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.
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.”
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?