Magnum Photos Says Alleged Child Abuse Images Were Result of Tagging Error

Magnum Photos Says Alleged Child Abuse Images Were Result of Tagging Error

Magnum Photos is continuing its investigation into David Alan Harvey’s body of work, “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes,” but has stated that the subjects featured in the photographs were adult dancers and bar workers.

The photographs taken by Harvey were part of an album published in Magnum’s archive entitled “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes.” Several images in this series were tagged with “Prostitute,” “Prostitution,” and “Teenage girl - 13 to 18 years.”

Magnum’s spokesperson explained:

Mr. Harvey contends that he did not tag the images with the P-word and that, to his knowledge, none of the people pictured were under the age of 18. Indeed, even in 1989, the authorities in the Patpong area of Bangkok were strict with license conditions to prevent underage people in the bars. As a final point, he maintains that the people in the photos were bar workers and dancers – he at no time witnessed any of them selling sex.

One of the explicit images tagged “Teenage girl - 13 to 18” features what appears to be a topless girl smiling and standing over the photographer in a dimly lit room. Behind her, a woman looks around the door, also smiling.

Another image shows two people bathing together. Other images in the series are not explicit and feature young female subjects, also tagged with “Teenage girl - 13 to 18 years.”

Magnum has not issued a response to questions posed in this article, which ask how these photographs came to be taken and how they came to be included in the agency's archive.

The spokesperson explained that “mis-tagging” these images has led to the “mistaken conclusion that they represent something they do not.” The name of the album — “THAILAND. Bangkok Prostitutes” — was not mentioned.

Magnum has not yet completed its investigation into Harvey’s photographs. The agency’s president stated last week that its investigation will be conducted “with outside guidance.” Oversight from law enforcement has not been mentioned.

Since concerns over Magnum's archive were raised by Fstoppers on August 6, questions have been asked on social media regarding the work of Magnum photographer Antoine D’Agata, an artist known for his disturbing imagery featuring sex workers and drug users. 

In a separate issue, Harvey was suspended from Magnum a few days ago as a result of allegations relating to sexual harassment. The Guardian reports that the harassment was of a female colleague, but Magnum's spokesperson later explained that the complaint came from "a female relating to an issue in a work environment."

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

Log in or register to post comments

Okay now Magnum just seems incredibly dishonest. Their statement is fishy at best. what the heck

Well, that was a bit of a let down. After all of the ranting, squawking, moaning and trolling that this topic has generated, it all boils down to a (highly unprofessional!) tagging error.

Not with a bang but a whimper, eh Prufrock...

Don't worry Andy, you certainly had your win, though. You sure showed those meanies at Magnum! Hope you're not too frustrated.

I did particularly love your two wild swipes at the end of this article! Kind of like watching a toddler's tantrum.

Firstly, I would have thought the separate issue of the allegations of Harvey's sexual harassment of a colleague would have merited a whole new article, not just a tacked-on final paragraph. It should, right? We all know that that kind of appalling behaviour is completely unacceptable and needs to be stamped out.

And secondly, regarding D'Agata, the line, "questions have been raised on social media" is a bit weak, don't you think? I'm sure you can do better than that. To be clear, I'm not defending him at all, just pointing out that saying that someone on social media asked questions should really be beneath Fstoppers.

"were bar workers and dancers – he at no time witnessed any of them selling sex." Hahahahaha what a blind photographer....

So Magnus ",mislabelled" all these images. Should there even be album showing children being molested, raped, and victimized. Just labelling it as an album does not validate its' existence.

Keep up the good work Andy. You are making progress, and thus, a difference!

I only here reveal the hypocrisy of Mr Harvey, Andy makes here a good work...

When I was a young photographer, I mean in the late 60's, Magnum was what one might aspire to. However I couldn't help but notice in the last fifteen years how the quality of the images that I saw seemed to fall off. Of late, the nominees have been, for lack of a better word, appalling. I mean, come on, Soth? A big camera does not make a great photograph. And there was the New York Times assignment he scored to cover New Orleans' Mardi Gras, where by his own admission he remained in his Hotel room. And to complete the circle, there was some project where he and an accomplice drove around the mid-west taking photographs of individuals that were told their project had something to do with a (non-existent) publication. Seems to me, that's an ethical issue. I may be wrong, if so correct me.