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Magnum Photos' Record-Breaking New Intake Signals Big Change Ahead

For 68 years, Magnum has been considered home of the best documentary photographers in the world, as well as one of the most exclusive photo agencies in existence. Rarely opening it’s doors to more than one or two new members each year (and often times none at all) this year it added six to the roster. This is a sign that the agency is looking to inject new blood into the ranks.

Magnum has been, and continues to be, an agency made up of some of the best of the best. It’s notoriously difficult to make it into the ranks. An initial invitation to join is merely a 2 year ‘induction process’ to see if you can make the cut to associate status, which allows them a chance to move forward to full membership a 'mere' 2 years later.

Image by Matt Black

So why add so many new inductees this year? Martin Parr, Magnum’s president says it is an indication of “the great faith we have in our future and our desire to find the best new talent that can contribute to the future of Magnum”.

This is a clear alignment with what David Kogan, CEO, has highlighted – that the company is looking to leverage it’s large social media following to help support the business.

“Magnum’s core business over the years has been to license its photographs to the professional marketplace, and that’s what the revamp of the website is supposed to improve and enhance, but actually, what we’re seeing is that we have a very large potential consumer market out there. We have millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all the other forms of visual distribution.”

Magnum members at the organization's AGM where they vote and decide on who will become inducted and brought into the agency

What’s fascinating is that the organization is looking at ways to adapt to the 21st century, and new inductee Matt Black is a fascinating example of the direction  Magnum is headed. Black masterfully captures documentary work in a new and exciting way, but also is making huge waves himself on social media. He has his own substantial Instagram following and was named Time Magazine’s Instagram Photographer of 2014. You can see a video below of his personal project, documenting the rural agricultural life of Central Valley in California.

Magnum are catching up to the fact that while licensing income may have fallen off, they have the potential to generate substantial income by licensing images direct to their fans, as well as offering more in the way of education and workshops. I know I for one would pay for workshops by many of those that sit on their roster, and can’t see how that could possibly be anything other than a great success for them.

What do you think? Is it a good idea to have Magnum induct so many new photographers and 'new blood' in to the ranks, or do you think there is the risk it could lead to it being perceived as 'less exclusive'? Would you be interested in more workshops being offered by Magnum photographers? 

Via [TIME]

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Kasper Løftgaard's picture

Taking a look at the names they inducted this year, you know that Magnum is still the most exclusive agency around. Even with 6 new members a year. These guys have committed themselves to amazing long-term projects. It's funny when you read articles here on fstopper, about people doing "personal projects". For a day. A week. A month. These Magnum photographers make the rest of us look like we're not even close to being committed to our craft.

David Geffin's picture

I 100% agree - there is no doubt these new inductees are anything other than incredible at what they do, i don't doubt that for a moment. It's more about the number of them (when typically 1 or 2, or even none is a normal number) as well as their direction to look at better connecting with their social media audience which is interesting.

It's just very interesting to see how the 21st century is challenging established organizations to adapt - and from Magnum is doing, it appears to be adapting well. I personally cannot wait to hear more about the workshops they will (hopefully) be announcing.

Kasper Løftgaard's picture

Yeah, it is very interesting to see them take in more members. And from what I'm reading, social media skills is almost a skillset in being a photographer with them nowadays - very forward thinking for a photography agency with that much history.

Will say though, that their recent 1-year masterclass/mentorship program was kinda ridiculous. In my opinion, you have to be at a certain level of photography, and be pretty close to finding your own voice, before a 1-year masterclass is worth it. And if you're that close to being good, you should spend 30.000 Euro on doing your next project instead. But exciting if they're gonna be reaching out to other than photojournalists.

Nathan Hamler's picture

Man, for a group of badass photographers, that is pretty much the worst group shot ever lol