Magnum Photos is one of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world, but its 70-year history has been dogged by financial instability. No more, says executive director David Kogan, announcing a new investment allowing it to "grasp the challenge of the digital age"
Magnum Photos is taking outside investment for the first time in its 70-year history, to allow it “to take advantage of new editorial and commercial opportunities afforded by digital technology”.
The investors, Nicole Junkermann and Jörg Mohaupt, are creating a new subsidiary, Magnum Global Ventures, which will manage and control all of the photo agency’s assets, and “lead the agency’s modernisation and innovation strategy”. Magnum’s members will continue to have control of their intellectual property, including copyright of all imagery and the admission of new members, and will own “the vast majority of the equity” in the new subsidiary.
Junkermann and Mohaupt will join the Magnum Global Ventures board, along with Magnum chief executive David Kogan and four representatives of the original co-operative. The co-chairs of the board will be Junkermann and the photographer Thomas Dworzak, who is currently Magnum’s vice president in Paris.
“Our two new investors have stellar backgrounds in the global sectors of media, music, intellectual property and technology,” says Kogan. “We welcome them for their expertise and know that they can add a huge amount to the development of the agency.”
This move is the latest in a raft of changes spearheaded by Kogan, who was appointed executive director at Magnum’s annual general meeting in June 2014. Speaking with BJP for our August 2015 issue, Kogan pointed out that the agency had not been in profit for quite some time bar one year, adding “we have to build in solid management and solid levels of growth”.
“It’s a remarkable tribute to the photographers at Magnum that it is 68 years of age, but I don’t think we can keep trusting in luck to last another 68 years,” he stated, later adding that both the board and the members had accepted that Magnum needed to “raise additional revenue to really accelerate the growth pattern”, and to crack “the fragility in Magnum’s finance”.
He introduced practices that might already have been standard elsewhere – such as presenting the 2014-15 results and the 2016 budget at the 2015 AGM – and also amended the management structure to run globally rather than regionally, appointing members of staff in global roles rather than running everything from the offices in London, New York, Paris and Tokyo.
Magnum also relaunched its website in October 2016, creating a more consumer-facing site at www.magnumphotos.com [image-licensing and the archive live at pro.magnumphotos.com, and Magnum’s commercial work at www.magnumphotos-commercial.com]. Featuring a newsroom devoted to stories on current affairs, an arts and culture section, and a theory and practice area exploring the role of photography, this site was “a significant investment in its digital future”, the agency stated.
“Next week the Magnum Photos community will assemble in New York for the 70thanniversary of the agency and its annual general meeting,” stated Kogan today. “It’s a miracle that Magnum has reached this milestone. Its history has been dominated by great work from its photographers and a permanent sense of financial crisis. In the last few decades we have seen our traditional markets of newspapers and magazines decline and the rise of all sorts of challenges. Until recently we have struggled to grasp the challenge of the digital age.
“We want Magnum to be around for its 100th anniversary,” he concluded. “This [investment] is a big step towards that goal.”