckrabbit office with me in August when we discovered most of the information in this post. He was a great support.

I came away with a lot of respect for Sohrab Hura. It must have been brutal to find out how his photo was being sold but he was never defensive or dismissive. I highly recommend reading his deeply thoughtful essay on photographing the marginalized.

Discussion (9 Comments)

  1. Brenda Burrell says:

    Thanks Ben. My biggest audience is tiny compared to most participants in this horror show but it is bigger on IG than elsewhere. May I please share there?

    Thanks.

  2. Brenda Burrell says:

    Thanks. Great work here Ben. As always.

  3. John Sevigny says:

    I admire the incredible amount of work that went into this and can only imagine the personal pain involved in getting this done. Magnum is a train that’s gone far off the moral rails. This is an important document that I fear will only become more relevant as more is revealed.

  4. The impression here is that Magnum photographers would benefit from a basic understanding of ethics. Isn’t the whole remit of an agency like this to ‘shine a light on injustice’ and to ‘make a positive difference’? Clearly not. There’s an abuse of power here across the whole system. Collectors, galleries, educators, publishers all need input from child protection specialists, in my opinion. Brilliant journalism, and thank you for shining the light.

  5. Abdulrahman Ka says:

    What a world we live in, thank you for your efforts towards exposing them, one day they will be held accountable for their actions.

  6. Even without showing their faces, the pictures are still very traumatizing.

  7. Stefan K says:

    This is a horrifying story I never believe I should read.

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